Tel Aviv, which is a mix of everything and everyone from everywhere around the world, is obviously bound to be a really interesting place filled with many interesting characters. But, with all of this diversity aside, I can assure you that the encounters you will have with the people here are unlike anything else in the world. And most of these encounters happen while you are grocery shopping.
Often times, Israelis are compared to Sabras (cactus fruits), which are spiky on the outside but sweet on the inside. For example, the person who steps on your foot and hits you with his cart in the grocery store without saying he is sorry, will be the same person to chat you up while you’re waiting in line and you will end up at his family’s house for Friday night dinner.
Here is one of the encounters I have witnessed so far, that I quite honestly do not think would happen anywhere else in the world.
It was sunset on Friday, right before the city shuts down for Shabbat. People were packed into a local convenience store getting last minute things. I was there with a friend, getting a bottle of wine. While standing in line, a man came into the crowded store with his big golden retriever.
The lady at the cashier told him bluntly, “Get your dog out, it’s too busy here.”
The man told her straight up, “No, it’s not against the law, I can do whatever I want.”
The cashier was obviously offended that he did not tie his dog up outside, (plus the dog was not on a leash, no one here keeps their dog on a leash)… so the cashier told the man that she was going to tell the boss to come out.
Just seconds later, the boss (a young girl, with flowing brown hair and a nose-ring,) comes out of the back room. She looks at the dog that is wandering around the store, and casually tells the man to take the dog out.
The man protests, “No! He’s not bothering anyone!”
Now, not only are the boss, the cashier, and the man involved in this dog issue, but also other people shopping in the store start to get involved.
They say if you have three Israelis, you have six opinions. (I think it’s more like ten opinions.)
So, one younger guy with dreadlocks said to the cashier, “Let him just keep the dog here, give it up!” Another woman, wearing a nice dress and high heals, agreed with the dreadlocks guy. “Seriously, everyone needs to chill out.” The cashier girl protested, “But it’s crowded! He needs to take his dog out.” An older couple walked in, and argued that the cashier has a point. The couple stammered, “Why is there a dog in here!? It’s so crowded!”
Little did anyone know, that all the while during these arguments and protesting about the dog, the boss has been sitting down on the ground in the middle of the store the whole time actually playing with the dog. Once everyone realized this, the man with the dog casually bought a pack of gum and a coke from the cashier.
After paying, the cashier smiled up at the man and wished him a “Shabbat Shalom”. He then snapped at his dog, and said “Yalla! (common!) Let’s go!”
The boss kissed the dog on the head and ran her fingers through its fur one last time before the dog and his owner left the store.