March 9, 2006: Look Inside

A few years ago, my wife was visiting Israel. A friend was driving her around when he needed to get gas for the car. He pulled into the gas station and told her to just wait a minute. While the guy pumped the gas, he went into the station. She was somewhat surprised when he came out with a bunch of meat in his arms.

We have since found this gas station which has not only a butcher shop inside, but also a nice bakery. Now if I was opening a butcher shop and looking for a nice location, the words “in a gas station” would probably not be the first thing I thought of. But that’s just me. Nowadays, we are not surprised when we see places selling things that look out of place. Finding the unexpected in Israel is pretty much…. Expected!

Once in a burger restaurant in Jerusalem, there was a crazy glue display on the counter. Sure, why not? I could always use a tube or two of glue while eating a burger.

I once asked why a sefarim shop had a basket of electrical outlets for sale. “Parnasa,” was the reply. I am sure there are lots of interesting, unexpected things to find at the back of my local hardware store, but between you and me, I am quite scared to venture all the way back there. All I know is you can get almost anything you can think of just by asking. Next time I think I will ask them if they have a giant python, just to see what they bring out of the back.

One afternoon, we were doing some grocery shopping at one of the hundreds of Rami Levy Supermarkets that dot the hills of Talpiot. At around four o’clock , I felt a tap on my shoulder and someone beckoned to me saying, “mincha, mincha.” Now, I smiled and thought, “This is really cool, he needs a minyan and a bunch of us will probably go to a corner of the store and daven together. Only in Israel!”

I followed him through the store, but rather than rounding up ten guys by the Kleenex, he walked through an unmarked door and down a hallway. I followed assuming that now we were all going to daven in a stock room or something similar.

I was left speechless (a rare and uncomfortable condition for me) when we emerged from the hallway into a Rami Levy shul. Not a stock room with folding chairs and cases of tuna, a shul. There were nice wood shtenders, an Aron Kodesh, and a Bima. On the walls were memorial plaques and dedication signs. There were even a couple alta kakas who sat in the corner talking throughout the davening. I shushed them and joined the minyan.

It was so nice, I think I’ll go grocery shopping next year at Rosh Hashana. (I’m not sure, but I think there may have even been a second shul behind the bakery, but that’s the shul we don’t go to.)

After davening, I went out and found my wife on line with enough food to feed the IDF for a month. She asked where I had been. “Stella, I was at shul,” I said with a smile. “The announcements took a long time. I heard the fish guy’s son is getting married.” Since Stella is used to me saying odd things, she didn’t really sound surprised. She just asked if we could go home, or did I have to stay for kiddish.

You may find many nice things in America, but I doubt very much you will find a shul behind the Kleenex in a supermarket. There are so many fascinating things in Israel, but some times you just have to look inside.

Just one more reason why we feel that Israel is our home.

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