Ruth Richter, right, is always looking for deals--it's no diffrent when she is in Jerusalem...
That should be a headline that grabs the attention of folks in Garden Valley – until they realize it’s not the local superintendent we’re taking on but the Super, better known in the U.S. as a grocery store or, in Garden Valley, The Merc.
When we have guests in Garden Valley, usually part of our orientation for them to the Valley is a walk through The Merc, which shows them that most anything they’re likely to want or need is readily available right there in our little valley, and for many of them it’s also a walk down memory lane since The Merc is very similar to the local grocery store many of our senior citizens would remember from our childhood.
Whether or not the new Merc will fit that description remains to be seen, but I suppose we’ll all be appreciative of more abundant parking that makes better sense than virtually leaving one’s car in the middle of the street or of having more spacious aisles so one really can keep moving with their shopping instead of having to stop and wait until the aisle clears – and thus having a very pleasant conversation with a friend or a stranger!
So, what’s the Super I’m talking about? In our travels hither and yon around the world, we’ve always gone to a grocery store wherever we are. Initially that was because, living in Korea in the 1970s, almost any store in any other country would have a bigger and better selection of items than we could get – so our suitcases would be filled with groceries for the return trip.
Now visiting our oldest daughter, Ginger, in Jerusalem - she hates to shop - and we find it interesting, so off Ron and I went to the Super, grocery list in hand. Happily we found everything on the list, language barrier or not on the packaging, and to Ginger’s amazement, we found ever so much more that we were sure we needed.
The Super here has a beautiful selection of fruits and vegetables and most things are familiar to us, but I had trouble discerning between zucchini and cucumbers, got zucchini which I knew, and then forgot to keep looking for cucumbers. I believe cucumbers here have a much lighter skin than we’re used to. Another trip to the Super will likely enlighten me on that score. Prices are, of course, all given in shekels and likely weighed by grams. Thus, it’s a bit more difficult to know how much anything is, but one can be assured the price is quite high!
As we were going up and down the aisles, I suggested to Ron that if I was going to write a letter about this shopping trip, some accompanying pictures would be a good thing. “Excellent idea,” he says, and off he went to take pictures. The next thing I notice is that he’s deep in conversation with a gentleman. It turns out the man was inquiring about just what he was up to with taking pictures and Ron was trying to explain himself.
Later on in the store, a lady employee also confronted him about the picture taking. Security is a big issue many places in Jerusalem, probably in all of Israel; there was a guard at the door as we entered the store as well. When one does anything here that might be perceived as out of the ordinary, likely a pair of eyes will be following that person around the premises.
This had already happened to me several hours earlier, when we’d gone to the YMCA to ride the elevator to the tower of the building for an overview of the city. As we waited for someone to acknowledge us at the counter, and Jewish people seem to not be in any rush to be of service to anyone, a man I presumed to be one of their security people never took his eyes off us. Sometimes I’ve had to hand over my purse for them to look through as well. It is a fact of THEIR life that it’s best to be cautious, and I think that any of us foreigners who are visiting this country (or any other where their customs and practices seem tedious to us) need to take it all in stride and “go with the flow” rather than being the ugly American and get offensive about it.
So, the store we happened to be shopping in was the largest I’ve yet seen and we had maybe six or eight aisles to walk up and down checking out anything and everything. My receipt is completely in Hebrew which includes putting the item number to the right, the item in the center, and the price to the left which is the way their language reads.
Here are a few prices to give you an idea of how much things cost. The smallest box of Post Honey Bunches of Oats which I’d normally pay around $3 for in the U.S. cost right at $8. A very small package of raw almonds was about $4 (likely at the Merc the same thing costs less than $2), a small can of whole tomatoes was $1.50 (not too bad), and the smallest jar of peanut butter was around $4. Suffice it to say that Ron and I walked out of there quite easily carrying about $135 of groceries. I’d not be able to do that at the Merc, let alone Winco or Walmart.
Ron, who is best known for always going everywhere with a book in his hand and not always being the most sociable, managed to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone in the store. He bent to help one lady who had knocked some things on the floor and spoke to her in English; her response was not thank you, but “why does everybody always have to speak English, when I go to New York no one speaks Hebrew with me.” Later she spoke more positively when she realized we were Americans and not Jewish Americans at that.
Checking out was the most tedious part of the process. Most people evidently have their groceries delivered in these massive plastic cartons with big plastic bags to line them. The checkout person takes her sweet time. So, what did we do while waiting in line? Well, of course, chatted with anyone and everyone. A nice young man with excellent English wanted to know where we were from and so forth. It turns out he was born in Miami – no wonder his English was good. That led to another lady striking up a conversation with him saying “I thought I recognized your accent” and she, too, was from Florida. Personally, I didn’t know Floridians had an accent?!
The best part of the trip was likely the fact that Ron noticed offices across the street that had something to do with being the Center for Conservative Judaism Studies. Ah ha, perhaps a place where we could ask our questions that have been coming up in our Bible class as we study the Old Testament. He googled the place and found they have a website with an “Ask a Rabbi” section. Voila, surely just what we’ve been looking for.
So, none of this tourism stuff for us, we’ve gotten right in there and rubbed elbows with the locals – right where everyone is most interested, which is taking care of our food needs. What a fun opportunity and better than a tour that would have cost us at least $130 – and we have something besides pictures to show for it!