A Tale of Two Religions

This past weekend, the citizens of Israel celebrated the last of the Spring holidays. Besides Holocaust Memorial Day, Remembrance of Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror Day, Independence Day, and Jerusalem Day, there were the religious festivals. For the Jews there was Pesach with its grand Seder meals; the campfires of Lag b’Omer; the counting of the Omer from Passover to Shavuot and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks and Spring harvest. The Christians celebrated Holy Week culminating with Easter Sunday, Ascension Sunday and Pentecost. And we all celebrated in our individual villages and cities without too many clashes. Despite what one hears and reads, most Israelis, regardless of their differences, really do want to live quiet, peaceful lives of coexistence.

The Galilee region of Israel is made up of rolling hills, not quite big enough to be called mountains, but beautiful nonetheless. The word Galilee comes from the Hebrew gal, or wave  and the landscape is, in fact like the swelling of waves on the ocean. The Galil is indeed a holy land to both Jews and Christians. Much of the combined history interweaves and overlaps in this small strip of land. The Northern Kingdom of Israel; battlefields of Joshua; tombs and burial caves of prophets, martyrs (Channah and her seven sons) and great rabbis; the meeting place and codification of the Mishna; the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Family, the Disciples of Yeshua; Mary of Magdala; the place where Yeshua taught, healed and preached; the mountain where He was transfigured; the place where Mattityahu Ben Yosef/Josephus Flavius was governor and general. It is all here….and more!

On a small ridge, the next hill over from Nazareth, is Tsippori, also known as Sephoris. (I wrote an entire blog on this magnificent site 29 August, 2022) Perched at the top, the ‘Pearl of the Galilee,’ was an ancient First Century city. It was an exceptional place of co-existence, and the capital of the Galil during the Roman occupation. Tsippori was one of the few cities in the Galilee that was not razed by the Romans during their March to Jerusalem in 68 CE. It was a Jewish city, with mikvaot(Jewish ritual baths for purity), synagogues and Jewish homes. But it was also a Roman city, complete with amphitheater, Roman style villas, and a Roman street plan. Built during the last decades BCE, and the first decades CE, Tsippori is about a 45 minute walk from Nazareth. It is also a long morning’s walk to the Sea of Galilee, so it is most likely that Joseph the carpenter (mason) and Jesus were laborers here building the city. After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, 70 CE, many members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and great sages of the Talmud made the Tsippori area their home. Today, the ruins of this large ancient city are preserved under the auspices of the Israeli National Parks. We have visited many times.

I had heard that there was an old church and monastery somewhere on the mountain, uninhabited, in disrepair, long abandoned. John and I had stumbled upon it once, not knowing its amazing history. It just seemed like an old, uninhabited place… and there are so many of those around. We ‘discover’ places in remote areas but have no idea what they are or the significance they held.

A new family of Olim (immigrants) recently moved to our neighborhood. They are an intermarried couple from Argentina. Daniel is a Conservative Jewish man and his wife, Rosa, is a practicing Catholic. In the short time they have lived here, Rosa has gotten to know all the priests and Catholic holy sites in the Galilee. Many of the priests here speak Spanish, so that has been extremely helpful to her. Last week, Rosa told me of a special discovery she made and she wanted to share it with me. She knows we are into history and that I have a blog, so this could be a potential story. It was quite the adventure!

On the back side of the mountain ridge of Tsippori, on a small road that wound through a tiny Jewish village just outside the W fact that St. Joseph was from Nazareth and the Holy Family lived just a short walk away gave this place credence. The basilica was built on the foundation of the home of St. Anne, and was the largest church in that entire vicinity during that time. The dimensions of the church were unusually large, as typical Byzantine churches in the Galilee were quite small, so it must have held a special significance for the early Christians living there. It is exactly proportional in size and orientation to the grand Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem, also built in the 4th century, but intact and still in use today. At the basilica in Tsippori, the roof has long since collapsed, as well as the columns. The mosaic floor is barely visible. It is now mostly grass. Most of the church is now ‘outdoors.’ Behind the altar of the three-arched apse is the foundation of St Anne & St Joachim’s home. As the story goes, it was possibly the birthplace of Mary before they moved to Nazareth.

During the early-mid 1100s, the Crusaders took over St. Anne’s and rebuilt the surrounding walls. The Crusaders held the Holy Family and the Virgin Mary in very high esteem, so they would have revered Mary’s parents as well. They made additions to the Church with vaulted ceilings and more columns on the side apses. A monastery was added to the back, the monastery of Anna. Because this Crusader church was so close to the ‘Horns of Hattin,’ the great battlefield and final conquest of Saladin over the Christians in 1187, this was most likely where the knights would have celebrated their final Mass together. The large Crusader army met their defeat only three miles to the northeast. The church, and all else in the Levantine fell under control of the Ottomans.

