Monday, December 8, 2008

"...where everybody knows your name..." #1

Yom sheni, 11 Kislev 5769.

When I was a little girl, I enjoyed walking with my Mama into the neighborhood shops, to be greeted with "How are you today, Mrs. N--?  How can I help you?"  The shopkeepers' warm smiles taught me that my Mama was an important and well-liked individual.  And she, in turn, was very gracious to each person who greeted her.

When I grew up, and moved to the city, I discovered that people followed their customers around the store with a suspicious eye, rather than greeting them by name.  Was it that the times they were a'changin', or was it the difference between the small town and the city?  Or both?

After I married the Dearly Beloved, we sought out business people who treated us in that old-fashioned, small-town manner.  Wherever the US Army moved us, we would find a shop or two wherein the proprietor felt that customer service came before all else.  It never mattered to us, within reason, whether his prices were the lowest in town or not.  To be treated as a mensch is worth an extra buck or two.

We have lived in Israel a year now.  And, baruch Hashem, we have begun to find those businesses where people bother to "know your name."  So we decided to start taking photos, writing small stories, and sharing the wealth.  After all, when you make aliyah, you also deserve to be greeted with warmth, and a genuine desire to serve.  "Boker tov, Avi v'Ruti!  Mah nishma?  Mah atem rotzim hayom?"

Okay, so we're not loaded.  But small gifts of jewelry do help the world go 'round.  (I am convinced that if more men spent time buying their wives jewelry, and less time trying to build empires and take over other people's countries, there would be world peace.)  Bentzi not only sells handmade silver jewelry at affordable prices.  He also dispenses brachot, in the eloquent and lavish style only Sephardim really seem to have mastered.  He praises my husband for his generosity to me; and he points out that Avi has a good chance of extending his time on this planet, because he greets everyone with a smile.       

Times are tough for the shops on Jaffa Street, due to
all of the destruction/construction for the planned city train.  (If my understanding is correct, they are running something like Baltimore's light rail through the center of town, and turning whatever is left of Jaffa into a great long walking mall.  Of course, there is much in-fighting about the great plan, as is the Israeli bureaucratic custom; so we will see how it actually turns out.)  

It is hard to walk in the narrow sections left around the heavy machinery and ripped-up road.  Many tourists don't bother; and the locals have found other routes.  In true Israeli "make the best of a bad situation" spirit, the shopkeepers do their best to use the situation to their advantage, rather than being daunted by it.   

So, doing our part to help save the Jaffa Street businesses, we make a point of visiting Bentzi, when there are a few spare shekels.  He is good enough also to enjoy our regular purchase-free visits.  And if an earring wire breaks, he repairs it n the spot, at no charge.  His workmanship is quietly elegant.  Think of stopping in next time you are looking for the perfect gift!
"Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came..."  

-- from the "Cheers" theme, by Judy Hart Angelo and Gary Portnoy


Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

We know Bentzi - He pierced Daughter #1's ears, and he's very kind and warm, just as you say. Definitely worth a return trip!

Jacob Da Jew said...

Bentzi is da man. Wehnever I'm in Jerusalem, I buy jewelery from him.

Last time, I bought my mother in law a bracelet there and she loves it!