I should probably say especially in Israel! After two years of jumping back and forth from the US to Israel, my husband and I have finally decided to settle down in Israel and set up house. I’ve spent the last two weeks shopping for appliances, furniture, paint, shower curtains… if you need it for your house I probably recently purchased it. I may have to start my own “Do it yourself in Israel” blog. Well, maybe just surviving the process doesn’t make me an expert, but it sure has been a lot of fun!
On my first tour to Israel I really thought that outdoor markets, like the “shuk”, were the only places to buy things. I never saw a mall or department store. In fact, my first experience shopping for groceries at Shuk Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem was so overwhelming that I came away with only two bananas and a mango. My refrigerator was empty! Thank God I found a real grocery store within a few days or I think I would have met an untimely end. I am not one to fight for a good deal. The whole process makes me feel really stressful.
I am the typical Western shopper that owners love to see walk in their stores or by their little booths. I have two faults, I can’t easily say no and I don’t like arguing over prices. There is a famous shuk in old Yaffo called Shuk ha Pishpishim (it actually deserves and entry in and of itself for those who love flea markets). Friends told us that we had to go there and buy furniture for our house. I tried it and I’m sure if I needed one or two things I could have managed, but when it comes to setting up an entire house the crowded streets and endless shops were just a tad too overwhelming for me. I was so happy to find a few familiar names like ACE and IKEA! I know I probably spend much more money in those places but seeing a price tag on an item and knowing it is the final price gives me a strange peace of mind.
Ace Hardware needs little description. It’s great, the people are friendly and you can buy all types of paint including the “wash” to make fresco walls that I love. With my limited Hebrew it was challenging to buy the right stuff but in the end, with the help of very patient Ace employees opening all sorts of paints for me to touch, I came away with just what I needed.
IKEA, well it is an event none should miss. If you want to experience it to its fullest go on Friday just before it closes for Shabbat around 2pm or when it opens after Shabbat on Saturday at 7:30pm. My husband and I generally end up going at one of those times because of our schedule…so do most Israelis. Last Saturday, on our way home from visiting family in Haifa, Yuval and I thought we would stop at the only IKEA in Israel located in Natanya. For some reason the store delayed opening for another 30 minutes. When we pulled up a crowd of literally hundreds were waiting for the doors to be open. Until that point I had only seen things like that for grand openings. It was so bizarre to me, and yet we didn’t really think twice about parking the car and waiting along side everyone else.
When the doors finally opened people filed in and up the escalators to the first floor starting point. I felt like I was at the beginning of the Tel Aviv Marathon! I’ve learned a few things since coming to Israel about lines. Actually the word “line” needs its own definition in Israel, especially for lines at the airport and IKEA. It really isn’t about who was there first, it is about who is best at navigating space. It took me about 30 minutes to learn this after my first flight to Israel.
My friend and I were coming to the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles, a particularly busy time of year with thousands of tourists flooding the airport. It was our first Israel experience and once we filed out of the plane and into the customs line we literally didn’t move for 30 minutes while a steady flow of people navigated around us like a rushing stream around a river rock. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to move, we were just trying to maintain our personal space. Once we learned the “heal to toe shuffle step” we progressed quite nicely. Well, this is the kind of line you have in IKEA as well.
Israelis may sound really rude to some westerners but in most cases it just isn’t the case – it is simply cultural. The fact is, most Israelis are quite friendly and will be happy to have lively conversations with you as you stake your claim in line. And if you can build a quick friendship, your new ally will probably yell at the person trying to squeeze by you much better than you ever could. And if anyone gets hurt, everyone clears out immediately to make sure that person is ok. I really don’t want to tell you why I know this, as it will deeply affect my pride, but it may find its way into a future blog entry at some point.
Needless to say, setting up house is an adventure in Israel, but the process has made me feel much more independent! My husband says I am becoming a true Israeli because I can hold my place in line, sometimes haggle with prices, and, what is especially exciting for me, navigate the Hebrew version of Craigslist called Yad2, which means second-hand in Hebrew. Yad2, found at www.yad2.co.il is a great website with used furniture and all sorts of second-hand goods. Because there are so many transient people here, such as foreign government workers, students and short-term business investors, it is possible to find some great, lightly used, items.
Well, I can breathe a deep sigh of relief as most of my walls are painted and furniture in place thanks to a variety of outlets. While I hope to get better at shuk shopping, I am thankful for department stores such as Ace and IKEA. What I love about Israel is that you can go to several department stores and feel like you are in any other modern country, and within moments head to an outdoor shuk where you know there is no place like this outside the Middle East.