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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
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Supermarket Epiphanies in Israel

Israeli supermarket

Photo Credit: Sophie Gordon/Flash 90

So what was I doing behind six shopping carts at the local Shufersal Deal supermarket in Mishor Adumim on a Friday morning? After all, as far as I’m concerned, hell hath no more infuriating nadir than being stuck in that place at that time.

But I had no choice: We had returned from a long overseas trip on Thursday evening and if we wanted to eat on Shabbat, it was the Friday grocery zoo or bust. I hadn’t kept up fully on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new coalition or President Shimon Peres’s American trip, but one blaring newspaper headline had reached me before I got home to Ma’aleh Adumim: “Shufersal Deal out to murder [competitor] Rami Levi.”

A take-no-prisoners price war had broken out, apparently, which even a friend in distant Pisgat Ze’ev gushed, was attracting her weekly to one or the other emporium in our town.

My worst fears were instantly confirmed. The usually bare parking lot had overflowed onto adjacent streets stretching three blocks in every direction.

The glazed expressions of entering consumers mirrored the grim fatalism of soldiers about to enter battle, while the jubilant looks of the exiting victors towing ridiculously filled carts reflected raw, gluttonous triumphalism.

There I was, in dire gloom, cart frozen well distant from the cash register. I was sorely aggrieved. Until I remembered a flash of soul-searching during my flight when I promised I would try to improve my grumpiness a bit and seek alleged silver linings even in dismal circumstances (I get weird thoughts, and also swollen ankles, on 10-hour flights). What could I do save give my commitment the old college try.

Here are the observations that ensued during the next 40 minutes.

The Holocaust 

A few decades ago, our people faced starvation in the ghetto and worse in the camps. The images haunt us to this day.

And here, in Mishor Adumim, hundreds of Jews in shorts and sandals, were inundated with fine, healthy, nutritious food… at cutthroat rates, priced to put a nearby competitor out of business. What a remarkable, epiphanous and profound change. No joke – I would say it borders on miraculous when seen in this light.

Law and order 

Not usually an attribute associated with Israeli social norms, but here we were. A nasty environment, crowded and frustrating… yet I couldn’t help but notice how everyone, without exception, stayed calm (even resigned), didn’t shout, didn’t whine, didn’t act like babies. It was downright civilized. It disproved the global image that “Israelis do not know how to stand in line.”

Respecting the different 

I saw two handicapped people. One was a Down Syndrome child with his dad. The other a severely handicapped woman navigating the maze with difficulty, burdened by two crutches and a cart. No stares. No averted glances. No looks of pity or annoyance. As naturally as could be, the carts parted, Red Sea-style, as everyone readily made way and moved aside and even smiled…not grudgingly or artificially, but naturally. It was nice to see.

The peace process 

I know crass consumerism can’t bridge the entire Arab- Israeli divide, but there is something to be said about the commonality of getting a good bargain.

Arab women, covered albeit in festive demeanor, husbands, babies… they were all well-represented. Again, it might not be the magic formula, but a vibrant economy in which all parties reap the benefits can clearly encourage a peaceful attitude far quicker and more seriously than umpteen squawking talks around conference tables.

What would generic observations be without, ultimately, a final test. After the 50-minute marathon wait, I received my own personal test.

The lost hour of course meant that we missed the final home delivery.

Now that wasn’t fair, I thought, eyeing our 18 bags of groceries. Our first inclination was to yell it out with the manager and insist on our “rights.” I duly dispatched my “personal commando,” i.e., my wife, dutifully escorted by the cash register guy, but suddenly all my positive thoughts flooded back and I realized this was a defining moment.

Dare I make those five carts now lined up behind me wait for 10 minutes of silly arguing, or should I just forget about it? I canceled the fight and decided that three trips up and down three flights of stairs were preferable to making those folks behind me wait even one minute longer.

About the Author: The writer is CEO of Lone Star Communications in Jerusalem who lives in Ma’aleh Adumim.


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