Malandros israelenses (Israeli con artists)

Malandra Israelense #1 – The woman selling bread on a corner in the Carmel Market

“How much is the challah?” I ask.

“Ten shekels.”

“Okay, we”ll take one.”

“These rolls over here are five for seven shekels.”

“No thanks, just the challah.”

She puts it into a bag. I give her ten shekels.

“Give me seven more,” she says.


“Seven more shekels.”

“You said the price was ten.”

“Seven more!” – she says as she quickly attempts to stuff a bag of the five rolls into the same bag with the challah.

“No.” – I grab the bag with the challah, remove the five-for-seven rolls, and walk away.

The challah wasn’t even very good… go figure!

Malandro Israelense #2 – The “religious” men on the steps down to the Western Wall

On the way back up from the Western Wall, climbing the steps to the Jewish quarter, a bearded man in a black suit and hat asks us where we’re from. “Brazil,” I say. He grabs Christian’s hand and murmurs a blessing (or who knows what) in Hebrew, and says we’re a good couple and we should get married. Then he starts asking for money for charity (or who knows what). Not wanting to argue, I give him a ten shekel coin.

“Give ten more!” he says.

“No.” – He accepts this, nods and lets us pass.

“Man! Even for a blessing, you have to pay!” Christian remarks.

The following day, we are at the wall again, and go up the same staircase. The man who “blessed” us recognizes us, turns his back and walks away so that one of his comrades can approach Christian, hand extended.

Christian pats him on the arm and we walk right on by. I’m tempted to pat him on the arm too, just to see if he’d freak out and have to take a purification bath or something after having been touched by a woman… but I resist.

Malandro Israelense #3 – The shopkeeper on the corner of Allenby and Carmel Market

We’re looking at some mezzuzahs and finally find one we like. The shopkeeper says it’s twenty shekels – surprisingly reasonable. He then shows us the slip of paper with the Shema written out in Hebrew, which he will roll up and put inside, for “meia shekel.”

Here comes the fatal error – “meia” in Portuguese means “one half,” but in Hebrew it means “one hundred.” With my brain in Portuguese mode, I nod our acceptance. He invites us into the store and goes through a great show of carefully rolling the slip of paper and inserting it in the mezzuzah.

When he is done, he attempts to charge us… “One hundred and twenty shekels.”

“What? No!” we respond.

“This is twenty and this is one hundred. I told you!” he says.

Fair enough, but… “Well, I don’t understand Hebrew very well,” I say, and we book it out of the shop.

“Wait!” he yells, annoyed. “Wait! Come back!”

Sorry… the customer is always right.

The Malandro Israelense who was actually NOT a malandro – The plainclothes security guard on top of the Jerusalem ramparts

In Jerusalem, we decide to walk on top of the wall, and are greatly enjoying the views of various parts of the city. Surprisingly, we run into no one else – we would’ve expected that more tourists would want to walk the ramparts. Then we come across a guy in normal clothing who approaches us quite intentionally and says something in Hebrew.

With my brain in Bahia mode, I assume he is asking for money, say “No” and breeze right on by.

“EXCUSE ME!” he says more forcefully.

“Uh, I think he needs something from us,” Christian advises.

After some back-and-forth in Hebrew and English, we discover that he needs to check the tickets that we bought for the ramparts walk, which we gladly show him.

“Okay, thanks, you guys have a good day,” he says.