I’m in a daze. It’s been a blur of a couple weeks. The getting ready for Passover. It means “cleaning out the chometz (pronounced hummits)” which is anything with or that can be used for baking tha can rise…wheat products, rice, barley, fermenty things, beans, peas, groundnuts as in peanuts and soy. And on it goes. I change out my dishes and silver, my pots and pans. It’s a spring cleaning gone wild. Vacuuming out sofas and rugs and crevices. I like to think of it as a type of spiritual cleaning as well. What things in my life need to be purged?
I purposely did as much as I could the week before, leaving most of Passover week free and clear. The Monday before the feast, we had tickets to see the Sassoon Codex in Tel Aviv…a 1200 year old handwritten Bible on display for a week only (see previous blogpost). On the way out, we were mobbed by throngs of protesters. Thousands of people clogged the streets and highways armed with flags and bullhorns, posters and chants. It was quite awful. It got so bad that by midday, the schools, banks, stores, and some public transportation shut down. Our 1 1/2 hour journey back home wound up taking over 5 hours! The entire country seemed engulfed in political madness. But this is democracy in action.
Democracy itself is not the central issue, nor is the necessary and proposed judicial reform. That has been called for by every candidate and party in the past five elections. What is the essential cause of division is who we are as a nation and a people? Do we honor the establishment of the State of Israel as a Jewish state, as given by the British Mandate, the UN referendum of 1948 and the Israeli Declaration of Israel? Or is this a land that just happens to have a majority of different types of Jewish people trying to coexist with everyone else here regardless of religion, nationality or lifestyle choices? That is at the heart of the matter. Can we be unified by our religion (despite the differences), our culture and our race with equal claim to an ancient and ancestral homeland – or will be be divided by various squabbling ‘tribes’?
As for us, my husband and I hosted our annual Passover Seder meal at our house. Our son came home a couple days before, bringing two international students from university. They were from Germany and Moldova. John and I had also invited a family of four: they are new immigrants from Mexico City via Houston, TX. It was incredibly interesting as the father is Jewish, the mother is extremely Catholic. They have two teenage sons, one in the army here. Then, there was the Modern Orthodox Jewish fellow down the street. Yonatan came from Canada as a lone soldier in the IDF 22 years ago, fell in love with the land and an Israeli girl and stayed. He recently lost his wife to cancer, so of course, “Let all who are hungry, come and eat!!” He had planned on spending the night alone. Four days before the Seder, a friend from Scotland texted. She was at a Christian women’s retreat in the Galilee and would be finished in two days. She’d love to see us before she had to travel to Jerusalem for a meeting and Easter. We begged her to cancel her reservations and stay with us.
Thank goodness, we are renting a large enough house to have guests, just for this reason. Thank goodness I had my cleaning and shopping and most of the cooking already done! John and I were able to do a wee bit of sightseeing with Faidh (pronounced Faith) before the holiday. We went up to Tel Dan and to Metulla right up on the Lebanese border. I must say, it was incredibly peaceful. The weather had turned sunny and hot, quite different from the dark and cold previous days. The birds were out in full migration patterns: storks and white cranes as well as flutters of migrating butterflies. All of the wildflowers and trees were in full bloom, and the land was lush and green. The air was clean and redolent of the scent of mountain sage and wildflowers. It was great to see so many young families out on holiday enjoying nature: verdant hills, the rushing streams and the flowing Jordan River. I think Faidh expected to see holy baptisms there. Instead we saw canoes of day-camping kids singing as they paddled downstream. On the way home, we stopped at my favorite farm stand to buy fresh-picked fruits and veg. It was glorious: Israel in all its magnificence.
Our Seder was meaningful, entertaining and fun. We told the story of the Exodus from Egypt with symbolic foods and songs, and the goofy props I brought with me from Passover in the States: for the plagues we had styrofoam hail balls to throw across the table; plastic frogs that croaked when pressed; sunglasses for all for the plague of darkness; flies to throw; wind up locusts. We celebrated in English, Hebrew, Spanish and Russian! We sang songs from the Prince of Egypt. We tried to sing some Broadway tunes with words to fir the holiday story. And we ate and ate and ate until we were ready to explode! Gefilte fish; matzah ball soup; Persian lamb meatballs with pomegranate sauce; lamb, leek and potato patties. And those were just the appetizers! We had glazed chicken, an Egyptian style brisket slow cooked with apricots, dates, tomato sauce and spices. Lots of side dishes, and for dessert there was creamy fruit gelato made in 6 minutes with frozen fruit and coconut milk.
