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My family has just returned from a few weeks' visit to Israel. We had a wonderful time seeing friends, taking the children to places they had never been to before, shopping and running a few errands.
All in all, we were happy to "be home" again after a two-year gap. We try to get back to visit as often as possible. Or, I should say, as often as my husband, Charles, racks up enough business travel miles affording us the ability to visit.
As we traipsed around the country taking in the sights, we of course listened to the news. I followed the situation in Gaza, the first Katyusha attack on Kiryat Shmona in a year, and the presidential sex scandal that nauseated me with its implications for women's rights and status in the country.
ON THE more positive side, I was struck by the plethora of large building cranes almost everywhere we went, especially in Jerusalem, where we were staying in a friend's apartment. Central Jerusalem seems to have very few green spaces left, and since the city can't build sideways it is building upwards - on top of old existing buildings, anywhere it seems can be extended toward the sky.
Building boom and sex scandals aside, I think one of my weirdest lasting impressions of this visit will be the mind game I played with the latest Israeli fashion craze: Crocs.
During our last visit two years ago, I don't think I saw even one pair of Crocs, anywhere. I don't know exactly when this latest craze started, but it certainly is the biggest trend now.
Everywhere I looked there were racks and racks of Crocs for sale in stores. And practically everywhere I looked they were on the feet of Israelis, of all different shapes and sizes.
Expensive too. In the States one pays about $30 for a pair. In Israel the going rate seems to be about $50.
Now, I must admit that we do wear the big, ugly, comfortable rubber shoes in my family. Everyone has them except for my eldest, teenage daughter who thinks they are hideous. But they kind of make more sense for Florida, where we wear them on boats to go fishing and when we need quick-drying waterproof shoes with traction for managing the inches of water that can suddenly pour from the heavens at a moments notice.
And so we have a tradition: Almost the very first second after we arrive in Israel, I take my kids to get their new Israeli sandals. Good old Naots or Nimrods. And I usually get great end-of-season deals in June at the mall.
BUT MY children seemed to be in the minority this year. It was actually kind of hard to find the average Israeli child wearing "regular" sandals. I got nostalgic when I finally spotted one girl wearing old-fashioned leather, strappy sandals.
So I began to play a bit of a game called "Spot-the-Crocs." It was kind of fun trying to spy the most eclectic combination of person and shoe.
There was the trendy Ethiopian girl with purple Crocs.
The young, swarthy man near the main Jerusalem bus station with blue ones.
Modern Orthodox woman with red.
The tiny girl with the tiny pink Crocs.
But there was one combination in particular that I thought won the prize.
When I took the kids to the Western Wall, we brought along the accumulated tzedaka (charity collection) from my youngest daughter's Hebrew class. We tried to distribute it evenly, some going to the permanent boxes for the upkeep of the Kotel, the rest to the various old women and men milling around asking for charity and giving out red strings.
In the women's section we found a kindly looking, elderly religious lady. When we gave her a few dollars she beckoned us closer and asked us to bow our heads to receive a blessing. As she blessed us I looked down at the ground. And on her feet were a pair of beige Crocs.
On the way back to the States, we stopped for a quick visit with family in London. In the Heathrow departure lounge, waiting for our plane back to Miami, I walked past a young girl wearing bright orange Crocs and munching on a bag of Bissli. Seeing her gave me a nice warm feeling. A reminder of home, in Israel.
The writer is an occasional contributor to The Jerusalem Post.
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