(By Yoel Kranz)

On Facebook last week, I start getting bunches of happy birthday messages (October 30). Poor Facebook, no one has told it that my Hebrew birthday was weeks ago, on Tishrei 30.  No worries, I’ll take birthday wishes whenever they come!  Then my brother the rabbi from America calls to wish me a happy “goyishe” birthday.  “Of course your Hebrew birthday was a while ago,” he says, “but when the pumpkins and witches start coming out all over town I always think of your birthday.” Pumpkins? witches? what is he talking about?  Ah, yes, there is Halloween in America. There are cobwebs and skeletons and cookies with orange frosting.  There are scary movies and holiday sales at the mall.  But unlike, say, New Year’s (“Sylvester”) and Valentine’s Day, Halloween and its trappings have made few inroads in Israel.  In most towns, it simply does not exist. Just as well, the gratuitous tombstones would be unlikely to go over well here.

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(I imagine a night of trick-or-treating could also take a long time in Israel.  “Oh, Ariella and Levi, nice to see you kids.  So how did your parents enjoy their trip away last week? I remember the last time, your mother got so sunburned, I don’t know why she doesn’t wear more sensible clothing.  Oh, you’re not Rachel’s kids, you’re Sarah’s. Yes, I can see that now, though you look more like your father.  I heard he was in the hospital, is he feeling better? I hope so because he was supposed to take down his sukkah a long time ago and it’s blocking our view.  Anyway, come sit, we’re having pasta and meatballs.”)






Ilustration by Sarah Kranz

In Israel, though, they have had the Chanukah jelly donuts out for weeks now.  How do I know this?  Because we went to Office Depot to buy printer toner.  In Israel, we find that names and categories of stores are only very general in nature.  For example, while there is likely to be a larger selection of laser printers at the electronics store than at the grocery store, you can still find plenty of printers, cameras and telephones at the supermarket.  Conversely, while the supermarkets will typically have the largest selection of fruit and vegetables, any decent furniture store will also offer half a dozen bottles of wine and maybe a shelf or two of children’s sneakers.  Remember last summer when we were so surprised to learn that the best restaurants were those at the gas stations?  Glad to report they have jelly donuts there too.

Maybe all the shops stock so many products because there apparently always needs to be something that the Israeli consumer gets for free. Has anybody else noticed this?  There isn''t a store or catalog that doesn''t advertise a get-something-for-free sale -- but not the way you''d expect. "Buy an office telephone and get two packs of Osem chocolate tea biscuits free!"  "Buy any two items in children''s clothing and get a free car wash!" It''s like the old jokes and stereotypes, nobody even cares about what is being offered for free -- so long as there''s something, everybody''s happy.  

Some signs seen around town:

At the dry cleaners:  Pants: 20 shekel; Shirts: 10 shekel; Tallit: 15 shekel

Billboard:  Jewish holidays begin with produce from Tiv Taam. Open shabbat and all holidays.

At the post office:  Get all your stamps, envelopes and packaging materials here.  Special prices in honor of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s 150th yahrzeit.

Label on outside of cellphone pocket sewn into tallit bag:  Please turn off cellphones during services.

At Kobe''s surfing school in Herzeliya:  Open every day of the year except Yom Kippur and when there are no waves.


Sure can be a funny country sometimes.


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