“Next year in Jerusalem” is a phrase used by the Jews to express their desire to return to the Holy Land. It’s not like throwing a coin into Rome’s Trevi Fountain, signifying that one day you will return to “The Eternal City.” If I had a choice in life, I would live in either of these two cities. I’m familiar with Jerusalem and its undeniable, complicated mix of religions; this adds to the excitement of this city.
Shopping is always an adventure in the Holy Land; you learn early on where to get the best deals. Both the Old City in Jerusalem and Bethlehem offer tourists reasonable deals with room to negotiate. I always bring back plenty of gifts from the Holy Land. The last time I visited was no different. I wanted to purchase some rosary beads that were native to the Holy Land. The national stone of Israel is eilat, which can only be found in the copper mines of King Solomon’s Quarries (aka Zedekiah’s Cave).
The Eilat stone’s colors are a mixture of deep blues and greens. In some jewelry the blue is more predominant, in others the green. Mixed together the dramatic stones varied and distinctive swirling patterns of colors similar to marble. In past years I purchased eilat crosses for all of the ladies in my Bible study group. When you frequent the Holy Land as much as our group has, you become familiar with the shops and know many of the owners. There is one store in particular that we frequent because we will always get a fair deal. Dimitri Souvenirs Shop, located just past the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, is located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. This store is a tight squeeze because it is so compact, but Dimitri will most likely have whatever you are shopping for. If he does not have the souvenirs, he will make sure to direct you to the right shop. Dimitri did not have any eilat stone rosaries and he did not know of any shops that sold them either. That did not discourage me one bit; I was on a mission to find rosary beads made with eilat stones.
At the First Station of the Cross is another store where we have made many purchases. The owners of this shop are Palestinians who live in the West Bank. Their store displayed jewelry, antique swords, glassware and rosaries. But they had no eilat rosaries either. Next door to their store is an ornate antique shop with expensive icons taken from Russian churches. As I walked in I was impressed with the cleanliness of the store. Near the cash register was an enclosed glass cabinet displaying rosaries, beautiful green rosaries. “Are these eilat stone?” I asked. The gentleman behind the counter said, “Yes.” Finally, what I had been searching for was right before my eyes. My nonchalant behavior, pretending that I was not interested, was working to help me to get a good price on these almost-impossible-to-find beads. The man pulled out the beads and told me that they were indeed made of eilat. “How much?” I asked. He told me how hard they are to come by but that he would sell them to me for $60. “Oh, that’s way too much!” I said as I turned to walk out. I’m familiar with the routine here in the Holy Land; you bargain until you get what you believe is a fair deal. “How much do you want to pay?” he answered. The stupid ball was in my court, but I double dribbled when I blurted out, “Would you take $40?” What was I thinking! Before I could change my mind I made the purchase. I went back and bought four more rosaries. This was one of the few purchases I made during that trip. I was beaming with pride at the beautiful purchases. I could not wait to get home and give them to my friends.
I gave one to one of my friends, who gave it to her cousin who had recently lost a family member. I remember thinking, “Wow,” she just gave away an eilat stone rosary! This beautiful rosary quickly became my favorite. I use it regularly and I sleep with it in my hand. Last week, while I was brushing my teeth, I noticed a small chunck of bright green on my right cheek. I used the amplified mirror to further examine it; clearly this was something that was not on my face when I went to bed. I walked over to my bed and the only unusual thing was the eilat rosary. The green color had been painted on the plastic beads and they were turning white. More than anything, I do not like to be taken advanage of. I ran downstairs to tell Mike that I had to go to the Holy Land to return the rosary. I also needed to tell my friends about the fake eilat rosary beads. Note to self: Pray Before Purchasing Items.
Pray Before you Purchase
While I was shopping for some antique end tables the other day I came across a robotic vacuum cleaner. My daughter Sonja had wanted one of these for some time. I asked a young worker, “How much for the RoboVac?” “$189, but today it’s half off.” I asked if it worked, and the young man plugged it in for about five minutes. Within a radius of two feet the little robot cleaned the floor. Before I purchased the device, I asked about the store’s exchange policy. “We only give store credit on returns,” the manager answered. I called Sonja and she gave me the go-ahead, so I purchased it. On the way to Sonja’s house my friend Pat called. She was telling me that she felt that she was not praying enough about things pertaining to her life. She went on to say that she was going to pray about everything, including small things. I looked at the back seat of my car and thought to myself that I should have prayed about this vacuum.
When we got to Sonja’s house we plugged it in and charged it up for about 15 minutes. I wanted to make sure that it worked before leaving. The remote control was corroded, so that was the first sign. We had to manually start it up, so this was the second sign. We turned it on, but after sweeping the floor for about 15 seconds, it went back to its home base. Sonja’s dog Paco was barking out of control at the robot. We tried it again but the little robot just wanted to go back to its home base. Only this time, on the way back to the base, it started to poop out all the particles it had just picked up. We could not stop laughing, but deep down all I was thinking about was the money that I spent on this ridiculous, recalcitrant vacuum. I could not ask for my money back because I understood the store’s policy. Sonja wanted me to demand the return of my money, but since this organization helps unwed mothers, that was out of the question.
The moral to this story: I never prayed about purchasing these items. With the rosaries, I was duped because I was an out-of-town tourist and had never shopped in that particular store. Then with the RoboVac, I was too excited about the price. A lesson learned: I need to pray before buying anything.
My Prayer: Dear Lord, teach me to be a better steward of my money, and forgive me for any frivolous spending. Dear Lord, help me to learn from these little life lessons. Blessed Mother Mary, watch over all the shop owners in Israel and help them recoup their losses from this pandemic. Amen.