Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Austerity, ii


        Arye Levin knew full well that his mother suffered torments in the market.  He did not wish to make it worse by eating too much, by adding to her already unbearable burdens of work, shopping, cooking, cleaning.  She had a full book of ration coupons at the top of each month, and the Ministry of Supplies and Rationing forced her, as they did everyone in Israel, to shop at a certain stores in their neighborhoods.   Supplies were low.
            In the morning the newspapers would announce which items were available in what district: Radishes being distributed in area 10, which was the location of the Levin flat in West Jerusalem, price – 95 mils per kilogram.  Coupon – Page Gimel # 26.  Giveret Levin would dutifully trudge down to the greengrocer for the radishes. 
            There was always a line which stretched around the corner.  Sometimes she would stand for three hours for radishes, eggs, fish, and by the time Giveret Levin reached the counter the last radish, egg or fish was sold.  A crowd of disgruntled Jerusalemites would empty out into the cold winter streets, grumbling about the government, spewing Dov Yosef, the “Minster of Austerity,” the architect of the ration system for the Jewish State, with curses of biblical dimensions. 
          “Is this how we live, in Israel, in 1950!” one woman cried.  And no one had an answer.  This was the seven years of famine predicted by Joseph to Pharaoh, but not a soul could remember the seven years of plenty.

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