I didn’t find this in Israel. I found it in the attic of the run-down apartment bloc I used to live in Sweden. It had been sitting there for ages. It’s from 1966.
Isn’t it amazing in a way. I admire this gem of a box so much. It says Jaffa Oranges – Produce of Israel. And then in small letters Haarbaz box. If anyone knows who Haarbaz is or if it has any meaning to it let me know.
What fascinates me is that the original delivery slip is still attached to the side – indicating that it’s just been left in that attic almost ever since. The delivery slip states that Konsum in Korpilombolo ordered these oranges by telephone on the 2nd of February 1966. Konsum is a Swedish cooperative grocery store retail chain, it’s former name back in the days was Domus. The delivery arrived at this outpost of civilization (google Korpilombolo and you will understand).
The slip further indicates that the oranges were picked in Jaffa. How amazing isn’t that? I sent a few pictures to some of my relatives and they replied with utter joy; “Remember, these were the boxes we used!”, “You have to save the box, it’s a piece of modern history!”, “Wow maybe it was even me picking the oranges for that box!”.
I realized I’ve come across something very special, paramount to all Israelis – when the state wasn’t even 20 years old. It means something to a lot of people and it certainly does to me. What are the odds I come across this specific box at a total random place in the remotest part of the wilderness?
But more, it tells the remarkable story of when Israel received international phone calls from all different parts of the world. Ordering Jaffa oranges. And I’m so proud of that. It takes us back the memory lane – the time before the Six Day War. The time before the Yom Kippur War. Most of us were not even born then. My life started 20 years later, in 1986.
I restored the box, glued it back together carefully and re-inforcing it with some well needed discreete nails here and there. After that I waxed it a preservative wood wax so it wouldn’t completely disintegrate. Mind you fruit boxes are not exactly meant to last forever.
But I’m just so fascinated. Who placed that phone call? Who knew English in Sweden back then? Who could reply at the request? How was it shipped? What were the terms of payment? From what account to another? Or was cash used straight out in an envelope? Was there a business middle-man handling the whole ordeal?
We tend to moan and complain whenever our credit cards expire and we have to renew our Netflix subscription. Yet back then – someone had to find the number to someone, ask for an international call, hoping for someone picking up and registering the order manually. And then ship it to the end of the world.
I wish it could have been as easy now as it was then. You just pick up the phone, order your oranges and then wait a bit for a beautiful box to show up with even more beautiful content. Today no matter where I go, I have a hard time finding fresh Israeli produce. Perhaps the domestic market fills up the quota. Perhaps there is not much land left to grow oranges in. At best I sometimes find Sharon-fruits which I honestly am not a big fan of. At even more rare times I can find Pomello or citrus fruit.
And oh my god I buy them, even though the Sharon fruit isn’t exactly to my taste. Even though the Pomello is like… A lot of digging in order to find the hidden gold. But I try.
You know what would be an outstanding success here – at least for me? Baklawa. I don’t care about the price. I don’t care if it’s not 110% fresh. I just want it. It would be a success for me at least. Since I seem to be the only expat at miles around. Anyways I would buy the complete stock and indulge in some kind of unhealthy eating frenzy.
I tried to make a private import of 50 kilos of Israeli oranges. I made it. But you know what it cost me after paying all the EU-regulated taxes, import fees for fruits not produced but available in the EU and furthermore the freight? About 10 Estados Unidos Dolares/kg. That’s right, 10 USD/kg. Was it worth it?
Well to be honest however I tried to argue with my bank account – no. That’s just way to expensive. But back in the Good ol’ days there was a cooperative, state-run Swedish food-retailer who made it work. In those days before trade unions, agreements, disagreements and Israel outgrowing itself. Leaving little space for farming.
If any Israeli farmer, farming anything could perhaps sign up and sell it’s produce at let’s say crowdfarming.com or other platforms – I’d be first in line.
In the meantime, the box stands as a memory of a modern past in my kitchen. As a testimony of who we were and who we are now.