I found this in my files and felt the urge to post it. The story stemmed from a writing exercise many years ago when taking a class on description. Re-reading it made me smile and remember my first five years in Haifa, a northern city on the coast, where Philippe and I lived when we started dating and were first married. Mostly, though, it made me smile because it shows me that even then I was looking for the good and open to Israel.
Philippe and I are doing our Friday afternoon food shopping before sundown when the Sabbath starts. The sidewalks are crammed with pedestrians—Jews, Arabs, groups of young men smoking and listening to loud music, mothers and children strolling hand in hand. The roads are packed with cars and motorcycles; the minute the lights turn green drivers beep their horns, screaming “Yaalah” or “Let’s get moving!” The midday sun is electric; our hats, sun block and sunglasses shield us from the intensity of its rays. Armed with backpacks and shopping bags, my boyfriend and I weave through the throngs of people in search of the butcher for chicken, the baker for challah and a produce market.
Suddenly, the scent of yeast and flour wafts through the air. It’s almost strong enough to overpower the ground chick pea balls sizzling in a deep fryer, lamb rotating on an open spit for shish-kebab, car exhaust fumes and tobacco. Even the salty smell of theMediterranean Searecedes. As Philippe and I continue down the street, we arrive at the source—a pita-making machine that is churning out dozens of double-layered pocket breads. They slide off the conveyer belt onto the metal drying rack where customers hand-pick them. They are round, saucer-sized, puffed up and hot, with a hint of moisture.
In the store I yank a plastic bag from a hook. “Cama ze oleh?” I ask the baker, who is feeding dough into the machine, which chants a constant “mmmmm” as the pitas wind their way through the apparatus. When he answers “esrim argorot” –roughly 20 cents—I laugh. So cheap, so good. Gently, I pick up a pita and bring it close to my face to inhale the just-out-of-the-oven odor. I can’t decide what I like best—fresh pita with falafel, hot pita with humous, or just plain pita. I fondle them one at a time to make sure they don’t have too many imperfections before putting them in the bag. As Philippe is paying the cashier, I can no longer resist. “What do you want for lunch?” he asks, as I wrap my hands around the one on top. Too late. He follows me out of the store and into the penetrating sun where my first bite of the local bread melts in my mouth.