I’ve been feeling a bit introspective lately. Maybe it’s because of the war. War has a way of carpet-bombing entrenched strongholds of frivolity with a few tons of deep thought, which is disconcerting for those of us who prefer a bit of mental and environmental tranquility. Or maybe it’s because of adulthood, which has rather unexpectedly abducted me, and, from the looks of it, childhood is not prepared to negotiate for my return. Anyway, in all my recent introspection, I’ve reached an uncomfortable state of self-awareness, and realized something fundamentally disturbing.

I’m really poor. And not only that, but due to my, ahem, “artistic” bent, by which I mean a lack of any practical skill, it seems this will probably be a fairly permanent state – unless I follow the parting advice of a high school history teacher and marry a rich woman.

Don’t listen to all those wankers who romanticize poverty. It’s profoundly undignified. Poverty means having to choose between spending money on food and spending money on the finer things in life, such as weed and bitches a healthy stock portfolio. It means having to choose between paying the rent and paying much-deserved attention to the Playstation 2. And these are choices nobody should be forced to make.

But the worst part of poverty is not being able to afford the kind of accomodations that one’s temperament may best be suited to, i.e. clean, quiet, air conditioned and with a staff. No, I have to live in what I will diplomatically term a hole. A hole where the most reliable entertainment is trying to guess the origin of the deathly odor in the stairwell (did a cat die, is it badly-cooked fish, or did someone leave a bag of bodily waste by the front door again?). A hole where the ambient noise lasts from roughly 4 AM to 2 AM. A hole where the noise from the drunken old men singing and playing ouds and darbukas until 3 AM is matched only by the constant car alarms which nobody bothers to turn off. A hole called Machaneh Yehudah.

Yes, living in the shuk kind of sucks, despite the undeniable convenience and central location. I could deal with it, but for one hitch. And thus, we finally arrive to the point of the post.

It’s that fucking bakery kiosk in the shuk, pictured above.

I am not by nature a violent man. But believe me when I say I have lain awake nights imagining the most suitable and painful torture for the operators of the aforementioned Fucking Bakery Kiosk, which, like much of Satan’s handiwork, has no name. Its sins are many. First, the guys who work there (who by the way all wear kippot) play a fun game I like to call “not giving you your change.” Say you give them 5 shekels for 3 shekels worth of baked goods. They’ll take your five shekels and disappear into the back of the store, or move on to somebody else, and when you yell at them to give you your goddam change, they pretend not to hear you, or deny that they owe you any change, until you get fed up and walk away. I’m not the only one they’ve done this to. If by some mistake you shop there and they do it to you, do me a favor and spit on their bread. Which, by the way, isn’t very good.

But the theft is just the venial sin. The capital sin is the fucking song. You see that rotund little justification for late-term abortion in the orange shirt behind the counter? He, calling upon the entirety of his mental faculties (which so far have landed him an advancement-free position selling pita until he dies), has hit upon a brilliant business strategy. What’s the best way to sell hotcakes like…hotcakes? If you guessed anything other than screaming at the top of one’s lungs a tuneless little melody whose sole lyrics are “BO, BO, BO L’KAN, BO, BO, BO L’KAN” hundreds of times a day, you’re wrong. Yes. He is convinced that bellowing out “come here” ad nauseum will attract customers. And the trend has caught on: often his co-workers will join him in the high-volume off-key braying. What he hasn’t counted on is that it convinces the people who live in earshot to never buy his bread, and makes them dream of making a recording of his fucking little ditty, making him listen to it with headphones so loud it ruptures his eardrums, then stuffing the headphones down his throat until he stops twitching.

I said I wasn’t violent. He made me this way. Him and his song.

So please, do me a favor. Never buy anything from that kiosk. Or better yet, go there and tell him that you’re not buying his bread because of his song. And while you’re at it, please send me some money. I can’t live like this.

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  • “You Americans are sick, you would prefer never speak to or touch another person, if you could you would buy everything from a machine, just to avoid human contact.” So said Idan, but, I say AMEN! One minute in a shuk with grubby people touching you and yelling at you at the slightest glance at their merchandise and you are certain why early industrialists strove to improve the situation. Who ever heard of some of those things they are selling? And the ones in Asia!??! Can you say Haz-Mat suit?!?!? 🙂

  • I don’t hate our apartment as much as Michael does but I do hate those dudes at the Fucking Bakery Kiosk. For those of you in Jeruslem who shop at Machaneh Yehuda, this kiosk is in the open shuk in betwen Jaffa and Aggripas. If you come in from Aggripas it’s on your right. If you come in by Jaffa, it’s on your left. It’s at the corner of Eshkol and you should never, ever buy anything there. Also the guy across from the Fucking Bakery Kiosk, the dude who sells shoddy Levi’s knockoffs? He’s the one who leaves bags of pee in front of our door – don’t ask me why. Don’t buy his crap either. But otherwise Beit Jewlicious is not so bad. Michael’s just grumpy.

