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My hero — the cashier in Omer

These low-paid workers on the frontlines of the health crisis perform their duties with a smile and a bewildering level of dedication
The Unsung Heroes of the Omer Supermarket

“Hey, hold up,” she said.

In my frantic corona-inspired but unsuccessful egg-run (they were out), I grabbed a comforting bag of M&M’s and turned toward the cashier who tried to catch my attention. With her blond hair, pulled back into a tight ponytail, she smiled and continued, “Please give me a minute to go check if the soup mix that your mother-in-law likes is back in stock. If not, I’ll drop it off at her house later”.

Before I was able to even utter a thank you, the produce manager cut me off, running after an elderly gentleman who just entered the store.

“Sir, Sir”, he insisted, “Here, please take this mask and these gloves and put them right on. It’s really dangerous in here now”. The man smiled gratefully, sporting his new Corona attire.

Photo Credit: Zimra Vigoda

I live in Omer, a small suburb about 10 minutes from Beer Sheva in the northern Negev region of Israel. The neighborhood supermarket is located in the town’s center. Part of the large Shufersal chain, it certainly isn’t the least expensive place to shop but it is convenient if I run out of basics.

However, for many of the town’s older residents, including my own mother in law, the supermarket is a sort of second home, providing walking distance entertainment (more fun than the local HMO clinic) and a support system.

The employees come from all walks of life and represent the human mosaic that is 2020 Israel. They are religious, secular, Jews and Arabs. They may differ in their worldviews and in their politics but they are more similar than different in many other ways – especially during these challenging times.

I very well understand the risks of working with the public during this pandemic. My husband is a physician and despite the Shelter in Place or Lockdown orders, he goes to work, examining and operating on tens of patients every day.

Photo Credit: Zimra Vigoda

But, GUESS WHAT? He earns a living wage and has enough status to request (or rather demand) appropriate protective gear.

In contrast, supermarket employees, who are also present for ALL of us, often working from the early morning until the late evening, most likely earn close to minimum wage. I don’t believe they are provided with any significant protective gear and they certainly are in close contact with hundreds of people every day.

Yet, they not only perform their duties but do so with lots of smiles and a level of dedication that bewilders me. So, next time you are making a quick run for eggs, milk or cheese, please take a good look at the brave women and men working in the aisles and at the cash register and simply say, “Thank You”.

About the Author
Zimra was born in Budapest and grew up in New York City. She immigrated to Israel in 1994 and for the past two decades has worked with diverse for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Currently, she serves as a resource development expert on the Civics and Shared Education team at the Center for Educational Technology (CET) in Tel Aviv. Zimra is mother to 4 children, ages 12 to 21. Inspired by her 16-year old son Amit, a lower limb amputee, she is passionate about competitive wheelchair basketball and spends much of her free time rooting for her favorite teams. Today, she and her family are living in the Negev.
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