It has been over a week since Pessach and we are finally getting back into a normal routine. It was wonderful to be home, in Israel, for yom tov once again.
Although we were planning to be away for the holiday, we needed a few essentials to bring with us. This was my first grocery shopping for Pessach in Israel. In America, most things that are kosher for Pessach are good for us to eat. In Israel, many items contain ktniyot which makes the shopping a bit more tricky. Before we entered the store, I called my sister and got the run down of how to check for kitniyot and what to look for. The grocery store was super crowded. We did not even find a shopping cart. I saw many people just holding all their groceries in their arms. I was glad to have a stroller to put things on. Thankfully we were only there for a few essentials. We found the couple of items on our list and fought through the long lines to get out of the store. This made me remember why I like to shop on Tuesday mornings when the store is nice and quiet.
Over the years, I have learned to pack some essential kosher lpessach medicines when we are away for yom tov. Our short list is Tylenol and Benadryl for the kids and Tums for the adults. I still have our supply of American medicines so I have not even bought any of these in Israel yet. Finding the right brands for Pessach was daunting. Again, I called my sister. I thank Hashem that I have her here to call with all my annoying questions. She patiently took pictures of her Tylenol equivalent- Akimol, and Benadryl equivalent - Fenistil drops. She had a list of klp items and looked up which flavors were ok for us to use. She looked up Tums, but did not see it on the list. We headed to the pharmacy, checked the aisles, but to no avail. So, we took a number to wait to speak to the pharmacist. The line was long and kept growing as we waited. When it was finally our turn, I was ready. I asked for Akimol in the appropriate flavor. Got that. Asked for Fenistil drops and was told I needed a prescription. I decided to forgo them as they were just a precaution anyway.
And then I spotted the Tums sitting on the shelf behind the counter in a few flavors. I asked the pharmacist if she knew if they were kosher for Pessach. She pointed to a sign written in Hebrew and said call that number. I turned to walk away and she said, ‘no, call now.”
I hesitated. So many people were behind me, I didn’t know how this call would go. But i dialed. The choices were said fast and in Hebrew. I told the pharmacist to forget it, because I did not even know which number option to choose. She said to push one. I did. Then the call prompted me to say the name of the medicine I would like to check. I yelled Tums into the phone. The voice said a long shpeil: “……..kosher lpesach…….” I had no idea what it meant. It was too fast for me to understand. I hung up. The pharmacist asked what the answer was and I told her I have no idea. I suggested that maybe she could call and listen to the message for me. She tried and when she said Tums into the phone the call did not understand her accent. Another pharmacist came over and started yelling Tums into the phone. Still nothing. Now I was sure the whole room was watching us. I called one more time and got through to the message. I threw the phone at the pharmacist so she could listen to the response. She said that it was not kosher for Pessach.
At this point, maybe I should have given up but I had already gotten so far and was already embarrassing myself in front of a whole room of strangers, so I asked for an alternative to Tums. She handed me one and then a list in English with all the kosher for Pessach medicines. As I looked on the list, she continued to help other people on another register. It was not on the list. I was ready to just pay and leave, but now I had no one to help me. As I waited for someone to return, I spotted another medicine on the shelf next to the Tums and the second one she gave me. I had no clue what it was, but it had the universal picture for heartburn on it- a man with fire on his chest. I checked the list and it turned out that the liquid form of that was on there! I told the pharmacist what I wanted and felt like a winner. We got what we came for. I did not look at anyone as I turned and headed for the door. I didn’t want to see how many glares I would get from people waiting behind me. Being a new olah comes with some pretty embarrassing experiences. This was definitely one of them.
Friday morning, Erev Pessach, we rented a car, squished ourselves and our luggage in and headed to the Dead Sea. We enjoyed a beautiful seder night and yom tov. Overall, our experience was pretty similar to past years. We were fortunate to spend the week with our family and enjoy the holiday as we have done before. But, this year we were not in America. We were here, in Israel. We noticed a few differences.
For example, we took a day trip to Ein Gedi during chol hamoed. I was surprised to learn that Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea area are super popular chol hamoed destinations. Traffic can get really crazy and the parking can be nearly impossible. We went early in the morning to beat the rush. We had a nice, short, kid friendly walk, and then returned for our snack by the picnic benches. I could not believe my eyes. The eating area was completely filled. There were many huge families spread out over three or four picnic tables each eating feasts. They had everything from grills, to small burners with pots, tons and tons of food choices and full meals. They brought table clothes, whole cases of matza, and everything imaginable to go with it. We sat there eating out measly potato chips and chocolate bars that we had packed and just took the whole scene in.
The rest of our Pessach trip was warm and beautiful. We had a wonderful time sunning it up by the Dead Sea with family. We even got a special visit from some friends from America. It was really nice to catch up with them.
When we got home we had another shock to reality. First of all, we got home late motzei shabbat and school started as usual the next day. No day to recover, no delayed opening. Regular arrival at 8AM sharp. We had no food or laundry yet so we winged it for the morning routine. The kids took whatever snacks they could find and pretty much wore the only clean clothes they had left. Feeling a little unprepared, I headed straight to the supermarket after dropping everyone off at school. The store was sparse to say the least. The produce section was almost empty. I saw some apples in the distance, but none of the usual vegetables and fruits that I had hoped for. There were a few cartons of milk. A few. And then I reached the bread section. We were desperate for something to eat over the next few days. There was nothing on the shelves. Sitting on the floor was a crate with a few loaves of bread. Again, not what I was expecting, but I snatched up two loaves. I saw they were restocking cornflakes so I grabbed a box of those too. I could not believe it. The whole country needed to restock their pantries and the supermarket was just not ready.
Apparently this is just the way things are here. Since that day, I have heard some hacks for next year. I heard to restock produce on chol hamoed to make sure you have what you need for the next few days. Someone else told me that she freezes her milk before Pessach so she has some afterwards. We were just not prepared. I did not head back to the store until a few days later. By Tuesday, the store was regularly stocked for the most part. I was a happy mother with bread, milk, cereal and vegetables to bring home for my family.
The fun is not over! This week is Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. I am so excited to be living in Yerushalayim for these special days this year! Our cake party is creeping up too. We only have 55 more days until party time and we are so ready to celebrate all that we have accomplished this year!!!!