Israel’s two Merkaza department stores boast an enormous selection of goods, competitive prices, and attentive customer service inspired, according to a spokesman, by the Druze ethic of hospitality instilled by Mounhal Hamoud and his son, the Druze who own and operate the stores. To Dore Feith, Merkaza represents something more profound than an example of economic vitality in the Jewish state:
This week, [the elder] Hamoud joined the mayor of Upper Nazareth—a mixed Jewish and Arab city in the lower Galilee that neighbors the all-Arab village of Nazareth—in lighting the first candle of Hanukkah in the Merkaza store that serves both cities. The Druze proprietor and the secular Jewish mayor were joined at the holiday celebration by a few other secular Jews, a handful of Orthodox Jews, and several dozen Arabs—some Muslim and others Christian. Several feet away stood an ornamented Christmas tree and advertisements for the store’s Christmas festival.
I watched an Arab Merkaza employee wish entering customers ḥag sameaḥ (the Hebrew holiday greeting) and distribute traditional Hanukkah candy and jelly donuts, while women in hijabs photographed their children bobbing to Hanukkah music alongside a dancing girl in a dreidel costume. Jewish musicians played Hanukkah classics while passing by tables laden with chocolate Santas and miniature Christmas trees. It was a sweet scene of casual, happy interaction among Jews and Arabs of various religions. It was not the standard image of violent intercommunal hostility that predominates in foreign news accounts of Israel.
What the Hamoud family has added to social health and tranquility in the lower Galilee is not accounted for in GDP calculations or economic analyses. But it is palpable and rich. They deserve credit for modeling how a business can give its customers material goods, but also goodness that transcends the material.