Now we never, EVER drive the first day of Passover. It’s usually a day to just mellow out with family or friends. Go for a long walk, talk and play board or card games. This year everything was different. In Israel there is ABSOLUTELY NO public transportation. No trains. No busses. This was the first year in ages that Passover, Ramadan, Easter and Orthodox Easter overlapped (collided!) Being Ramadan and Holy Thursday further complicated things for Faidh, who had a mandatory meeting with several Christian leaders in Jerusalem. What to do? She had to be there by noon. An Arab driver wanted $700 for a one-way trip, more than her plane ticket. What to do? Acts of love and kindness override every other rule, we concluded. John decided we would leave by eight o’clock latest in case of traffic. What do we know? Reminder: the Passover Seder lasted til well past midnight. John would drive.
There was no one on the streets or highways. Everything was completely empty. Not a soul in sight. Very weird. We arrived in Jerusalem in two hours, and made it back in two hours. Absolutely unheard of. After we were home a short while, while everyone was having a lovely day with families or picnicking, the balagan started. The alarm on my phone started going off. Usually it means incoming from Gaza to the villages down south. This time I looked at the names of the targets. Hanita. Wait we have friends there! Fassuta! That’s just over the mountain to the North of us. We know families there. I wrote a blog on this village, with its re-claimed Medieval Crusader castle now boutique hotel. Peki’in. Camon. The next hill over. That’s close. From Lebanon. Missiles being lobbed across the border. Families running to their bomb shelters. People in parks running for cover. Sirens blaring.
Thank goodness no one was killed and only one person slightly injured. Thank G-d for Iron Dome and the readiness of our troops. Thank G-d it didn’t escalate and was over as soon as it started. 35-45 missiles in less than an hour. Crimes of aggression? People trying to live normal, peaceful lives; being Jewish; being Christian; being Israeli; and the IDF shooting down two UAVs last week that had entered our airspace. It seems that no holiday here in Israel goes by without targeted violence upon the Jews. This weekend saw quite the escalation of violence and terror: Friday two sisters, British-Israelis, Rina and Maia Dee and their mother, Leah, were forced off the road when their car was rammed. The Arab terrorists then shot them all point blank. Friday night in Tel Aviv there was a shooting. A radical Muslim, an Israeli citizen, went on a rampage killing an Italian tourist and wounding seven other tourists.
Things are still “warm,” but we’re back to life as usual. There’s very little that can stop these Israelis other than a holiday or the Sabbath. Still, it made for an ‘exciting’ holiday weekend. Saturday night, after the Shabbat ended here, we went with Catholic friends and Max’s German friend to an Easter vigil Mass in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. It started with a huge bonfire and the lighting of the Easter candles. Full drama. The service was in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Italian. Absolutely beautiful with its chants and hymns, flowers and sacred pageantry. Many of the foreign visa holders here from India and the Philippines are Catholic. And many tourists and pilgrims filled the entire Church, which was built in the 900s. Still, the beautiful Mass was interrupted when a group of about 8 or 9 UltraOrthodox Jewish teens crashed the service, shouting and waving clenched fists. Thank goodness a policeman was there who flashed his badge and shooed them out. Too much excitement. After the Mass was over, my son informed us that 4 missiles from Syria were launched directly across from us into the lower Golan. Stop the violence.
Everything is still a bit upside down here, with the threat of terror and war breathing down our necks. Nothing like that to bring a country together. Reservists have been called up. And it’s as if the weather is reflecting the drama on the ground. A stifling layer of dust and heat blew in from the East and is sitting atop us like a thick fog. The air has turned thick and brown and I can’t see the next town in the valley just over our hilltop. Later today, the forecast has predicted terrible thunderstorms and the temperature to plummet.
In the meantime, and to lighten things up, let me share some yummy recipes. I wanted to send the kids off yesterday with a super filling and delicious breakfast, so I fried up matzah bits with garlic and used the ‘toasted pancakes’ as a base for soft-boiled eggs and avocado. I served a couple really healthy Mediterranean salads and some melon balls with it, as well as freshly-squeezed pomegranate and orange juice and piping hot cups of American drip coffee. This egg dish turned out way better than expected, so it’s definitely a “”keeper.” That crispy garlicky pancake! Just wow!!!
