Inside Israel – The Shuk . . .the Bus . . and More

Hi everyone! God bless you and thank you for taking a look inside Israel with me. Today I have an older letter from J of Jerusalem, in which she shares some of the lighter side of life there. Praying your day is blessed and now here’s J . . .

Some days bring more humor and smiles then others. Some days are full of time to make observations and to ‘think’. Today’s mammoth 3 and a half hours stuck in stand-still traffic on the bus lent itself to just that. In the midst of the horrific situations that we all see around us and so many of us are also in, I thought I would pass along ‘a moment’ with the hope of bringing a smile and warming a heart.

I decided to write this when, tired and hungry and waiting at the shuk for the last bus that I needed to wait for today, a woman with many packages pushed her way to a spot that wasn’t quite empty, beside me, and planted her very heavy bag squarely on my foot. ‘Ow!’ I turned to her. She looked at me and said ‘There is room for both of us’. True…there is now that she wedged in…’ But your package is on my foot and it hurts!’ I told her. ‘Oh no! I’m so sorry! I didn’t see! Will you forgive me??’ Her response was so warm and sincere and her face so round and animated that I almost burst out laughing. I told her ‘With a face like that, I could also kiss you! Of course I forgive you!’ (yes, this is how we Israelis talk to each other. Really!) It was the beginning of a (short but) lovely relationship, and it began me thinking of all of the poignant, little things that take place in the course of my day here simply between the buses, my work, and the shuk.

I decided, against my better judgment, to stop at the shuk on the way home from work. With the (Esther) fast day ending and tomorrow being Friday, I needed to make up some Purim baskets for some children. The shuk was jammed with people doing just as I was. The stands selling nuts and dried fruit, candy, fruits, baskets and goodies, had crowds 5 deep and I joined the throngs. It was a mild day and the beggars were out in full force. I met several people that I knew; ‘Hi! Nice to see you! How is the family? I tried to call the Doc today but the phone was busy…could you please have my prescriptions ready for me in the morning? I’ll come by around 7:30’. I made a mental note and decided that I wouldn’t remember, so I noted it on my cell phone and set the alarm for 7:20. I filled my ‘agala’ (shopping cart) and knew that I would also have to stop at the super market, like it or not…I just couldn’t get all that I needed to in one trip.

The supermarket has changed dramatically since we immigrated 16 years ago. It was just renovated again (the renovations are done ‘around you’ while you shop. There is no thought of, maybe, doing the construction during slow hours, so, after taking my life in my hands to go shopping for the past 3 months, it was now delightful to enter this very modern, updated store.) We shoppers felt somewhat like tourists being introduced to all of the the new additions, polished and smiling…very nice indeed! Being so tired, I began musing about the ‘good old days’ and chuckled to myself…wondering if you remembered some of the stories, like…. when I bought a turkey and no one could figure out what ANYONE would do with so much meat and… how in the world I would cook it…probably outside on a fire? Then there was the time I bought popcorn and everyone in line wanted to know how to cook it and how do you eat it. Perhaps one of my favorites was, well… ‘celery’. When we arrived, you could either buy a celery root…or celery leaves… but the stalks, the part of the food that I was used to using… that was considered inedible I think…and just wasn’t sold. Several years ago I found my first celery. It had practically a full TREE of leaves on the top, and since the vegetable man was there I asked him if he would mind cutting it off (that was a full half of the celery!). There were two other women there and one about grabbed me physically and said ‘What are you doing???!? Are you crazy??? That is the part you eat!’ ‘No!’ I said emphatically…THIS is the part that I eat!’ Horrified she said ‘you ARE crazy! That isn’t healthy! It’s the leaves that are good!’ The other woman piped up and said ‘I like cosbara leaves better myself.’ Recipe time had arrived! ‘Cosbara I like too’ I said, ‘but celery leaves I don’t’. hum. ‘What do you DO with ‘that’ part of the celery then?’ she asked (lady number one was fed up, so I gave her my leaves and shared celery recipes with lady number two). Times have really changed! People are so sophisticated now, buying all sorts of food besides celery, popcorn and turkey…everything from sushi to…well…zucchini!

And finally…although I’m too tired to write more, this ‘Israel story’ is too ‘funny’ not to share. My husband’s brother sent him a gift (we are again allowed to receive packages without paying the ‘package tax’ that was placed on packages for awhile…you just have to be WISE when you declare what is in the package…creative!) His brother made a mistake and WROTE on the declarations slip: ‘contents’ “SMOKED ALASKA SALMON, value $200” NOT smart! what followed? Here is an ‘only in Israel’ story: My husband’s brother called us more then 2 weeks ago and said that he had sent a package of smoked king salmon strips for us, second day air express. We waited. We waited. We waited. FINALLY, we got the notice (apparently they thought it said ‘second WEEK air express’)…but the notice said ‘come to Tel Aviv to pick this up, and to pay the taxes, and we are open from 8am-noon 5 days a week…you will pay [through the nose, I might add] for every day that you don’t come’. Well….THINKING that they MIGHT have a ‘heart’ [forever an optimist] I CALLED the number given and said ‘I am a little old lady and we live in Jerusalem, I work and don’t drive, and my husband just had a heart attack which is why his brother sent him this gift….a get well gift. If I send you the tax and fees, could you mail it to Jerusalem PLEASE?’ Now, I thought this was, just perhaps, reasonable. She asked me for the tracking number of the package (she also thought it was a reasonable request), which I had right at hand – because I had EVERYTHING they could possibly need at hand, including my birth certificate – and she looked the number up and began fighting with a man in the background. I waited patiently. She calmly came back to me and said, “It’s fish! You can’t bring fish into the country! Period!” “WHAT??” said I…”We have been getting fish in the country without a problem for 16 years. (this is true. They just don’t write ‘FISH’ on the package!) My husband is an Israeli Eskimo and it’s his traditional food [like my mother used to send me gefilte fish] [but you NEVER write ‘fish’ on the package…you write something like ‘personal family items, no commercial value’, which is basically true…] NOPE! THERE WAS NO WAY AROUND THIS! IT IS FISH AND FISH IT IS AND IT CAN’T COME IN THE COUNTRY…”SO” she continued calmly “When do you want to come in and pay for the package?” I missed something here…”So if I come in and pay you, can I get our package?” She is smarter then I am, so was exasperated that I had not understood. “NO! It’s FISH! It CAN’T come in!” Obviously stupid me then asked “ok…they WHY then would I come there and PAY you???” At her wits end with me she explained that then either “I could sign to have it sent back [at who’s expense I wasn’t sure] OR I could have it to throw out there in front of their eyes” Now, I was thinking…hum… I could EAT it there…but, after 2 weeks I would probably end up in the HOSPITAL with botulism or worse, if there could be, SOOO I said, “You want me to come there and throw it out or send it back? HA!! BYE!” [I’m Israeli too].

Now, I KNOW that this was a silly letter…but sometimes…well…I need comic relief, and I do thank The Lord of life for walking with me through laughter too!

ani b’derek

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