Veterans: All in a name

When Merry Kane is not preoccupied with her vintage offerings, she is taking archeology courses at Tel Aviv University.

Merry Kane (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Merry Kane
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Merry Kane, 70, From New York to Tel-Aviv, 1990
Every Friday morning, come rain or shine, Merry Kane sets up her table at the Dizengoff Circle flea market, putting out her treasures and waiting for the crowds to descend.
She doesn’t call them antiques and she has nothing very rare or expensive, but she always seems to have some interesting and way-out objects on her table.
“I deal in whimsy,” says the 70-year-old immigrant from New York, who arrived here in 1990 and settled in Tel Aviv. For an ex-laboratory administrator with a degree in biology, it’s quite a departure to be selling brica- brac to passing Israelis.
She came with her now ex-husband in the wake of their son’s aliya. Once a lone soldier, Menachem “Chuck” Kanafi is today the Israeli consul-general in Bangalore, India. Before that posting he was Israeli ambassador in Eritrea. He had been in Israel with his parents on a bar-mitzva trip, fell in love with the country and as soon as he could, came back here to study – law at Hebrew University – and serve in the army.
Six years later Kane followed her son, arriving with her husband, a computer analyst who found work in his field. She volunteered at the AACI as a counselor and then as a loan officer.
After six years, her husband announced he wanted a divorce, as he had met someone else on the Internet.
They had been married for 35 years. Not dwelling on the pain, Kane says that today she has a better life than before and that she has gotten over the rejection.
“I like my freedom,” she says.
Part of that freedom was being able to go into the flea market business with no conditions. She does it mainly for fun, as the financial benefits are negligible. Friday mornings are the time she meets up with fellow salespeople, chats to customers and spends several contented hours surrounded by her relics of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
How does she acquire the items on sale? “Many people who are going to downsize bring me stuff,” she says. “They may be moving to a retirement home or a much smaller apartment, and they want to get rid of all this vintage stuff.”
She takes having to deal with the Israeli bargain hunters in stride.
“I put what I think is a fair price on something and some customers will pay up without a murmur; others argue over a NIS 10 price tag,” she says. “I don’t come down unless the thing has been on the table for a few weeks. If I can’t sell it at all, it goes to a charity shop.”
Anyone can do it; you have to pay a nominal amount for the table, but no experience is necessary. Kane in fact did have plenty of experience – since back in Flushing, New York, she used to arrange bazaars for her synagogue.
She will sell anything “vintage” and has proffered some unusual items, like a scale to measure gold dust from South Africa and a ’50s wooden tie press from England.
“The more way-out, the better,” she says with a smile.
Clothing and table linen are non-starters for her, although there are other stalls that specialize in them.
The most she has ever made is NIS 400 on an item, a piece of silver.
“Most people like small items and are prepared to pay NIS 50 to NIS 100,” she says. “I’ve discovered that practically everything is sellable, sooner or later.”
Incidentally, if you want to catch any real bargains and items of value, you have to get there at 7 am. That’s when dealers arrive and take the pick of the crop.
Kane is a very talented needlewoman and does beautiful miniature cross-stitch rugs for a hobby. Several years ago her work was on display in Ra’anana, when the now defunct Israeli Miniaturists Association, of which she was a member, held an exhibition.
When Kane is not preoccupied with her vintage offerings, she is taking archeology courses at Tel Aviv University, which she has been doing for years.
“If I’d been doing it for a degree, I’d have a master’s by now,” she laughs.
But as far as Hebrew is concerned, she doesn’t think she will pursue it any further.
“I’ve done five ulpan courses,” she says, “and although I can just about get along in a shop, I still can’t have an intellectual conversation in Hebrew.”
For her recent 70th birthday Kane went up in a hotair balloon, an adventure her children organized. Her daughter lives in New York where she works as a graphic artist, and plans are in the cards to visit her soon.
Kane visited Eritrea and surrounding countries when her son was the ambassador there, and she is planning a visit to India in the near future to see him, his wife and her two grandchildren.
She has no regrets about moving here in 1990.
“I wouldn’t want to live any place else,” she says.