  • You mentioned stocks. Yes, that! Not playstation whatever. You don’t get any vegetation and you only get one of that other thing. A good one can be quite useful: a comfort, a motivation, strategist, a friend. Man is naturally lazy so G-d made Chava so he would not turn into a pile of…

  • deed you theenk all thee hoo-moos was free? ha!

    Remember, the first year in Israel is the hardest… no wait, that’s not true. the thirtieth year is the hardest. Or rather, thank god you don’t have kids yet. Not that they wouldn’t be the wittiest motherlovers ever… Just the hungriest.

    If you live in the shuk, you should be able to live for free, depending on what time you get to the shuk, and how little dignity. Remember: if it falls in the gutter, it’s all yours.

    At least you haven’t gone on the boureka fast that elderly miscainim in the shuk area use as their easy-bake long term suicide option of choice.

    On the upside, you can party as late as you want, as loud as you want. If you really need sleep, you can always go to Gan Sacher for the night, and sleep under a tree, or next to a tomb stone. Stay uphill.

  • Does Michael think this is a good time to buy stock? Does he have any favorite picks? Can he back them up with reasons? What do his buddies in the Israeli tech sector say? Being artistic does not mean you have to be only artistic. You can be that and other things too. Like insightful about business. Your art head won’t fall off or wither.

  • How much money is the difference between abject poverty and low-middle-class-without-said-fucking-bakery life?

  • I’ll add this post to my “list of reasons I love Michael…”


    Sorry for your tragic loss of two shekels to the bakery kiosk. Shekels and bread should be synonymous in the slanginess of life, and I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere. If only I weren’t so damned poor, I’d take you away from all that…

    But alas.

  • well, speaking from my own life, which michael seems to be following in the footsteps of – abject poverty was the decision between eating lunch today or taking a bus in the rain. It was not being able to afford rent and moving where ever you could crash or house sit, which often meant several differnt places in a month. It was surviving on eggs, potatoes and hummus for weeks at a time. But then, at least we have good hummus.

    I guess to me, the dream of being lower middle class meant knowing for a fact that you could afford to eat every day.

    Geez I love my life now. Stable employment tastes sweet like milk and honey.

  • Muffti stayed in said apartment and he agrees with Michael on the bakery kiosk. Those bastids should suffer. Or at least, for Michael and CK’s sake, contract a few months worth of laryngitis.

  • have you guys forgotten about rich uncle sam already ? id take the galut over lying in the pee on ben yehuda street beging half drunk yeshiva kids for a few sheks, if that isnt ure fate already.

  • Man, having slight contact with the above-said poverty (all my friends) and not being subject to it myself due to a wealthy family makes me feel guilty about my own well placed luck. Those of us who are better off ought to earn our keep in this world by travelling to this kiosk and beating the living hell out of these thieving pissers. I’m sorry your surroundings add to crappiness of your situation, Michael.

  • David, why not use that inherited wealth to employ Michael to stand across the way from the bakery with a megaphone? You can even write a ditty for him to yell at the bakers.

  • By far, this post is the greatest piece of writing/bitching I have seen on jewlicious. It not only made me laugh, but evoked some feelings of pity (but they were quickly dashed aside when I resumed laughing.) Michael, you have earned yourself an eternal fan in me.

  • Well, you made up my mind, Michael! Now I will just have to send you a package with food. Oh, wait a minute…

  • seriously, find a publisher. I can’t remember laughing this hard all week. Well it’s only Monday..ok. Michael sort of romanticizes poverty in the opening lines without intending to. I can’t help but think to myself “Gee, isn’t that exciting? All that noise from a bustling street in Jerusalem!”I guess it’s the Brooklyn middle class comfort and the longing for something different.

  • Mike,

    Dude, I feel your pain. I mean I really do. I, too, lived in that hole. Mike, Did you ever have to kick the crack whore out of the stairwell when she was drunk? Did you ever find some sort of bio-matter outside your door that wasn’t exactly cat but wasn’t exactly lizard?

    On the other side, have you enjoyed balconly-to-balcony conversations with the other neighbors? Gotten to know the guys in the shuk, that you will now know your entire life? Gotten to know Y Coffee Bar down the street? Rosa?

    Yeah, the shuk is hard, but it’s the shuk, and it’s great. By the way, the fact that they’re wearing kipot doesn’t mean anything. I’m sure Mobius would be able to find some way to attack religious people due to it, but it’s more a cultural thing than anything else. Don’t read too much into the theft-wearing kipa-men. There are lots of pluralist hate-mongoring demogags out there. Paradoxes are abound in the shuk. It’s a vortex.

