Using my loaf: Monkey business in Shuk Ha’Carmel

“They are all barbarians,” I exclaimed to Hanna, who had called me just as I was exiting Shuk Ha’Carmel – the Carmel Market – on Tuesday morning.

Hearing my own words, however, I was immediately struck by their unadulterated foolishness. Indeed, such a pronouncement about bastot (stall) owners in the Shuk – and after 15 years here – was up there, in the obviousness stakes, with statements such as “Israelis can, on occasion, be not particularly considerate drivers” and “Bibi may not really be interested in a settlement with the Palestinians.”

Not wanting Hanna to think me a complete buffoon (I don’t think that either of us had yet ruled out – though she may have now – a friendship beyond the purely platonic), I attempted to justify my outburst by relating how a stallholder who has supplied all of my bread requirements for years had dismissed me with a contemptuous wave of the hand, as if waving away a beggar, as I was attempting to show him (for his information, as it were) how the last loaf purchased had not – through no fault of the Rechov Melchett freezer (as frosty as the drawers of a frigid Polania) – frozen properly through the middle.

“Are you mad,” said Hanna. It dawned upon me that my chances might have receded even further. “Do you think that he has the education to comprehend, or to care, why your bread might not have frozen?!”

I cannot deny it: over the years, I have had more than my fair share of run-ins with Israeli customer service. But the truth is that, on this occasion, I hadn’t expected understanding or sympathy . . . merely civility and, perhaps, that – for a good customer – the Persian would, like an English trader in his shoes, feign a polite smile and hand over (however reluctantly) a fresh loaf. And, before opting (wisely, I think) not to dig my hole vis-à-vis Hanna any deeper, I considered educating her as to how it is precisely such seemingly trivial gestures that make up the fabric of a livable society.

Talking of societies and fabrics, I grew up in a most “livable” one in which they could be returned to retailers even after they had been worn to numerous engagements/functions. Indeed, I could swear that M&S Brent Cross had a dedicated queue for Jewish housewives returning outfits with which they had become bored, or – horror of all horrors – in which they had spotted a rival (i.e., any other Jewish) female. Even my bar mitzvah suit went back immediately following the big day after a magnifying glass helped identify a miniscule imperfection in its pinstripe (“He finds it itchy” was considered unlikely to suffice). Moreover, a recently-visiting friend related how North-West Londoners routinely return LCD tellies to Costco (a cash and carry warehouse), which exchanges them for the latest model without so much as a query (compare that to the Jerusalem fax paper episode!)

On discussing this post in the pub, yesterday evening, my friend Yuval was of the view that while such wonderful customer service may be viable in the UK, the consumer chutzpah that can so easily abuse it makes it impossible in the Jewish state, where sellers do not wish to be freiers any more than buyers. Makes sense.

Even the knowledge that Shuk Ha’Carmel traders are renowned for their primitiveness and lack of education – as well as for living off largely undeclared income in the swankiest suburbs of north Tel Aviv – does not, as it should, help me to rise above and not get wound-up by their ill-breeding. Two other friends, and fellow olim, refer to this type of Israeli male (regrettably, not encountered only in the shuk) as “apes”/“monkeys”; often apposite-seeming epithets, which – before the accusations of racism start to fly – relate to their behaviour rather than (or, at least, more than) their ethnicity. Let’s face it, if it is swarthy, hairy, excitable and cheeky, it ain’t no sheep or swan!

Might I, however, have become one of them? It has been said . . .

On Tuesday, as I wheeled my trolleyful of produce back past the Persian – and in spite of having had at least half an hour to cool down – I experienced another frozen yogurt/Jerusalem Post moment, informing him that he was a “shmock” from whom I had made my last purchase.

As Hanna subsequently made very clear, however, on this occasion there had been only one shmock . . . and, from now on, I would be better off using my loaf.


14 responses to “Using my loaf: Monkey business in Shuk Ha’Carmel

  1. If I was some wanky tosspot shuk salesbastard who has the problem comprehending the simplest of duo-syllabic sentences, your frozen remonstrations would have sadly fallen (as they did) on deaf ears (his waving being indicative of such).

    Just the other day in the shuk, a salesperson trying to be funny called me (and all the other males) “אבא” (Abba) – to which I responded, “כן סבתא” (Yes Grandma), his ensuing confusion led me to order too much hummus (a 4 shekel surplus) which subsequently went off faster.

