…Make me a mensch

I came across an interesting bit of info when on the Merriam-Webster website the other day. Nerd alert is sounding in the background. If you can concentrate with that alarm sounding read this “Trend Watch” I thought was interesting.


When: Lookups spiked on September 24, 2010.
Why: Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in Star Wars) used the word to describe her father, the pop crooner Eddie Fisher, in a statement released after his death:

“He was an extraordinary talent and a true mensch.”

Mensch comes from the Yiddish word for “human being” and is used to mean “a person of integrity and honor.”

(In the 1950s, when Fisher created a Hollywood scandal by divorcing Debbie Reynolds to marry Elizabeth Taylor, he did not necessarily elevate his status as a mensch.)

The root of the word connects it to man.

I’ve always loved this word and find every opportunity to use it. Sadly it’s not as useful as you would hope. However, recently I’ve had two chances to work it into song rewrites– one for a talent show performance at JEWEL and the second for a Fiddler on the Roof medley at my Hebrew class graduation presentation. There’s no way to avoid a smile when you hear or use the word. Try it sometime.

Made it through the 1st grade equivalent of Hebrew class... With my classmates and morah (teacher).

There are certain experiences here that feel like a slap in the face. For me, shopping in any capacity is a real struggle. My nemesis. A reality check about my love of life here. Just today, I felt a wave panic wash over me when I was asked to pick up milk this week by a roommate. In the post which I announced I would be staying here for an additional 5 months I made the statement:

It certainly makes for some interesting people who know what they want. In every way. People cross streets differently here. They haggle with taxi drivers. Argue with people over where to get the best humus. It’s all about survival. Some have confused this tenacity with rudeness. I haven’t met a mean Israeli yet. I’m the one fumbling around stepping on people’s toes with hardly a handful of Hebrew in my pocket. Typical crazy American girl I guess. But I’m forgiven any.

Over the last month I’ve had a number of interactions I wish I could have skipped right over. The majority have taken place at the supermarket. Not my favorite place in the states to begin with, fence that experience with a language barrier and you’ve got my own personal hell at the moment. It’s ironic since beyond the automatic sliding doors lies a culinary playground. Given my love of food I should be all over it– let’s just say it’s a work in progress. Considering my bad fortune, when things go smoothly I count it as a personal victory in establishing my life here.

This past week, my program went to the shuk (Hebrew for market, pronounced “shook”) known as Machane Yehuda. Our topic for the day, Israeli society. This open-air shopping center is a mix of fresh produce, dried fruit, nuts, cured olives, meat counters, and various housewares. Sprinkled or jammed amongst these stalls are the various types of Israelis. All pushing and haggling their way through a shopping list. Turkish, Iraqi, Persian (Iran), Moroccan, Ethiopian. Depending on the day and hour you visit the shuk, you could find yourself elbowing through the mass of people or strolling leisurely up the aisles. I’ve seen it both ways. And certainly prefer one over the other. This particular afternoon was relatively calm and meant a successful shopping excursion. I’ve won a battle or two but still waging the war.

One of the most authentic shopping experience you could have in Israel. Maybe in the world.

A trip to the shuk provides a great cross-section of Israeli society.

Ceiling of the section of the shuk that is covered.

The Israeli thumbs up in the background makes this picture. Otherwise it's just some fruit for sale.

Loving this secret lookout point above the main street of the shuk.

Not sure I would trust this railing but it sure makes for an interesting photo.

Visiting the shuk at the right time makes all the difference.

Indian snack. Fluffy potato fritters paired with amazing dipping sauces.

Last weekend I finally had the time and necessary company to try my first humus restaurant. humus restaurant? I’m not sure what to call it. But when the menu literally only has 10 items listed and all include humus in some aspect I call it like I see it. If it looks like humus, tastes like humus, god help me it better be humus! Topped with seasoned ground beef, chickpeas, onions, accompanied by pitot (multiple pita, one of my new favorite words to use), falafel, pickles, tomatoes and onions. I should note that it is a bowl of humus not a plate like the picture below depicts, optical illusion, I assure you. In either case, it doesn’t sit in that bowl (or plate) or long. The better place is in your stomach. Or my stomach would be better. humus is ubiquitous here. I know the word is often overused or misused, but trust me, humus is certainly “existing or being everywhere at the same time : constantly encountered” (merriam-webster.com, thank you again).

They do humus right out here. Duh.

Mosaic mural in the center of town. This city is full of surprises.