Elli Fischer
Writer. Translator. Historian. Rabbi. With ADHD.

We Remember the Ice Cream, and the Fish…

Unlike Yehuda Ha-levi, the great Medieval Jewish poet, I found it difficult to leave behind the bounty of Spain for the dust of God’s ruined shrine.

When we lived in the States, our freezer nearly always had ice cream in it. I’d go to the supermarket, and buy a half-gallon of whatever was on sale, generally never more than $3.50 for premium-brand ice cream, even less for generic. Here, I pay 17 NIS for the Israeli version of Neapolitan – mocha, vanilla, and pistachio – or an arm and a leg for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (reserved for special occasions).

I remember the tubs of generic brand peanut butter that we would buy in the States for next to nothing. Here, it’s the oily, grainy Israeli stuff or an exorbitant price for a small jar of an American generic brand.

I remember buying 64oz. bottles of apple juice for $1.50 at most, often cheaper, whereas in Israel you can get a liter on sale for 4 NIS. The best you can do on soda here is just under 4 NIS for 1.5 liters, and never Coke, whereas in the States Coke or Pepsi products – and a wide variety of them at that – could almost always be found for under $1, often even less, and you didn’t need to buy 6 in order to get the deal (often it was LIMIT 6). Don’t even get me started about Dr. Pepper.

I remember drinking orange juice like it was water. $2 for a half-gallon of not-from-concentrate, delicious OJ. Here, orange juice is a luxury item. It’s for special occasions like a birthday or a head cold. Usually it’s good, but sometimes it can be sour, depending on the season.

I remember the variety of good, cheap, non-perishable foods – the ketchups and mustards, coffees and hot chocolates, and artificial sweeteners – that are simply unavailable or exorbitant in Israel.

I remember buying meat at the supermarket that was as red and fresh as it could be, and that was cheap enough that it was not a luxury item.

I remember the fish which we would eat in the States for free, and the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.

Oh, wait. That last one was Egypt, not America. My bad.

About the Author
Elli Fischer is a translator with rabbinical ordination from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate who is working on a PhD in Jewish History from Tel Aviv University. He is the editor of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed's "Peninei Halakha" series in English and co-creator of HaMapah, a project for the quantitative analysis of the history of halakhah. His writings have appeared in numerous print and online media.