  • 1) Poverty builds character. So build your character by acting differently – in particular, by acting like the poor person you claim to be: either give them exact change, or pick up another cinnamon roll – you’ve paid for it! – and stand your ground when confronted. Do this once and you’ll probably get correct change. Right now you’ve been pegged – correctly – as soft whiners who can’t handle non-suburban reality.

    Skills like this are learned at shitty bakeries and other hard gigs – and then applied later in life, when negotiating limited-edition prints of your latest work or six-figure salaries. It’s all the same survival skills.

    2) Poverty does us the enormous favor of making us clarify what’s really important to us. My advice (as a typical Nice Jewish Boy who was induced/forced to study something they didn’t like) is to go with what you enjoy doing. I have wriggled my way from engineering into the marketing and design end of hi-tech, where I get to express my creative abilities.



    Which brings us to Rule Number 1:

    What do you do (besides sex) that so enchants you that you forget the passage of time?

    Make that the centerpiece of your working life.

    You may find, as in my own example, that there are ways to use these favorite skills that are useful to others, and bring in money.

    Which brings us to Rule Number 2:

    You make a living by making yourself useful to other people. This is not “selling” out – it is reality.

    The 2 rules are not fundamentally contradictory, once one gets past suburban squeamishness and adolescent romanticization of the “artistic” life.

  • I’d send you money, but that would spoil a good thing: poverty is making a master artist out of you. 😛
    Seriously though, get a publisher – u already have a fan base so you’re guaranteed to sell 20 copies atleast, not to mention the copies your family would buy.
    If that doesn’t work out, then hopefully my own investments will pay off, and i’ll send you a few bucks in a year or two or three or …

    Ps: You were right about African responsibility for slave trade. It took me a year but i finally overcame my prejudice. If you think that’s a long time, it might help to know that it took me six years to realize that Venus Williams is not very talented.

  • You don’t necessarily need a publisher… If you can beg, borrow or steal some money you can use something like for self-publishing then sell the books with profit.

  • Ben David rocks.
    (It is worth mentioning, while ducking, that it is not easy to live off retailing, and it may not be much fun for them either, to holler all day to get sales. But you didn’t think about that.)

  • what Ben-David said! your writing is useful to other people because it makes them laugh and gives them something deeper to think about than Paris Hilton’s celibacy oath (although, now that i think about it, what could be deeper than that?). laughter and deep thought are *profoundly* useful in society, and people who consistently produce both, either by writing movies, TV shows, plays, standup comedy, books, magazine articles or whatever, have been known to get paid, sometimes even well.

  • It is true. But keep it cleaner. Works better anyway.

  • Didn’t mean to insult engineering – for some people it IS their creative gig. It just wasn’t mine.

    And the dear wife has pointed out sub-rules 1.1 and 1.2:

    1.1 Even when you’re doing what you love, there will be scut-work.

    – and –

    1.2 Fulfillment of all one’s gifts usually comes sequentially over one’s life, rather than all at once (which means sometimes work will be less than thrilling while your bliss is in your family life, and vice versa).

  • I love it that those ***holes are being dissed on the internet. Serves them right for being crookes.

  • This is probably the best free advertising they could ever recieve though. It’s not…exactly in their favor…but it’s free!

  • Just want to say that Poverty sucks and even though it “builds character” it still sucks- now imagine how bad it would suck if you had kids to support at the same time.

    Here’s a scary thought- couch surfing with a toddler.

    It makes me shudder and keeps me putting in the extra hours.

    I’ll tell you this much…It is much better to be poor in Israel than poor in America. Poor in Israel is romantic and you are a pioneer. Poor in America and you are just a loser in the land of plenty.

    There are good shuk guys, and if you make the right friends they will keep food for you that they can’t sell (like bread right before shabbas) and it could take the edge off your shopping.

  • I think this is the one i stole a bunch of rugalech from on my last visit.

  • SN – I was unemployed with kids to support during the first years of my aliyah.

    The primary reason poor in Israel is better is that we have socialized medicine. I never had to worry about my family’s medical care, even when unemployed.

    (I tell this to visiting groups of “Christian friends of Israel” if they get to uppity and self-righteous. I tell them health care should be *their* issue as Xtians, not the “godless” Democrat’s issue.)

  • I kind of agree. Health care does make a huge difference. Although, I think that the poor in America are actually ok because if you are poor enough you get help from the government. It is the working poor and the middle class who suffer the most from the healthcare system in the States.

    If you have nothing you get Medicare- if you work but barely make it there is no help at all and that seems like the cruelest irony.

  • maybe i just didn’t keep my eye out, but at least i don’t remember any massive cockroaches. plus, the apartment is cozy, you have a comfortable couch and a stylish fridge. two pluses–it could be far worse.

  • Adon Ya’ari, if you’re so poor, how do you still afford to make your funk the P-funk? I’d say a person in your financial predicament should settle for a lesser funk, at least for the time being 🙂