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An American Shopping in Israel

I feel like all I have done for the last 3 days is shop. I’d forgotten what it was like to set up a household. It’s a full time job. The last time I moved house was July 2000. Below are my 3 rules for shopping in Israel so far… I’ll add others in new posts as I discover them.

Rule #1 : There is no one-stop shop.

I knew this before I came. At least, I thought I knew this. I still can’t believe I had to go to 3 different stores to get Liam’s school supplies. That might not sound so bad until you hear that there were only 6 items on his list. Here is how it broke down: Super Pharm had the tissues and wipes. Office Depot had the snap folder. Super Sol (סופר סול) had the lunch box, water bottles, and baggies.

Apparently grocery stores carry precious little baby products, no cosmetics, and no first aid products. You must go to the pharmacy for these things.

So how many ways do you think it takes to describe what a lunch box is to a grocery store employee who speaks broken English to get a result? (For the record, their broken English is always better than the few phrases I know in Hebrew.) The answer is, it doesn’t matter because they will just say they don’t have it, even if they do.

I literally held up a metal water bottle I bought in the States and asked if they had them.
Her: No.
Me: Something similar?
Her: Yes, similar. Follow her… (something in Hebrew I didn’t understand)
Her #2: (walks me around 3 different sections, then leaves me in a school-supplies like isle)

Guess what? They had water bottles EXACTLY like what I showed the first woman and these ridiculously tiny little lunch boxes. Oh well, I still win. Now I just have to figure out how to pack a lunch and 2 snacks in it.

Rule #2: Familiar stores carry an odd mish-mash of products.

Ace Hardware carries the usual fare, plus appliances, dishes, and God knows what else. It ends up being a little like a Home-Depot. Confusing, but helpful. The scary part of the appliances at Ace was the brand names: Kenwood (fake Kenmore?) Hemilton (fake Hamilton Beech?). You actually see this a lot, so I haven’t bought any names I don’t recognize if I can help it.

Rule #3: There Is No “Slow Time” and Parking Is a B*tch

Even at 10:00 in the morning on a Sunday, which is normally a work day for Israelis since they observe Saturday as Shabbot/Sabbath, the shopping centers are teeming with people. Most of the people I saw were between 20 and 40 years old–even families. I kept thinking, “Don’t these people have jobs?”

Truly I could (and probably will) do an entire post about parking in Israel. In summary, the parking lines mean nothing, crooked parking is expected, back-in parking is best for quick escapes, when the lot is really busy go ahead and park in the no parking area, and if you have 4-wheel drive you can just park anywhere you want.

I have discovered that the best time to shop for groceries is at 21:30 because most of the other stores in the mall have closed. Grocery stores and pharmacies are generally open late. Super Sol in BIG Poleg is open from 08:30-Midnight, Sun-Thur.

  1. Denise
    September 13, 2011 at 00:19

    I’m going to love seeing Israel with your eyes. 🙂

  2. Tbrein
    September 15, 2011 at 21:30

    Tra – I love reading all of your adventures. Hope things get better, or you become accustomed to things quickly.

  3. September 20, 2011 at 15:47

    This is good stuff! Keep it coming!

    BTW, I enjoy monitoring fake stuff (engadget has a series called “KIRF – Keepin it real fake”), and to me, it seems Kenwood and Hemilton are for real. Odd names, though, I remember back when I was in the Navy, wandering around Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, how dismayed I was by all the previously unseen brands that were seemingly everywhere. Combined with familiar brands, it had a very Twilight Zone feel to it.

  1. September 19, 2011 at 19:51

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