In Jerusalem, I’ve been witness to an ongoing miracle, just around the corner from where I live in Bak’a (known to one municipal clerk as Ge’ulim). You may have heard, back in second grade, that the Temple courtyard would miraculously expand on Yom Kippur to accommodate all of the Jews who prayed and bowed down there. Certainly you’ve read the account of Elisha and the never-ending jug of oil. How about the pizza-flavored manna in the desert, long before pizza was invented? What I experience on a near-daily basis is better than any of those. It’s The Miracle of the 24.
I speak, of course, of the 24/6 (and on the seventh day, they rest) grocery, to which I frequently make three-minute-long round trips to pick up this, that and the other. It’s not a big deal when a tiny store stocks the this and the that — milk, eggs and bread. The “other” is where the miracle takes place.
Consider this event. My wife and I came home after a long day and collapsed. She started the recovery conversation.
— Reese’s cups and beer, that’s what we need.
— I’ll run to the 24.
— No, no, we don’t really need that.
Two minutes passed.
— I could really go for some Reese’s cups and beer.
— It’s really not a problem, I’ll run over and get them.
One-and-a-half minutes passed.
— What a day. I could really go for some Reese’s cups and beer.
— I’ll be right back.
On my way, I had 60 seconds in which to wonder what the odds were that I would find those items at the 24. I knew they had beer there, but I wasn’t sure that there would be cold beer. And Reese’s cups? There are plenty of Americans in Bak’a (known to one nearly-retired ulpan teacher as Ge’ulim), but the 24 is pretty small.
Oh Me of Little Faith! The Reese’s Cups (two varieties) were right by the register, and there was a fridge with beer — not just any beer, but a respectable variety, local and imported. I returned home a hero, but in slightly more than three minutes, due to a moment’s indecision caused by beer choices.
Maybe that wasn’t a big challenge. However, I’ve been back for all kinds and manner of food and non-food items, and I’ve not been disappointed.
Powdered cocoa? No problem. Weird non-potato root chips in two flavors? Need you ask?
You may think this isn’t truly a miracle, but I can prove you wrong. Here’s what happens. I go into the store, look for a product, scour the shelves where it’s most likely to be found, then carefully examine every spot where it’s not likely to be found, move to the corners where it could not possibly be found, and then give up. On the off chance that I’ve somehow missed it, I ask Shlomi at the register, “Do you have product X? I can’t seem to find it.” And Shlomi says, “Sure, it’s in the middle aisle right next to the sardine-flavored breakfast cereal.”
“But I looked there!”
“Look again,” he says with a wink.
I go back, and there it is, exactly where it wasn’t just a minute before.
A few weeks ago, I went to look for Patit crackers, examined all of the crackers, was sent back, and found the Patit next to the other crackers, behind a conveniently misplaced box of cereal (chocolate, not sardine). Is this sleight of hand, or the deft moving of groceries by a swift and silent assistant? Could it be pure idiocy and lack of attention on my part? Those would be the logical explanations. But there is more to this miracle.
The wonder and splendor of the miracle is that all of these products are packed into a store that’s smaller than our tiny apartment in Bak’a (known to one ancient geographer at Hebrew University, and her cat, as Ge’ulim).
One last tale of the Grocery Masters: It was the night before a family vacation to Greece, and the ladies decided it was time to do their nails. Alas — there was no nail polish remover in the house. I looked at my wife and she knew what was on my mind. I said, “I have to check, I need to know if they have it.”
I told the manager, Fadi, that I believed this to be a miracle, and asked what he thought. He laughed knowingly and said, “Of course it’s a miracle.”
I don’t get it. But I do believe. Come see for yourself.