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SB: I wrote letters to the Jewish community and local Rabbis to let them know of my situation. They called for the counter-measure of a buycott. But the protesters would come unannounced. Unable to mobilize the Jewish and Israeli communities with so little warning, support on the day of the protests was small. They tried but they can only do so much.
I then went to the Israeli paper Ynet, which thankfully got Lavan’s story global recognition. The support I then received was incredibly empowering. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by this love and support. From “Likes” on Lavan’s Facebook page, to orders online, to supportive phone calls and even a Facebook group created for this struggle by an Israeli girl in the UK, Gili Brenner. Also, the Israeli band “Hadag Nachash” came to the store to support us. This helps me keep standing strong.
MT: Was there any kind of official response from the Canadian or Israeli governments or local Jewish organizations?
SB: Yes. The Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Mr. Jason Kenny, visited the store to support Israel and my business, and the staff and myself personally. I got the blessings of the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, via the Ynet article and I spoke at great length with his VP to try to find some creative ideas to improve Israel’s image in the world. Also, the local Jewish centers motivated their people to come and support me and Lavan. The leading local Rabbis even replaced my mezuza, and came personally to the store to show their support.
MT: During Israeli Apartheid Week, are the protests outside your store getting worse?
SB: I have to be honest with you: I refuse to use Israel and apartheid in the same sentence. This is simply ridiculous and spreads ignorance. There is absolutely nothing Israel shares with apartheid. Israel is a very proud democracy that can be an inspiration to many other countries in the world.
Most of the action [of Israeli Apartheid Week] was in the universities and we have yet to be protested so far during this “Anti-Israel week,” but I can only hope that when they come again – which they no doubt will – they will not be greater in number.
MT: Shanie, before your store was picketed, did you consider yourself very political? If not, how about now?
SB: I’m not a diplomat, and I’ve never been one. I am an entrepreneur. Some people were upset with me for addressing the press. I meant no harm; I only wanted to end this madness. Now, I can say I have some idea of the power of politics and how complicated it is. I simply want peace and peaceful living.
I believe in the protesters’ right to free speech, but I do not deserve to be targeted for the origin of my products, or my origin, even. I simply make and sell soap. I don’t oppress or control anybody or take away anybody’s rights.
MT: What can your supporters do to help?
SB: I am extremely grateful and thankful for any form of support. Whether it be sharing my story, a Facebook page, coming into the store to make a purchase, or visiting our online store. Support in any form is what I was praying for.
I think that any product made in Israel is a strong and proud ambassador of Israel. It just feels wrong that Israel is the only country in the world to have an “Anti-Week” against it. And now I hope that instead of being a target for hate we will be a symbol of success.
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