Shopping is typically an excursion enjoyed by most around the world. It’s a time to get out of the house; breathe the air, and search for deals. Even grocery shopping was exciting and full of possibilities… then I moved to Israel.
I’m sure you have heard some of what I’m about to say before, but it bears repeating. Most Israelis are lovely, kind, generous and intelligent people. My gripe isn’t with them! I find the culture, to put it tactfully, fascinating. When you enter most stores in America, they offer some standard level of customer service; sometimes to an aggressive degree. Here in Israel however they leave you alone, literally. I’ve walked into stores to find no staff members around; even the cash register is unmanned.
This was not the case with my last shopping experience. The grocery store was so crowded I didn’t think I would make it out. Which brings me to my four rules for safe grocery shopping in Israel (besides for ordering online).
1. Always go before ten in the morning.
2. Never go three days or less before a holiday.
3. Check to make sure the cart works before pushing it inside.
4. Take another person with you if you must break any of the above rules.
Well, I went shopping at ten thirty, three and a half days before Pesach (Passover) with a cart that had seen better years. The only rule I kept was the fourth. I took my husband Michael with me. Together we squeezed through packed aisles picking up all we needed for the upcoming holiday. We grabbed seven packets of chicken, ten cartons of eggs, four ketchup bottles and two tons of oil, it is Pesach after all. Then a woman asked me to help her find an ingredient she was having trouble recognizing in Hebrew. I proudly translated the word for her and led her to the aisle it was on. I don’t normally get a chance to show off my Hebrew knowledge (which is limited), so I kind of strut when I do.
We stood in line for twenty minutes, relatively short considering I’ve waited an hour the time I shopped a day before Rosh Hashana. When our turn came Michael packed the groceries while I unloaded the cart. In Israel, there are generally no baggers, so you either pack the groceries yourself or bring a friend. Michael happens to be a master packer and not before too long our cart was ready for home. We thought the hard part was over, but as we should have known by now surprises always await the shopper who breaks the rules.
We waited in line for the elevator because we were parked two parking lots over from the grocery store. As we got into the elevator which held only one grocery cart at a time the back of our cart fell right off. Half our groceries’ fell onto the floor in a devastating crash. We scrambled around for lettuce, wine bottles and cans of olives. Luckily nothing broke during the fall and some miracle saved the eggs. We shoved whatever didn’t fit into our hands with our feet back into the elevator and headed down to the level of our car.
When we exited, the cart broke again. Learning as we went, Michael now held the back of the cart with his knee so nothing could escape a third time. We tugged the cart over to the car like circus clowns and acrobatically unloaded the groceries. When we were finished, we gave each other a high five for surviving another holiday shop. Then Michael shoved the cart off the hill behind Shilat to “Azazel” (a scapegoat bearing the sins of the Jews during Yom Kippur) where it could rest in eternal peace and bring no more grief to fellow humans. It had a good life, we were sure.
We arrived home to discover about five items we had forgotten at the store. Oh well, we can live without soap, milk, and toilet paper, can’t we? We will have to, as I am not going back to the store, any store, until after Pesach. So now you see why I stay out of stores as much as possible. My wallet is very grateful.
Now Pesach is over and all the food that we bought for the holiday has been eaten. Which means one thing… I have will to go shopping.