Matzah Breakfast Eggs
Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 4 sheets of matzah
- 3 cloves crushed garlic
- extra virgin olive oil
- 5 eggs
- 1 ripe avocado
- salt, pepper
Run water over the sheets of matzah for about 10-15 seconds. Break into small pieces in a large bowl. Add a beaten egg, 2 cloves garlic, crushed and salt, pepper. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan with remaining clove of crushed garlic. While oil is heating on medium-high heat, put 4 eggs in a pot of water. Heat the water to boiling. In the meantime, drop matzah/egg mixture into 4 small pancakes. Flatten and let fry until crispy and brown. Once water with eggs begin to boil, time 3 1/2 minutes. Flip the pancakes to fry on other side. Cut avocado in half lengthwise and slice. Remove eggs from heat. Remove matzah pancake to plate. Place avocado slices on top. Then crack egg in half sharply with a knife, letting yolk run over the avocado/pancake. Remove the whites from shell. Eggs should have slightly runny yolks. Salt and pepper to taste. This is absolutely fabulous with the savory, crunchy bottom, slightly runny egg yolks and creamy avocado. Pure breakfast bliss!
This side salad is a typical part of an Israeli breakfast. We tend to eat greens early in the morning. Go figure. I’ve grown used to it, and love it. Easy to assemble in the morning or the night before.
Mediterranean Breakfast Salad, Israeli Style
Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 12-16 mini cucumbers (depending on size), about 2 cups
- 12-16 cheery or lemon-drop tomatoes
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- 1/2 very small red/purple onion
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- handful of fresh herbs, (parsley, cilantro, chives, basil, thyme, whatever is available)
- salt, pepper to taste
- pre-made techineh
In a medium bowl, cut up the cucumbers into small pieces. Cut up avocado. Slice 1/2 small red onion into fry thin strips, then cut into smaller pieces. Add the tomatoes. Chop the herbs very fine. Any assortment of the above is great. Whatever you choose, but it should come to about 1/4 cup. In a small bowl, place the olive oil and herbs. Squeeze the lemon half over a strainer into the small bowl. Mix together thoroughly and pour over the veggie mixture. Mix lightly to coat. Pan be served in individual bowls or on a plate with main course. Sprinkle salt (I love Maldon) and pepper on top and drizzle with techineh.
Another side salad is a healthy breakfast favorite for us. Usually I make it with walnuts, but this time I added the roasted nuts I made for the Seder. It was delicious!
Israeli Breakfast Salad
Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 1 package of sprouts…(sunflower, broccoli or pumpkin seed)
- 1/2 fresh lemon
- drizzle extra virgin olive oil
- Maldon salt flakes or sea salt
- 1/3 cup nuts & seeds (roasted nut recipe follows)
Because the table liturgy of the Seder is so long, sometimes upwards of three hours before the meal is served, I have plenty of ‘nishnooshim’ set on the table. There are an assortment of olives, carrot and cucumber sticks with a techineh dip, and a small dish of roasted spiced nuts at each place setting. Also, I make enough for the whole holiday and give each guest a small cellophane bag filled with these tasty morsels as a take-home favor. They are not only good for munching, but can be added to salads and even yogurt!
Sweet & Savory Nut & Seed Nosh
Ingredients for a whole crowd:
- 3 cups assorted nuts – walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pinenuts
- 2 cups assorted seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame
- 1/4-1/3 cup Pumpkin seed oil (this makes it, so try to find this ingredient)
- 1 heaping tablespoon assorted spices, mixed ( I do a shake form each bottle: cinnamon, cloves, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Line a baking tray or foil tin with silpat or parchment paper. Spread out nuts and seeds. Coat with the pumpkin seed oil and stir well to coat all the nuts. Mix in the spices, sugar and salt. Make sure the nuts are evenly flat in tray. Roast in the oven on medium rack for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 170*C/350*F. Stir the nuts again to redistribute. Roast for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before storing.
And here is our dessert that I served at the Seder. It takes me literally six minutes to make, start to finish, has zero sugar, is all natural, vegan, healthy, and amazingly light. The rosewater puts this gelato over the top. Four simple ingredients. I served each person a scoop of gelato with a coconut macaroon. The perfect ending to a delicious meal.
