By Marilyn Maghen

Who doesn’t like a little luxury in his life? Once in a while a little glitz and flash, no? It’s good for the soul. Until about 10 or 15 years ago Israelis didn’t have any of it. You have to remember, the 20th century was NOT the most fortunate period for us Jews (forgive the understatement!) and the difficult re-birth of the State of Israel in 1948 was accompanied (along with the fierce idealism and determination) by severe rationing, unbearable housing conditions, confusion, mass immigration, overcrowding, not enough water, not to mention constant terrorist attacks. I remember visiting here in about 1972, when you still had to wait a few YEARS to get a phone.
Gone are those days, sure enough.

Starting in about 1990, there was an explosion of wealth and luxury and Americanization here, and it hasn’t stopped. It used to be that we had to ask our visiting relatives to bring us this or that from the U.S., since it wasn’t available here. But that’s all changed. Everything is here, even Hershey bars with almonds (and what more could you want?). Well, I still haven’t found a good Caesar salad…
I think I can honestly say that there is NO Israeli who doesn’t have a mobile phone, not to mention all those iPads, iPhones or whatever the hell they’re called. I think I can honestly say that a huge number of families now have two cars (I know that by how crowded the parking lot of my apartment house is). Almost all brands of American food are here in all our huge supermarkets, almost all foreign clothing brands are here in all our shopping malls, most houses or apartments are air conditioned, our TV programming (while it sometimes makes you want to strangle someone) has most of the American shows and many of the American, British and French news channels.
I’m pin-pointing some of these items, but really, all I want to say is that you can easily live like an American here.

And although we lose something when we embrace all this materialism, what the hell – after everything that’s happened, don’t Israelis deserve all these goodies as much as everyone else does?
And yet…there’s such a thing as overkill.

Hod HaSharon is an inland town, very much a bedroom community of yuppies whose beautiful houses are no doubt tastefully decorated. It’s an understated kind of town, quiet and pleasant, lots of nice children, lots of nice dogs, trees, bicycles…your typical suburban town.
And then BOOM! Right there on the outskirts of this pleasant town, the gods of materialism dropped what must be the biggest, most splashy, flashy, glitzy, sleazy tasteless shopping mall in the Western world! Welcome to the Sharonim Mall, where the supermarket has two (count ‘em! TWO) floors, each as big as a football field. The first (and only) time I went in there I could only stand there in shock. WHO NEEDS THIS MUCH FOOD???
Okay, the mall’s got three really superb restaurants, a gym and all the foreign and domestic shops you’ll need, as well as the inevitable deadly FOOD COURT.

I don’t know why I should be so against this kind of thing. I do prefer smaller, quieter supermarkets and malls, but it’s not fair of me to condemn, is it? It’s just that when I happen to pass by Sharonim Mall at night (see the photo)
I usually shriek.
I think it’ll take a generation or two until Israelis mellow and stop being seduced by all this materialism. Meanwhile, as I said, no one deserves it more.

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