The grand church eventually fell to ruins over the centuries. Then in the mid 1800s, the Franciscans, under the Custos of the Holy Land, bought the property (from Arab Bedouins) along with many other sites in Israel, and the remains of St. Anne Church came under their guardianship. Some minor repairs were done to the property in 1859, and a memorial plaque installed, but it was largely left uninhabited except for a few nuns who lived in the monastery for several years in the early 1900s. In 1973, the property was closed due to its dilapidated state and lack of resources. There were so many other holy sites in the Galilee that needed attention. When the new Custos, Pierbatista Pizzaballa (now Latin Patriarchate of the Holy Land), was put in charge of all the properties in 2006, he gave what was left of St. Anne to a newly formed order from Argentina. It was the Order of the Institute of the Word Incarnate (IVE), which “draws its spirituality on the Incarnation and the Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” It was through this Argentinian tie that Rosa found Fr. Jason and the basilica ruins.

Rosa had pre-arranged for me to do an interview, and we were warmly welcomed by Fr. Jason. Speaking in broken English and Hebrew with some Spanish thrown in and Rosa translating, Fr Jason told us of the priests’ personal history living in Israel at St. Anne. When the Institute of the Word Incarnate was granted custody of the property in 2006, the two priests and a seminarian who had traveled to Israel from Argentina found it in complete and utter disrepair. It was absolutely overgrown with weeds and downed tree limbs. The church was crumbling. Part of the old monastery in back of the church was in shambles. One large house in the back was now a Muslim orphanage.

The first stage of their mission was literally to rescue the church, to save it from total decay and to preserve what was left. That took the three men labored nonstop over ten years. The second stage was to prepare it for the arrival of pilgrims: to put in public bathrooms; to create places of quiet meditation with wayside shrines; to study the Hebrew language to communicate with the locals and to educate local tour guides about the place. They have just begun to advertise on social media that this holy site is again open and active. Today St. Anne is a working Latin Rite Catholic church. Masses are at 5pm in Spanish every Saturday. There is Eucharistic Adoration followed by a Rosary in Spanish every Thursday from 4-7 pm. A celebration is being planned for the feast of Sts. Anne & Joaquin on July 26. This last stage complete, it is now an official pilgrimage site.

Since the first days the priests arrived, they have worked hard to partially restore the property, clearing the basilica of old fallen stones; moving fallen columns, weeding and clearing the olive grove adjacent and making gardens. They put in electricity and water and built a little indoor chapel and rectory adjacent to the apse. The indoor chapel has been completely restored. It is tiny, holding only 20 people maximum, but it is beautiful inside. Bounded by high sandstone block walls with a vaulted ceiling reminiscent of the Crusader era, I immediately felt drawn back in time. The scent of incense hung heavy in the air, and the chapel was lit by the pink rays of the setting sun and candlelight. A large golden monstrance was placed front and center on the altar, and Diego, a young seminarian, knelt in silent worship. The most intriguing mosaic plaque, found in situ, hangs on one wall of the chapel and bears a Hebrew inscription. A remnant from the Byzantine era, it is only a fragment and missing tesserae. It was most likely a dedication plaque or a funerary marker from a burial site nearby.

During good weather, Masses are held outdoors in what was once the grand basilica. The old stone door which used to be the entrance to the basilica is now the outdoor altar. It is a most dramatic backdrop and scene for Church services. The priests are hopeful that they can garner enough interest to hold Classical music concerts here summer evenings. Until then people are encouraged to visit, to take in the holy silence, to stroll through the garden and olive grove and to attend Adoration.

Recently, the priests received a gift from a gentleman in Italy of a beautiful Carrera marble statue of St. Anne & the young girl, Mary. It was delivered to the church last week and left in its crate near the outer wall. Funds are currently being raised to pay for a base for the statue and for a contractor to crane it into the church and to install it. These are photos Fr Jason sent of the life size statue when it was still in Italy:

We walked with Fr. Jason and Br. Diego through the newly tended olive grove. They wanted us to look out at the majestic view of the Netofa Valley. Not 100 meters down the hill I spotted it: the blue dome of a building. Living in Israel, I have learned that this can only mean one thing: the tomb of a tzaddik, a great prophet, rabbi or holy person. Orthodox Jews go to the burial sites of the holy tzaddikim to light candles (yarzeit candles) and to pray. It is believed that the prayers made in the vicinity of a holy one and in the merit of that tzaddik, gives the prayers ‘wings,’ so to speak. I inquired from Fr Jason as to who that was, and was told, “It is the tomb of Yehuda haNassi.” I knew this could not be correct because one of the greatest rabbis of all time, Judah the Prince (Yehuda haNassi) was buried not far from there, in Beit Shearim. Yehuda haNassi lived in the 2nd century, CE, A grandson of the teacher, Gamaliel. Yehuda haNassi was also a great teacher and became head of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Council of 70 elders) when it fled from Jerusalem to the Galilee after the Roman destruction of the Temple. Not only was he sought after for his wise judgements in legal matters within the remaining Jewish community in Israel, but he was also revered as an important sage in Rome. haNassi was most famous for editing and codifying (putting into writing) the Mishna, the books of Oral Law, the traditions and history of the Jewish people that had been handed down throughout the generations verbatim since the time of Moses. Besides the Tanach, (Jewish Scripture), the Oral Law is perhaps the most holy. Yehuda haNassi died in Sephoris in 217 CE. This was definitely not he.

