El Al Airline''s new baggage policy is going to start a revolution. Until recently, passengers flying from Israel to the US, or vice versa, could check in two suitcases weighing up to 50 lb. each. As of last week, the baggage allowances have changed. All passengers, regardless of destination, can now only check in one suitcase weighing up to 50 lb.
My fellow American olim (immigrants) have long learned to take advantage of El Al''s generosity. Flying to the States for Passover? If we can manage to cram everything we''ll need for the next two weeks into one suitcase, we''ll be able to carry an additional 50 lbs. back. We make sure to visit Costco/Target/Walmart while we''re there and stock up on deodorant, make up, feminine hygiene products, “solid” canned tuna fish (as opposed to “chunk”), Splenda artificial sweetner and coffee in fun flavors. Then we run over to the nearest pharmacy for Biore pore strips and our favorite hairsprays. If we''re scheduled to fly back to the Holy Land that night, you''ll find us making the most of our remaining hours at Loehmann''s, Nine West or the nearest bookstore.
And we don''t only shop for ourselves. Since making aliya four years ago, I''ve carried countless tubes of Great Lash Mascara by Maybelline, numerous pairs of children''s shoes, a KitchenAid (32 lb.!), photography paraphernalia, a Mac Book, a Blackberry, an iPod, a six-pack of watermelon-scented deodorant and much, much more across the Atlantic for my family and friends - olim and Israelis alike. It has become socially acceptable to give a family member or a close friend a list of products you''d like for them to bring you (on the condition that they''ll be reimbursed, of course).
American olim have come to rely on their own and fellow community members'' trips to the States as a legitimate way to not only keep up with their favorite products, but also to save money. For example, the same Revlon Powder Blush sold at Target for $8.50, will go for at least twice as much at Super-Pharm. English paperbacks at Steimatsky or Tzomet Hasfarim are often priced at double their American costs and Splenda, supposedly healthier and tastier than other artificial sweetners, is not only pricey in Israel but also difficult to find.
For people with food allergies or sensitivities, these trips are even more significant. Gluten-intolerant, I routinely stock my suitcases with special flour mixes and snacks. (With the awareness of Celiac disease growing in Israel in recent years, gluten-free products have fortunately begun to show up in health stores and supermarkets.)
I was getting dressed yesterday when I suddenly realized that living in Israel for me has often meant trying to make the little left in my last stick of Dove deodorant last until my next trip to the States so that I can buy the next stick at $4 instead of NIS 45. But this “stocking” phenomena was only possible thanks to El Al''s generous baggage allowances. What will happen now with this new policy? Will I no longer be able to bring back a year''s worth of deodorant? Will I have to start turning down friends'' requests to bring them products as well?
I imagine this new situation is going to create a revolution of sorts. Not a loud one - just a quiet, gradual series of changes in the way many American olim shop. Maybe more of us will begin hunting for books in second-hand shops. Maybe it''ll help many of us get over a long-standing shoe obsession. “Light-packers” might become curiously popular around routine vacation times. We might even begin to ration our daily use of deodorant (I sure hope not, though). I wonder if it''ll have any impact on the Israeli market, or if the percentage of people who normally engage in such stocking up only have a negligible effect on the economy to begin with.
What do you guys and women think?