Tu B’Shvat 5773

This has been quite an upside-down, inside-out sort of month!  Every single plan I had was interrupted by something that caused plans to change or be abandoned.  This week began with a stomach bug (for me) and my mom being rushed to the ER and now still in ICU. Clients I had planned to do work for weren’t ready with materials I needed, while old clients who had been dormant suddenly had emergencies that needed my attention. As I was getting on the bus this morning heading to Jerusalem to help train a new employee (which I was supposed to have done on Monday), I received a call indicating that the new guy couldn’t make it and the boss was working from home!  Somehow the events of this week transformed me and as I disconnected from the call I said a silent “ayn baya” and continued on to Jerusalem.

Another example of changed plans - last week while working on something else, I needed to test a theme and used the opportunity to give one of my sites a new look.

For almost 2 months I’ve been fighting with – and troubleshooting – my cell phone problems (an ancient 2-year-old Samsung Galaxy I9000) – today I caved in and finally went to Cellcom in Givat Sha’ul fully prepared for a 2 to 4-hour ordeal (as has been my previous experience with anything I’ve ever needed done there).  Today I was wowed by the customer service of a young Cellcom tech guy named Yisrael!  It seems like a dream thinking back on the experience, did it really happen?  Did I really get out of there in less than 20 minutes with my phone in brand new condition without having been charged anything?!

At the beginning of our encounter, Yisrael informed me that my phone’s Android operating system was light-years old and needed to be upgraded. He explained the process and told me it would take about 20 minutes and cost me 50 shekels because I didn’t have insurance. Ayn baya – let’s do it!  Seven minutes later he returned my phone to me with all Contacts in place and the language set to English.  He asked me to test my Gmail and any other apps important to me.  I did and then asked if he needed me to sign something and if the 50 shekels would be added to my monthly invoice. He said “no charge” and no need to sign. Since the entire conversation took place in good English (another miracle!), I asked if he was certain because he originally told me “50 shekels” – he laughed and said that if I wanted to be charged that he could charge me, but in this case there would be no charge!

While this nice young man was assisting me, his manager had interrupted with what seemed like harsh words (sometimes difficult to discern among Israelis).  So as I was leaving, I found the manager by the coffee station and asked if he understood English – he did – and then I told him that in all my years of dealing with Cellcom I have never had such a pleasant experience and wanted him to know that Yisrael provided me with excellent customer service. The guy seemed floored 🙂  I’ll bet they don’t receive compliments very often.

Will you look at the size of that rimon!  It was the smallest I could find - most were the size of watermelons!

I did a little shopping in Givat Sha’ul because two very dear friends gave birth to beautiful babies recently and I hadn’t found anything I liked in Maale Adumim. Then I hopped a bus and went to the Machane Yehuda Shuk. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I loathe shopping there on Thursday, but as plans changed often this week I had no other option if I wanted to keep with my tradition of buying fruits, nuts and breads IN JERUSALEM for Tu B’Shvat.  Shopping among hostile natives is not my idea of a good time, but since I arrived before 1 pm the experience wasn’t as terrible as I anticipated. However, I was hungry and that has always proven to be a bad time to go food shopping!

Deciding which vendors to buy fresh & candied fruits and nuts from has become a more simple matter for me than previously; I simply look for a place where no one is smoking and that quickly narrows down the options!  Look at the size of that rimon in the basket right under the bananas! It was the smallest I could find – most were the size of watermelons!

Loaded down with bags of baby gifts, fruit and nuts – the most incredible strawberries I’ve ever had, by the way – I entered cheese heaven!  Basher Fromagerie has the best cheddar available anywhere in Israel and their level of customer service rivals that of the best American shops.  I have to be careful there because I could easily spend an entire week’s food budget on their cheeses and fish!

I must have sampled 20 cheeses – not because I asked, they offered. While cleansing my palate between cheeses, Eli Basher offered me a piece of smoked salmon that made me realize I can never go back to packaged supermarket lox!  When I was ready to check out, he tempted me with fine wines and offered to have a case carried to my (non-existent) car.   I paid my tab and he insisted that one of his employees – a very well educated cheese connoisseur and salesman who managed to tempt me with way too many options – carry my heavy bags over to the shop across the way where I intended to buy a new agala (shopping cart). The young man even helped me find one that could handle a heavy load and haggled with the vendor for a better price.

With my new cart in tow, I fought my way through the crowds to the bakery that had been sending me scent signals and purchased challah for Shabbat, along with a few confections I didn’t need, but wanted! And I spotted my favorite “Chag Sameach” and “Shabbat Shalom” dinner napkins while giving tzedakah to an elderly woman. On a sad note, I met a South African mother of 14 who is struggling financially to marry off her children. She is probably my age and chatting with her reminded me of just how connected we all are here – with each other, and with Hashem. Maybe the mood at the shuk today was more friendly than usual because everyone’s preparing for Shabbat + a chag. I left there feeling spiritually uplifted – the feeling I normally have to go to the Kotel to achieve. Maybe it started with the vendors singing that children’s Tu B’Shvat song, or maybe something spiritually special was happening in Jerusalem today.

I feel sad for all my friends sitting in frosty places hoping that their Tu B’Shvat fruit basket arrives from Israel on time – or even worse, making a Tu B’Shvat seder over foreign fruits.  I beg you all again, please stop practicing in the galut and come home to experience the real thing!

As with most things this month, my visit to YouTube to find that cute Tu B’Shvat song turned out differently than I had planned.  I came across this video that has a beautiful message and I hope you’ll take the 4 1/2 minutes to enjoy the gorgeous scenes of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom & Tu B’Shvat Sameach!



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