Persian Rose Gelato
Ingredients for six servings:
- 3 frozen bananas
- 2 cups frozen fruit (I used raspberries)
- 1 can coconut milk, chilled
- 2 TBSP rosewater
In a blender or food processor, put the peeled, frozen bananas, cut into chunks. Add in other frozen fruit. Pulse until the fruit is the size of pebbles. Then a pour in the cold coconut liquid. Pulse until creamy, about 1 minute. Add is rose water and pulse to combine. Spoon out the gelato into a parchment-lined metal or plastic box. Freeze at least one hour. I let the gelato sit out at room temp about an hour before serving to soften the ‘ice cream.’ It’s sooooo good and can be served at any meal!
Hopefully tensions will die down after Passover. Easter services have ended. The two week national holiday is almost over. After Ramadan comes Eid, the ‘holiday of sacrifices.’ Please pray for some return to normalcy in this world. An end to violence, an end to craziness. Hopefully there will be compromises in our government. I do believe the majority of the Israeli citizens just want to live out their lives day to day in peace. Everyone needs to pause, take a deep breath, calm down, eat some good food, and just relax….
Yawwnnn…I am not a morning person, but needed to contact some moms whose children came to my 10 year olds birthday party Saturday, that our 19 year old just tested positive for covid😪. Praying no one else at the party gets it. So checking email and here is a happy diversion as I love your posts.
Your whirlwind reflected ours a bit. 20 year old college daughter flew in Wednesday from Indiana to celebrate Easter and her little sister’s bday with us, but Good Friday my car broke down and I was scrambling to get a rental and a ride to the rental b4 the good Friday service. Our 20 year old had gone to an earlier service with her dad who works nights and stayed home. I came home to her in tears and level 9 pain, apparently stuck in her top bunk bed with agonizing back pain for two hours. Called 911. Took 7 people from the ambulance to get her down, but my buoyant 10 year old though of course sad for her big sister, had the time of her life getting to “ride shotgun” (no idea where the phrase comes from) which means front passenger seat in the ambulance to her great delight and in the back we could hear her cheerful chatter the whole way. Topped off with a large, beautiful full moon, my oldest had peace from G-d in spite of her pain and tears. Thankfully it was nothing too serious, just a muscle injury, and hours later around 1 am hubby brought us home for oldest to rest.
The next morning her back was better, but she felt horrible and after discovering a 101 temp took a covid test. She tested positive, most likely having got it from the unmasked coughing gentleman next to her on the plane. 🤷♀️She would be staying home for Easter and birthday.
I have been amazed at G-d’s grace in our lives. 4 years ago this would have caused us quite the slump. I would have been anxious and sad. When she tested postive, she said, I don’t believe it. Looked at me and we just started laughing. We are stronger now than we were before.
So often in my life I have prayed for G-d to remove the fiery trials we were enduring, but in recent years I stand amazed as I watch myself and my husband and my children. G-d does not always remove the fire. Sometimes He strengthens us to walk through the flames. Love endures all things.
My oldest spent the weekend resting and praying and all is well.
We mourn with those who mourn throughout the world. Our hearts, too grieve for the families of those who have lost their lives and also pray for peace of heart and mind for those whose fear and suffering is so great that they believe hatred and violence is the only cure.😪😪 May our negligence or apathy to other’s hurt around us never be the fuel to fire such hatred.
But we rest knowing that “when Shiloh comes” (a debated phrase, but it sits with me) G-d Himself will bring the long awaited peace and healing and wipe every tear from our eyes.
And we rejoice with those who rejoice.😊 Especially this season. And I am thankful for yummy recipes. Who knew? I eat salad for breakfast sometimes. Mostly for health reasons. Maybe there is secretly some Jewish blood in me amid the Irish and German (and Hungarian gypsy…)
Your posts are treasures I share with my friends. So glad your health is improved.🤗Shalom. G-d’s peace.
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Sorry it’s taken this long to reply. I so love and am in agreement/can relate to your writings. Are you part of the millions of us who are now fasting and praying with Israel (Is 62)? Such perfect timing as that was the exact time Operation Bow and Sling started. The central and south of the country is now being bombarded with over 450 missiles (last count) from Gaza. I’m ever thankful for G-d’s protection and mercy. So far, no one has been killed or injured. We, here are always praying for peace to reign and the hearts of our enemies to be changed. Still, it it always peaceful and quiet here in the Galilee. Last week, we had a short heat wave, and John and I went to take shelter under the eucalyptus trees on the shore of the lake (Sea of Galilee). There was no one for miles. The herons and egrets were out and literally hundreds of fish were swimming right up to the shore. I’ll do a post on the entire area in a short while. Thank you so much for your readership and for sharing my posts. I so appreciate it!!!! Abundant blessings upon you and your family-