By  on February 12, 2002

NEW YORK -- While the shock of the New York terrorist attacks left U.S. apparel executives shaken and wondering if their lives had changed forever, the threat of violence is not a new one in Israel, where the conflict with Palestinians has simmered for years.

While some Americans think of Israel as a place of ever-present danger, officials at major Israeli apparel companies said it does not have a disruptive effect on their business. They contend attacks tend to target major cities and religious sites, not the industrial parks where their factories are.

Executives at several top Israeli manufacturers, including Tefron Ltd., Delta Galil and Nilit Ltd., said they are very aware of U.S. customers' concerns that the region's violence could disrupt their shipments, and argued that makes them all the more focused on delivering on time.

These companies, as well as seamless apparel maker Gibor, have become a major resource of American and European retailers including Victoria's Secret, Gap, Banana Republic, Federated Merchandising and Target, as well as apparel giants Sara Lee, VF and Warnaco.

Zohar Peri, Israel's economic minister to North America, said that the textile and apparel industries represent 2 percent of that nation's $100 billion gross national product. More than 40 percent of Israel's exports are textiles and apparel.

"We keep getting calls from clients asking 'Are you gonna ship, are you not shipping?' We proved during the Gulf War that we ship better during wartime," said Chuck Klinger, microfibers business manager at Nilit, a fiber maker.

He added that the company employs over 700 workers in Israel from diverse cultural backgrounds including Israeli Christians, Israeli Arabs, Russian immigrants and members of a Druze Muslim sect. The firm also operates a U.S. division, Nilit America Corp., in Greensboro, N.C.

"No matter what their political background is, once they pass the gates of Nilit, everybody becomes part of Nilit," he said. "What happens outside of the gate doesn't affect the way we do business" Oded Breier, Nilit's fibers division marketing manager, said, "People have been looking more carefully at doing business to see if there have been any changes. But we have had no delays for 18 months. The minute we fail, we pay a huge price, and we can't afford that. It won't happen."

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