December 26, 2008: Ho Ho Ho, Chag Sameach!

One day over Chanukah, my family decided that they wanted a traditional Jewish Chanukah experience. So we went to the Jerusalem mall (Malcha).

Now when I first made Aliyah, I loved the concept of the mall. No, I really didn’t like the actual mall that much. I have no need for exorbitantly priced clothing or the bad and expensive greasy food. It was the idea that I was in a kosher mall that I enjoyed.

Unlike American malls, there are kiosks everywhere selling all sorts of everyday Jewish items like kippot and washing cups. There are movies with Hebrew subtitles and toy stores with stacks and stacks of games in Hebrew. I still remember the first time I walked into the food court and was surrounded by a huge assortment of bad, expensive food – but it was all kosher. I loved paying several thousand shekels for a piece of over cooked Kentucky Fried Chicken that would later make me feel ill. As Colonel Sanders once said, “Free at last, free at last, free at last.”

So now that the novelty has worn off, I have to admit, I don’t really get to the mall that often. I have much better and cheaper places that I like to eat, and when I want to buy a pair of American jeans made in China, I have someone bring them from America when they visit.

Yet kids are drawn to malls like bugs to a light. So after humoring me by taking a family trip to the Dead Sea, it was my turn to humor them with a trip to the Mall. Since over ninety-three percent of the population of Israel come to Malcha over Chanukah, my plan was to get in early, spend all our money on junk, and then get out before being trapped by the shopping masses and having to wait until Pesach to leave.

Over the holidays, the Mall always feels the need to put on some type of show for the youngsters so that mommy and daddy can spend the money they were saving for the youngster’s college education on a pair of socks. This week, Malcha was showing a free movie of Square Pants Sponge Bob, some fine entertainment.

Anyway, I walked over with my youngest and plopped him down to watch the film. I realized that it had been dubbed into Hebrew and decided to see how much of the “plot” I could follow. As I listened to the dialogue, I heard a phrase I never – ever – imagined I would hear in Hebrew. “Ho, Ho, Ho, Chag Sameach!” It was then that I realized that the Malcha Mall – the kosher Malcha Mall – the Jewish Mall in the center of Jerusalem – was showing the “Sponge Bob Christmas Movie!”

Oh yes, as I stood there with my jaw hanging open astonished, the kids watched Santa Claus, the Reindeer, Christmas Trees – the whole shtick from which I had fled America. Meanwhile, hundreds of kids with kippot on their heads and tzitziot hanging out of their pants sat and ate it up.

Of course, without any inkling what Christmas is, they probably just assumed that the plot of this episode happened to deal with a strange guy dressed in red on a sled. It’s not like they’ve never seen a guy with a beard before, right?

I was finally able to rope my son away from the crowd with the promise of a doughnut, the cake of affliction. As we were buying a box to take home, I pointed out to the doughnut lady that there was one doughnut sitting on the display table that looked a bit crushed. I explained to her that it would be a much better thing just to give the doughnut to me as a present rather than try to sell it. We negotiated a little, but since we are all one big dysfunctional family here in Israel, she eventually gave in and let me have it as a “matana.” We wished each other a “Chanukah Sameach.”

My faith in this country had been restored.

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