Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Most of the shops in the big and interesting-looking mall around a mile from here turn out to have gone out of business. I walked around before shopping this afternoon. The place is very empty, with glue marks showing the names of the shops that used to occupy the storefronts.

The Stimatzky’s bookstore in this mall has a large and rather forlorn section where English-language remainder books are set out on very uncrowded shelves. However, the front of the store (which faces the parking lot rather than the inner mall) offered a not-bad selection of recent and classic English and American fiction and non-fiction. I bought a few books, including The Blue Mountain by Meir Shalev, recommended by Baruch.

The grocery store in the mall is very big, and has some interesting departments, which I finally took time to explore. One corner is a little spice bazaar, with burlap bags opened to display bulk spices. Admittedly, the burlap bags mainly displayed plastic bags filled with bulk spices and hand-labeled. I requested and bought some Hawaij, a Yemenite spice blend. I feel disloyal to my friend Irit, who told me where to find a real bazaar where a man named Tam has wonderful Hawaij.

Nearby is a meat counter where I couldn’t seem to get a turn to buy chicken. The beef butcher refused to sell chicken, and the chicken butchers were busy with either other customers or things they preferred to do. I bought a packaged (though fresh) chicken.

I had already found the area where they sell grooming products and OTC medications, the side aisle with plastic containers and housewares, and the center aisles of frozen and packaged products. On previous trips to Israel, I am sure I found that the labeling of packaged goods included much more English text than it does now. All in all, grocery shopping always seems too challenging here.

This morning early I did the laundry, and then went to a morning coffee hour for those accompanying Weizmann visiting scientists and post-docs. Guests were from Korea, Hungary, Northern Michigan, Minnesota, and elsewhere. The American wife of a Czech post doc was the hostess -- she will soon accompany him back to his home in Prague.

A few small children and babies were enjoying the snacks that were on the coffee table at their eye-level. Some enjoyed them by nibbling, others by piling them onto their plates. These children seem to respond to any language: English, Hebrew, Korean…

I spoke to several people. Liza told me something interesting: around 4 years ago, a Japanese corporation was running a fish farm and cannery or processing plant near Eilat. She had heard that the fish farm was causing damage to the health of the reef and the fish. I don’t know any more about it, though I’m aware that fish farms produce toxic wastes that are highly polluting.

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