The recent demonstrations in Tel Aviv highlighted two economic issues in Israel.  The first is the increasing economic stratification.  The second is the cost of living: younger Israelis are concerned that it simply costs so damn much to live in Israel.

Personally, I have never understood how middle class Israelis manage to get by financially.  Even with the legendary “overdrafts” – the bank allowing you to overdraw your bank account – that many Israeli families regularly use, I could never figure out how the numbers worked.  I am hardly alone; nearly every Israeli to whom I talk expresses a similar bewilderment about his or her, and especially their neighbors’, finances. 

This year, thanks to a sabbatical from Brown University as well as fellowships from the Fulbright Commission and the Albright Institute, my family and I will be in Jerusalem.  I have several ambitious professional goals, and many more personal ones.  Among the latter is finally cracking the mystery of the ordinary household economics of Israeli families.

Toward that end, and still very much at the beginning of my research, I offer you my itemized grocery bill.  We are just beginning to settle in, and I made my first run to a large, local supermarket that is not far from our apartment and that was recommended to me for its good selection and prices.  Here I offer only unit prices converted into U.S. equivalents (kg to lbs; shekels to dollars, all a little approximate).  As I learn more about the somewhat overwhelming selection of dairy and meat products, I will report on those as well.   All prices are in US dollars at about 4 NIS = 1 USD.

Nonfat,
plain yogurt (6 oz container)

0.90

Hummus
(2.2 lbs)

3.00

Flavored
yogurt (4 oz container)

.75

Vegetarian
cutlets (1.75 lbs)

8.00

Persian
rice (2.2 lbs)

1.75

Bathroom
tissue (40 small rolls)

8.50

Bread
(uncut loaf; 1.8 lbs)

1.20

Napkins
(180 count)

2.25

Smoothie
(small container)

1.25

Roll
(multigrain, each)

.90

Roll
(half-baguette, each)

.60

Fresh
lychees (1 small container that my kids wanted, but discovered they don’t like)

2.50

White
table grapes (1 lb)

1.50

Smoked
salami (1lb)

6.00

Spaghetti
(1 lb)

1.25

Eggs
(large, 1 dozen)

4.90

Crushed
tomatoes (can; 1.5lbs)

1.80

Mars bar

1.50

Tomato
paste (1 small container)

.25

White
potatoes (1 lb)

.35

Cornflakes
(large box, store brand)

3.50

Milk (1%,
half gallon)

2.90

Frozen
salmon fillet (2.5 lbs)

21.00

Red
lentils (1 lb)

1.00

Eggplant
salad (1 lb)

3.50

Fresh
tomatoes (1 lb)

.30

Watermelon
(whole, 12 lbs)

4.70

Green
lentils (1 lb)

4.25

Bulgarian
(feta) cheese (1 lb)

4.25

Cucumbers
(1 lb)

.50

Instant
coffee

7.00

Carrots (1
lb)

.30

Mellon
(like a cantaloupe; 7 lbs)

2.90

Chick peas
(dry; 1 lb)

2.00

Green
peppers (1 lb)

.75

Oranges (1
lb)

1.50

Pitas (5)

1.25

Delivery
fee

6.00