A midst the endless articles about Covid-19, there has not been a single mention of a pandemic-related topic of extreme importance (to me): The impact of Covid-19 on the state of my underwear. Since our aliyah in 1997, I have not bought a single pair of undergarments here. Instead, I would re-stock every now and then at Target on my fairly regular trips to the States to see family. I was definitely due for a Target run this past summer, but that was not to be. I was not willing to enter into a two-week quarantine upon my return to Israel for the sake of new underwear. On the other hand, while I assume that men’s underwear can be purchased in Israel, I am loathe to abandon my beloved Hanes and Fruit of the Loom brands. It took me many years before I got my sizing down just right, and I have no desire to start the process again. For now, it’s a race between the widespread distribution of a vaccine against Covid-19 and my wife’s tolerance. Yes, the truth of the matter is that Sarah is the cause of the drama in this story. For some reason, she believes that a rip here or a hole there renders underwear unfit. I try to explain that this can precisely make underwear more fit, but to no avail.
I should mention right here that this is not a question of money. For all I know, Israeli underwear could be of decent quality and less expensive than American underwear. In my trips to the States, I have come to resist the temptation to import American products that can be purchased for one-third of their Israeli cost, such as contact-lens solution and tennis balls. I no longer waste precious luggage space to save a few bucks on such items. I have developed a basic rule: Does said American product make me happy? Aside from my favorite brands of underwear, I include in this category solid-white tuna (Israel only has chunk lite) and Pepto Bismol. Other members of my family enjoy facilitating the aliyah of the following products: Maybelline Great Lash mascara and Hot Tamales cinnamon candy (Sarah), Corn Chex (Ezra), Butterfinger candy (Ruthie), and Secret deodorant (Rebecca and Ruthie).
When I widened my research pool to include friends, it turned out that the deodorant category was the hands down (please!!) import favorite for other American Israelis—as my friend Tova says: “Anyone who has spent a summer in Israel can understand why it [Dry Idea deodorant] makes me happy.” Similarly, Toms of Maine deodorant and Shower to Shower body powder were the go-to American products for my friends Neal and Moshe, respectively.
The Zionist in me is particularly delighted with the results of my research. When we made aliyah in the summer of 1997, we were told to pack our shipping container with items like aluminum foil and toilet paper. Israel today has quality toilet paper and quality aluminum foil, and it also has mega supermarkets where these can be purchased for a reasonable price, along with good-old American products like Heinz ketchup, French’s mustard, Pringles potato chips, Special K cereal, and Colgate toothpaste. Like my underwear preferences, the items on my family’s and friends’ lists are favorite brands that people grew up with, and American Israelis enjoy the comfort level (both physically and nostalgically) that these products bring to them. I especially loved two items on my friend Sharon’s list: Chifles’ plantain chips and “some forms of Reese’s candy bars that you can’t get here.” If today the challenges of aliyah include being unable to purchase plantain chips locally, then Israel is doing quite well. Still, for the sake of my marriage, I hope that a trip to Target will become feasible very soon.
TEDDY WEINBERGER is director of development for a consulting company called Meaningful. He made aliyah with his family in 1997 from Miami, where he was an assistant professor of religious studies. Teddy and his wife, sarah jane ross, have five children.