The Person Behind The Posts

Friday, January 07, 2011

It's Better To Buy It In Israel

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

dried coconut

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 

Other Items

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

double-sealed containers

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


Karen said...

Great post but you forgot two things: 1) Fruits and vegetables here really are much tastier. They're not bred for uniformity or huge size (except for the pomegranates!), they're bred for flavor. As one of my kids says, 'Cucumbers have taste here.' 2) Beef from the back of the cow. Real filet, sirloin, etc is relatively common. It's expensive but when you do the calculation it really isn't much more, if at all. It's just that $14.95 per pound feels like so much less than 120 shekels per kilo.

Shoshana Hurwitz said...

I agree with Karen -- my mom and I calculated what we each pay for meat and we couldn't believe the difference!

Melissa said...

On the list of "not available yet" -- certain sewing supplies, if you sew/make your own clothes. You CANNOT get double sided interfacing (for applique) or ribbing (rib knit) for necklines anywhere.

On the plus side, I made a full thanksgiving dinner (twice) getting all the fixings. With the exception of fresh cranberries (I got canned), I was able to find everything: canned solid pack pumpkin, graham cracker crusts, regular pie crusts, turkey, parve condensed soy milk (for the pumpkin pie), and more...

Anonymous said...

I think cucumbers are the cheapest item in this country in comparison and they are yummy

Batya said...

Women's clothes, modest clothes and designer large sizes are gorgeous here. There are good sales and outlet stores.
I have friends from NY who bring their clan's watches to be repaired in a Jerusalem watchmaker repairman.

There's a great variety of foods, so it's best to get out of the mind-set of trying to reproduce your old meals.

Anonymous said...

great post
keep up the good work

BH said...

Great follow up! I am a big fan of "S-Wear." They have good sales and member discounts. Also, refunds are given in the same way they were purchased (including money back on your credit card). I have nice sweatshirts and t shirts that I did not have to go to America to buy!

Anonymous said...

Where in Bnei Brak can you get inexpensive boys pants?

Edda said...

At Pinat Hazol on Rabbi Akiva in Bnei Brk you can get children's clothes (and men's white shirts, socks and ties) for cheap. It helps if you go there regularly, because they run sales of their "leftovers" and then you can catch the sales and get really good prices.

Avigail said...

You actually can get all of the sewing supplies you need if you know where to find them. (I used to sell them in a general store I had a few years ago.) I don't remember about double-sided interfacing exactly, but I think I used to sell it. As for ribbing, it is called Manjet or Manjetim.

Fabric is cheaper here again if you know where to shop. I live near Jerusalem and find everything I need as an avid lover of sewing.

Bnei Brak has lots of store on the main Rabbi Akiva street for clothing and other needs.

Much of these blog posts and comments show how dependent people are on American tastes. I noticed that a lot of the stuff that is considered better to buy here are simply Israeli or Middle Eastern fare or perishables.

The only things I miss from the USA are Frozen Kosher chicken pies which I learned to make myself and Rootbeer which I buy despite the cost once in a while. I have lived here for over 30 years and they used to have special sales in certain supermarkets of American imports. I found I hardly bought anything even back then. Many of the things that used to be missing here have now become readily available like bagels, cherries, strawberries, various cheeses, fresh ginger, and more. When I came here, there was only one type of lettuce and only a limited selection of just about everything else as well. Clothing used to be very expensive also. My husband remembers the tlushim for bread, flour, sugar, etc. of his childhood. We should be thankful for the plentiful selection we have.

Perhaps you might open a forum for veterans to help newcomers to find where to by things? I can answer for the Jerusalem area.

Tzippy said...

I completely agree with the listing of Iced Coffee. It is so prevalent that my husband and I began to refer to it as the national beverage. I have not found anything close to it in the states.

Barbara R. said...

We just got home after a one week visit to Baltimore [we had a wedding to attend] and it is such a relief to be HOME!!
One woman asked me what I bought at Trader Joe's....she thought I was bringing food back with me! I told her that I was not bringing anything as I could get better food here. I just hoped, after the fact, that my voice did not indicate how dumb I considered her qustion!! I buy BLUE AND WHITE at the source!!

Hadassa said...

I have lived in Israel for over 20 years, married here, and did not arrange a lift, which I have not regretted. Sure we filled our suitcases the few times we've visited family in America, but only to save a bit of money. We could have bought everything here. Some of the items we purchased years ago aren't worth bringing any more.
Avigayil, where do you buy root beer and what hechsher does it have? I mentioned that the baby's iron medicine tastes like root beer and then realized that my children have no idea what it is. I told them that I'd buy some if I can find it. I saw Snapple in Jerusalem years ago. Is that what you buy? Thanks.
Welcome home to all the new arrivals!

Shoshana Hurwitz said...

Re: root beer -- if you have a Gazoz (Soda Club) machine, you can buy American root beer syrup from their website:

Anonymous said...

Any food grown in Israel, or produced in Israel from locally grown fruit and produce will be worlds better than any similar item in chutz l'aretz. Kedushat Haaretz cannot be imported or duplicated anywhere else in the world, and that is what locally grown and produced products all contain!

the shuk said...

i wish you lots of good lock! i really enjoyed your post..
"Bimba - popular kids' riding toy" :) welcoe to israel!!

Anonymous said...

What's a good price on a Bimba?? thanks.