Adventures in Shopping

Part of the fun of learning to “be Israeli” is learning how to shop here. Years ago, I was told that if you do not try to bargain, the shopkeeper will be offended. I think those days are long gone, but I have learned that thing are a lot more flexible here than you might imagine.

The shuk is  the starting point for any “shop-asaurus”, although the selection I remember finding back in the 80’s seems to have receded Today, I see shop after shop with the same boring junk from china or Taiwan & pine for the days when a real bargain could be found. I have not been in Yaffo in three years, but I do know that there furniture, cookware & textile areas, each extending around blocks. If I had a car, I’d be dangerous.

Actually, it’s my husband that’s the danger to the Israeli GNP. He and I can both go in to the same store, at the same time, & walk out with the same item(s): but he will have paid less than I did. It makes no difference whether it’s a clothing store or a food store. Since he arrived, our food bills for two are half what I was paying for one.

Part of the fun is learning what to buy where. Who has the best challah? Which wine is the best taste & or is the best deal? Which mifal will sell you barrel wine by the liter for half of retail if you bring back the bottle? Which store has the best olives?

When I finally got settled in an absorption center & started ulpan, I started checking out the local stores to comparison shop. In Hadera, I did not see any Supersols or Shefa-Shuks, but the local shuk was fine for everything from kuzbara to shabbat clothes. I found a little hole in the wall, who actually had an even smaller dent in the wall for a fitting room, but there it was,  a lined full length knit skirt for about 60 NIS & a matching blouse for about the same. Ok, so its like being in a small outlet mall back in America, each store has its merchandise.

After finishing ulpan, I finally got to the “city” of Sfat, which has both a Supersol AND a Shefa-shuk. It also has several smaller stores that are bigger than your corner market (makolet) but quite the size of the bigger supermarkets. When I first walked in to one of these smaller markets, I was struck by the fact that I could get everything I’d need for Shabbat there. And I mean EVERYTHING. If your not too picky, there is a decent wine selection (in the US supermarkets cannot sell alcohol). Then, a Kiddush cup, a challah cover, table cloths, (clothe or disposable), & even the challah to go under it, if you get there early enough in the morning. After picking up fruits, veggies, meat, fish & sweets, you can pick up that extra shabbat suit, & put it on top so it does not get wrinkled while you check out.

It’s that last item that finally got me thinking. I’m used to pharmacies & supermarkets selling things like socks, pantyhose & other “unmentionables” & perhaps in resort areas, T-shirts, sandals or maybe shorts and swimsuits, but it never occurred to me to just “bring home an extra suit” from the supermarket in America. Obviously it has not occurred to anyone else there either, since suit, housecoats and other such items have their own stores in America.

America, of course has its own problems. Living in New York City, we a guest from a different neighborhood for shabbat who was teaching elementary school in a neighborhood that was known to be more than a bit “rough” shall we say. She told us about how she was teaching the children vocabulary trying to use everyday shopping examples, and having a bit of trouble.

She asked one child, expecting to hear something like milk, eggs or bread, what to you get at the bodega (mokolet)? The child answered “drugs”. Trying again, she asked a different child, what do you get at the dry cleaners? Instead of laundry the answer was guns. According to her, these kids were too young to be lying. Clearly however, they were living in another reality; right in the same neighborhood has their teacher.

So when a friend told me where to get the best organic honey in town, I did not even bat an eyelash: at the stationary store, of course.