    For 4 shekels, I simply went by the rule of אל תהיה צודק תהיה חכם (don’t be right – be wise), it’s simply not worth my shpilkes for 4 shekels (or in your case a loaf of bread) to go back and argue with these people, thereby getting your tzitzit in a twist for the rest of the day.

  2. You took bread back to שוק הכרמל because it didn’t freeze properly?
    You’re becoming too pathetic to read – at first I thought you were just a funny little man.
    Oh maybe I didn’t get – you did it in order to create comedy? Like an on-air radio prank call – sort of – yes???? M&M, next time you walk out the door, please take a hidden camera crew. 😉

  3. Ari, in spite of your repeated criticisms – as far back as August, you commented that I “writ[e] entirely non-sensical drivel in intelligent language” – you, like an offensive smell, keep coming back. I am obviously doing something right . . . or wrong.

    Though, as a native – if not a “monkey” – I commend you for at least attempting to wrestle with the English language and sense of humour, as well as the Diaspora Jewish – though, often, just melchett mikeish – “d’feekoot”.

    Keep on reading (and commenting). 😉

  4. For the uninitiated, can you kindly elaborate on this bread-freezing-in-the-middle thing – what does it mean if it does and what does it mean if it doesn’t?

  5. Okay, okay, it seems that I am going to have to address the thaw-ny issue of the bread . . .

    The Persian does a wicked whole grain loaf, which I freeze (for toast). When I took this one out, however, it was frozen around the crust but not in the middle. And, seeing that everything else in my freezer freezes fine, I thought it must be something in the ingredients and that I should let him know. C’est tout!

    (Is this the most mundane comment yet to melchett mike?!)

  6. I have to say (well I don’t have to but I would like to) that if someone came to me complaining about a loaf that did not freeze properly, I would think he was bonkers, and would start looking for MTV Boiling Points cameramen to appear out of hiding.

    Not wanting to leave you entirely empty handed, might I suggest that you divide your loaf into two or three before freezing to aid complete freezing.

  7. Unfortunately Mike, the last comment is correct. However, this does not diminish the “shmockishness” (I’m not too sure about the correctness of the spelling here – I think there should be a ‘c’ between the ‘s’ and ‘h’ at the beginning of the word) of the aforementioned “Parsi”. Actually I’m surprised he didn’t clock you. He probably doesn’t understand words with Yiddish etymological backgrounds.

    Not to worry. The cavalry in the form of yours truly will be arriving in exactly one month’s time. In the meantime, I’ve started learning Persian.

  8. That’s right, you bastards: hit a man when his bread doesn’t freeze. If we can’t rely on that, what is left?!

    I know Paul Young would understand . . .

  9. Who buys bread from the Carmel anyway? do you really think that guy washes his hands before he kneads the bread.. just a thought..

  10. You are begining to sound like Mr Meldrew with this latest posting: very pernickety indeed. Maybe it is time to get a wife and get a life, before you become too set in your ways. It would certainly give you something more to think about, other than whether your loaf is frozen in the middle ! LOL 🙂

  11. “. . . time to get a wife and get a life . . .”

    My life is just fine, thank you, Tess . . . while various married (some now divorced) friends would love theirs back! Though, if and when I do meet the woman who I feel will add to it, I’ll do my best to “get” her. 😉

    “. . . before you become too set in your ways.”

    Too late for that, Tess!

    Anyhow, the point was not the loaf . . . but the oaf.

  12. Mx2, I actually think Tess’s comments are really “low-blows”!

    Tess, Eminem knows he needs a wife, Hannah knows he needs a wife, we all know he needs a wife – and it all seems to depend on whether “he can fuck good”:

    Next time, slice the f$&@kn bread before freezing it!

  13. Mike, I must confirm that bread does not freeze right through. I’ve been freezing bread for years and notice that it doesn’t freeze solid like the other foodstuffs. It’s not the shuk’s bread that’s a problem, it’s bread in general so you can enjoy your regular Shuk Ha’Carmel bread.

  14. Whilst appreciating your crumbs of comfort (couldn’t resist it!), Sharon, being a single gentleman, I have also got to freeze and toast rather a lot of bread over the last 43 years!

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