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Danita and Michel Aziza


by Danita Aziza , November 22, 2011

From my observations, I’d say that the average Israeli likes a treat.
On just about any given day, in any particular location, at any given time, Israelis can be found in cafes and restaurants, at the beach, in shopping malls, movies theatres, concert halls and going to or coming from the airport. While there are unfortunately far too many in the country who would consider a coffee at a café an extravagance that they could ill afford (over 20% of the population is living in poverty), for the more financially secure, treats seem to be a part of Israeli culture.
I’m not particularly treat oriented and my idea of a treat doesn’t exactly jive with what most people would classify as an indulgence. I think my reluctance to treat myself in the traditional sense comes from my Mom whose idea of the ultimate splurge is a waffle cone dipped in dark chocolate, rolled in nuts and void of any ice cream. Knowing my Mom as I do, it came as little surprise to me that when I asked her what she wanted for her seventy something birthday last month, she responded that she would be thrilled with a fruit basket from Safeway.
Safeway is a grocery store chain found in the Western part of North America. There is a floral department that puts together an exceptional fruit basket for $29.99 and it happens to be one of my Mom’s favorite gifts to receive. When I placed the call to the 1-800 number one evening, ironically I was the one who ended up with the treat; the treat of speaking with a Safeway floral department representative who exemplified what I miss most about Canada apart, of course, from the obvious family and friends.
It took but a few seconds to be connected to Susan in the floral department. Susan’s pleasant, calm and ever so eager to help voice reminded me of how wholesome and polite Canadians can be. I felt that I was on the line with someone a world away from my own and yet the connection was so clear that it sounded like she was just down the block. The fact that I wanted to enhance the standard basket with a few special treats for my Mom was, for Susan, “absolutely no problem” “a pleasure”, infact. Nothing seemed like an imposition, she wasn’t in any rush, I wasn’t wasting her time, and she sincerely wanted   to make sure that I wasn’t too put off with having to spend an additional $9.95 for delivery. The conversation had not a hint of stress attached and left me feeling like I had just sipped a cup of warm milk with a hint of vanilla bean.
The Safeway experience left me wanting more much like finishing one chocolate coated raisin and liking it so much that you can’t help but to crave another That calm and relaxed Safeway experience isn’t so easily found in Israel and I’ve often wondered how people manage to cope as well as they do living in such an intense environment that seeps into every aspect of daily life.. Perhaps one of the answers lies in the way Israelis allow themselves treats or indulgences big or small. A treat can provide the necessary “time out” that is needed or even prescribed if you are to live here.
 I once thought it was bizarre that some of the best restaurants and cafes can be found along the highways here. Now that I think of it, the driving is so stressful and such a challenge at times that it makes perfect sense that you can easily veer off the road and treat yourself to something quite delicious and in so doing, provide yourself with the necessary breather that allows you to go back behind the wheel a bit calmer than you were before.
Israelis love what is novel and new and they don’t seem to hesitate to stretch beyond their budget to acquire the latest gismo or gadget or travel to this or that destination, many of which I’ve never even heard of before.. There are so many small boutique type stores here, cultural and sporting events, gourmet bakeries and the airport is always full of Israeli travelers even at three o’clock in the morning. I scratch my head in wonderment of how people manage to treat themselves in such ways and yet somehow they do. People here don’t seem to wait for tomorrow to do something they want to do. They seize the day, go for it and employ a, worry about it later, kind of attitude. They are neither conservative in their dress, their attitudes or their actions and the practicality of something doesn’t deter them from obtaining something they desire, be it a treat or otherwise.
Sometimes Israelis pay a hefty price for their treats. It seems to be the norm rather than the exception that after finishing their military service, many young Israeli men and women take a reprieve before seeking steady employment or starting post secondary schooling. They travel all over the globe, search for adventure and enjoy some well deserved freedom and indulgence after two, three or more years of intense discipline and intellectual, physical and emotional challenge. The treat they give themselves is no small thing but, then again, neither is what they have to do to earn the privilege.
My kids will attest to the fact that I’m a Debbie Downer when it comes to the whole notion of treats. To their great delight and my even greater surprise, I’m becoming a bit more open to the whole treat philosophy. I’m realizing that treats are not so frivolous and unnecessary as I had once rendered them to be and that they can, infact, not only brighten your day but also get you through it. A treat in Israel isn’t necessarily an indulgence, but a necessary reward for a life a little different and perhaps a little more fragile than the average.
Oh I’m missing my Safeway store and my Mom so much more. It isn’t all that easy to uproot oneself and move so far away from family, friends and familiarity, but I’ve managed to do just that. I by no means have mastered the art of living here, not by a long shot, but I am getting used to this treat business and I’m learning that to treat yourself is actually part of the “value added” package that goes with choosing to make Israel home.
It just dawned on me that holiday season is fast approaching and I’ll have to come up with something to send from afar. Perhaps fruit baskets from Safeway are the way to go. I’m not sure the recipients will appreciate the treat, but I know that the sender sure will.  
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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