Sunday morning in May – a very hot Sunday morning.  Turning on the radio, all I could hear was the newscaster promising that it would be hot and not just hot but a real full-blown shrav, heatwave.  The following news ensued with details of where and when the shrav would hit the hardest.  It was turned into the most pressing news item of the day.  Every year, there are these shravs or would one say – shravim?  Days of unbearable heat and discomfort.  This happened not just on any day but on a day that I had promised my daughter I would take her shopping to purchase some necessities for her forthcoming batmitzvah.

Anyway, a promise is a promise and there wasn’t much time left until the great day.  A month previously, two of my elder daughters had taken their youngest sister to buy a dress.  Amazingly, they’d found a maxi, chiffon dress at a reasonable price.  “Bingo” I thought.  I’ve won the jackpot and had been saved the need to shlep round the shops.  “So where was the catch?”  The dress needed either a shrug a shirt with sleeves to complete the outfit.  That was one of our tasks on that hot, Sunday.

We set out on our way.  Looking at the fields along the road, where the wheat had already been harvested, I could not help but think that this had been the scenery greeting the biblical Ruth and Naomi as they made their way from Mo’av to Eretz Israel.  They had seen similar parched dry earth and yellowy-brown backdrop, had felt the dust reach deep down into their souls as they dragged their weary legs and hearts.  We were luckier.  We saw this from our air-conditioned car and could only imagine the intensity of the heat outside.

I suggested to my daughter that we make our way to the familiar mall.  She had different ideas.  “No, Ema, that’s charush – a colloquial term for something that’s passed its time.  We’ll go to the new grand mall.  Reluctantly, I gave in not being a big fan of those monstrosities.  We arrived in the big city and I put on the “waze” to help me in the haze of uncertainty.  It was, of course, impossible to miss this grand mall.  I put the car in the underground park and my daughter photographed its location so that we would not get lost on our way out.

Entering the mall, we started the search for the necessary items.  We actually found a pair of sandals in the first shop.  I quickly whipped out my credit card when the assistant asked politely, “Maybe you want to buy a cleaning spray for a small sum of money”.  Obligingly, she opened the top and a strong smell of cinnamon whiffed up my nose.  She could not have known that cinnamon is not one of my favourite scents.  Just as politely, I refused and was left with the uncomfortable feeling that I had caused her a loss of income.  In the next shop, we found a pair of shoes.  The assistant there started telling me that if I forked out fifty shekels for their membership club card I would then receive two extra pairs for nothing all included.  Again, I refused politely wishing that they would just give a real discount and not try to bombard me with information.

Talking about bombardment, when entering the clothes stores to look for the desired accessories, my sense were overcome with artificial, heady odours that made my head whirl.   It seems to me that the stores try to outdo one another at overpowering their customers.  If that wasn’t enough, each store had its loud, beaty music that invaded and pounded at my ears.  “Why can’t they put on relaxing, music that would encourage me to stay in the store instead of driving me out of it as quickly as possible?”  “Aren’t there any laws about limiting the perfusion of those scents and the decibels of the beats?”  Not only that, the level of the air-conditioning made me long for the heat outside.

Luckily, we finished our errands relatively quickly and made our way to the car. The car climbed up the snaky entrance driveway and out onto the road. Turning on the radio, I found the station that was playing oldies and goldies, songs of Jerusalem.  The melodious, harmonious songs of Jerusalem with their poetic words penetrated my soul that was thirsty for replenishment after such a tiring day.  I was glad to escape from that artificial, edifice and reach the real Eretz Yisrael, the fields which symbolized the connection to the ancient land back to my home, my castle.

About the Author
Chaya Falk was born and educated in England. After making Aliyah over thirty years ago, she lived on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu with her husband and five children. She then moved to Carmel, a moshav in the Hebron Hills where another two children were born. She now teaches English in a Yeshiva High School and is completing an English editing course.