You may not think this is an "only in Israel" experience- but I find it happens more here than anywhere else- and it really shows something special about this country.
I went to the Kotel recently- with my guests from Chutz La'aretz- and I stopped by one of my favorite stores.
This store sells antiques- chatchkas for the tourists, new stuff for those too gullible to know the difference, but sometimes real and true antiques, just sitting there for those with a discerning eye. I've been going to this store for years- when it looked like a hovel in the Old City, and I've seen it change. I've searched through their items, and actually found some beautiful and rare stuff- Iranian hand-dyed carpets from his relatives in Iran, a megilla (unkosher due to its age- but with kabbalistic symbols checked by a reliable sofer), some Yemenite silverwork- and other such things.
Over the years I've become familiar with his entire family- his grandfather sold me the hand-dyed carpet in the end of the Cardo shuk, his son and brother, formerly in the Israeli army, and his grandson- about to head into the army for his first year. He comes from Iran, and has some family there still- who send him stuff when necessary.
So what's so special about all of this? First of all- he asks how I am, how my family is. I know shopkeepers in America or other places may do this- but it's a different sort of relationship. He shmoozes with me, commenting on the political situation in various countries, various items of humor or interest- all Jewishly based, giving me a flavor of the life he leads. (Yes, I know there are those of you out there who say he'll do this to make a sale- but most of the time, I can't afford anything.)
Hearing about his life in Iran is fascinating- and knowing all his relatives- even more interesting. He's planning on opening up another shop- and I wish him luck in his new business.
He talks with the people who come into his shop- dropping some Torah here and there for a talmid chacham, admiring the new baby of a mother....generally showing care for all Jews. And yes, he caters to the tourists and students as well.
From what I see in Israel- the shopkeepers, the people in the shuk, the taxi and bus drivers- they're all like that. Caring about everyone, willing to help out someone in need, and doing it all in true Israeli style. If that happens somewhere else- I'm so happy to hear about it.
But it seems to happen here more than usual. Welcome to Israel life.
2 hours ago