Two months ago, I wrote a blog post about which consumer items olim may want to bring on their lift. I posted the question on Facebook and on a number of discussion lists and lots of people responded. Their responses allowed me to come up with quite an extensive list and that particular post was particularly widely read and commented on.
Many vatikim (long-time Israelis) wrote to let me know that some items people thought they couldn't find here were, in fact, available in one location or another.
As I'm learning, shopping in Israel is often a matter of knowing where to shop. Many consumer goods Americans are used to using are, in fact, available here, but perhaps not (yet) widely. And there is often a premium price associated with imported goods, so it still may pay, if one has connections with cooperative neighbors, friends or relatives who travel between here and the States, to bring certain things back in their luggage.
Even though there are some things I still ask people to bring, I am beginning to identify and appreciate the consumer goods that really are better here.
As a follow-up, I asked people to identify the things they preferred to buy in Israel, either because they are not available elsewhere or because they are better or cheaper here.
Foods that are better, cheaper or available only in Israel
Iced Coffee - Israeli iced coffee is a coffee-flavored slush
Doritos and cheese curls - kosher and pareve
matbucha - spicy veggie salad
olives and pickles - especially Bnei Dorom brand
halavah/halva – very different here and available in fresh and packaged varieties
zatar – a spice
schug – a spicy condiment
milk in a bag that fits in a specially-made plastic holder
vanilla beans from the shuk
roasted watermelon seeds
schwarma and, need I say, felafel
ice cream - Israeli ice cream is generally smoother and creamier than the US kind
Papagayo’s lafah and dips – Papagayo is a chain of all-you-can-eat meat restaurants
dried pineapple without added sugar - granted, they look unappealing but they are very sweet
hot cocoa - kosher and pareve - found in the coffee section in 1 Kg bags
kabukim or butnim Americaim - Though there's a dispute about what these are called, these cookie-like-covered nuts are sometimes with sesame seed topping
pistachio nuts - entirely different, much richer than the ones from California
Spring brand juices
Fresh bread and other bakery items
shells for women and girls - much more plentiful and easy to find in much greater variety (i.e. with or without sleeves, different lengths and different materials)
men's and boys' white shirts - inexpensive, especially in Bnei Brak
boys' pants - inexpensive, especially in Bnei Brak
girls' Shabbat clothing - inexpensive, especially at Pinat Hazol in Bnei Brak
scarves/mitpachot and hats for women - much more variety and much, much cheaper
olive oil soaps
Shabbat toilet paper -these are soft, cheap and available nearly everywhere
Shabbat toothpaste - liquid or gel
chut for crocheting kipot - can found in some basic colors for as little as 1 shekel at the shuk
rosemary shampoo and conditioner
lice combs - let's not dwell on this one...
grocery carts (Bubby carts) - helpful when shopping in a shuk and/or without a car
flour sifter - there is definitely more "insect awareness" here
kids vitamins with iron
Paracetamol or Acamol - Israeli brand of Tylenol
Bimba - popular kids' riding toy
computer printer - American ink cartridge numbers are not available here
Israeli style multi-prong outlet plugs and extension cords
Shabbat plata (hot plate) - the ones here actually keep your food hot and not just "lukewarm"
religious supplies of all kinds (i.e. tallitot, glass oil holders, wicks, prayer cards, beeswax havdalah candles, and accessories such as challah knives, salt cellars, etc.) Even US sellers generally import them from here
Bus passes - in Israel, everyone rides the bus. There are unlimited monthly passes that cost less than a tank of gas and "cartisim" - punch cards that give you one free ride for every four.
This is just the beginning. If you have suggestions for other things that are better to buy in Israel, please feel free to add a comment.
Hat tip: Karen Furman