Anglo immigrants to Israel – most of them living in the northern Negev town of Arad for decades, and yet some still struggling with rudimentary Hebrew – learned last week about a spot in their town most had never even heard of through a field trip to Borodovsky’s, a local haunt known only to local Sabras, green thumbs and every tour guide in the country.
ACES (Arad Community of English Speakers) is headed by Frank Mecklenburg, who realized shortly after arriving in Arad that it was important for English speakers to get organized and stay organized if they want to see any response to their needs from city government.
Thus was born the group which meets each month in the local kosher dairy restaurant for coffee and discussions, and now has “field trips” as well.
Borodovsky’s, one of the first on the list, is owned by four Israeli brothers. They have transformed their plant and flower nursery (and garden supplies) into a one-stop shop that also serves as an outlet for internationally-renown Arad Towels, various Dead Sea skin care products, spices, olive oil and and sometimes other foodstuffs (yes this sounds odd but it’s true), ice cream and second-hand items.
There’s free unlimited tea and coffee, and if you get there early enough, you can probably grab some of the brothers’ breakfast croissants or danish too, and spend as much time sitting at one of the plant-festooned tables enjoying it.
They don’t mind at all.
The white parrot in the huge cage next to one of the tables may try to get your attention by screaming “Ima!!!!!!!!” but don’t be offended – that’s what he calls everyone. He really wants you to carefully stroke the feathers behind his shoulder, but gently and cautiously – if he decides he doesn’t like you, that beak can be quite sharp. All the other birds in the various cages, and the gold fish in their various pools, simply exist to entertain.
Children often beg their parents to bring them to Borodovsky’s because there are ducks and chickens and various other creatures . . . sometimes the chickens have laid eggs, too.
Each of the four specializes in a different area of the business – one for the towels, another for the skin care products, a third for the plants and landscaping, and the fourth managing all the rest of it.
As one of the brothers explained to the group of English-speakers who came to visit and learn about plants for the winter months (a translator was provided), the four brothers with their wives and children are not religiously-observant but they nevertheless never miss a Friday night together. Their vacations are taken together as well. One of the brothers speaks fluent English; the other three let him do all the talking whenever an American walks in to the place.
Oddly enough, the brother who spoke with the ACES group spoke no English – but it didn’t matter, and within a few minutes those who knew any Hebrew at all were trying to guess what was being said.
Clearly more people understood Hebrew than they even realized. And those who did not were swiftly brought up to speed.
No matter where Jews are, there is more that unites us than not; it took no time at all for the group to start talking – with the speaker, with the translator, with each other – and to make suggestions as well.
Israeli-ness in action.