So who was it in the mausoleum below? It had to be someone important from the looks of things. The tomb belonged to Yehuda haNassi’s grandson, Yehuda Nessia, an important man in his own right. He was the last head of the Sanhedrin, the last ‘Prince’ of a long line of rabbis.

After visiting St. Anne’s, we made a little visit to the tomb below before it grew too dark

The grandson, Yehuda was nothing like his grandfather in scholarship or behavior. The great Resh Lakish befriended him and over a period of years tried to inspire Yehuda. There is written history of a dialogue between Yehuda Nessia and Origen at Caesaria (if only I could have been there at that time to overhear!!!) Nessia is known for two religious ordinances: reforming divorce law and allowing the use of liturgical oil prepared by Christians to the Jewish specifications. He did, however, hold firm, and would not allow the use of bread prepared by Christians to be used by Jewish people in any way.

So here we found ourselves at yet another place of coexistence in the Holy Land. A ancient city, Sephoris, shared by Jews and Romans and by Jews and Christians. A Byzantine church next to the final resting place of the last rabbi in a long line of Sanhedrin. Their lives definitely mixed in the Galilee. A few friendships were formed. Heated discussions were a part of life here at times. There seemed to be a “live and let live” policy as long as laws, religious or political, were respected and not violated, the land could be shared. It is that way today in this region. A place Jews, Christians, Arabs and people from all nations call home.

Trash to Treasure:an environmental transformation

Israel has always stood at the forefront of environmentalism and sustainability. Upon visiting Park Ariel Sharon, it’s hard to believe that this, the largest park in the Middle East (larger in acreage than New York City’s Central Park), was once a trash dump and environmental disaster. Today it stands as the largest eco-rehabilitation and success story the world has ever seen. Situated just to the east of Tel Aviv, since 1952, Hirya was the trash dump for the city and the whole of the Gush Dan region. As the population grew, so did the refuse until it became a towering mountain of garbage. In the heat of summer, the smell wafting into Tel Aviv and surrounding cities was almost unbearable. In 1998, the site was shut down due to toxic waste and environmental concerns. What to do??? A meeting was called with urban planners, scientists, landscape architects, environmental researchers, mayors, artists, social welfare experts, philanthropists and others to brainstorm. Out of these conferences, Park Ariel Sharon was born.

It’s hard to imagine that exactly a week ago, people here were running to bomb shelters as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad lobbed over 1250 missiles into Israel. When we visited yesterday, it was completely serene. John and I got there very early afternoon and had the place almost to ourselves. At the foot of the ‘mountain range’ standing over 200 feet tall, are various buildings:a recycling center is at one end; museums and classrooms where groups can come and learn about recycling and the environment at the other.
The drive up the mountain is beautifully lined with Eucalyptus trees. What was once dubbed ‘Trash Mountain’ is now an absolutely gorgeous multipurpose park. Expansive swaths of green fields, hiking and biking trails lead to a large green picnic area shaded by trees. The grass is watered using desalinated and gray water, all recycled. A visitor center, natural food cafe and large terrace with ample seating area invites one to sit and relax. The terraces have been landscaped into islands connected by pathways surrounded by natural ponds and watercourses filled with fish. Papyrus, lilies, lotus, and water lettuces float gently. Each pond is bordered by repurposed concrete salvaged from the old dump. These newly formed blocks act as barrier reefs for the fish to take shade and to spawn.

Rubbers tires were repurposed as mulch. Concrete construction barriers were sorted out to create retaining walls lining pathways and actually forming the mountain. It is actually quite beautiful. All the materials here were pulled from the dump and transformed to new purposes. Native trees- carob, olive, date palm, eucalyptus, cedar- have been planted. Metal was sorted out, recycled, reused and some turned into lamp posts, benches, and sculpture. The entire park has a been built over the old dumping grounds. Dangerous biogases are one of the main products that develop within landfills (mostly organic household waste). Their decomposition create polluting greenhouse gases and methane. To combat this, dozens of wells were drilled inside the mountain. The gas is collected and pumped into pipes which flows to nearby industry in the form of steam energy. The gases are constantly monitored to ensure that none escapes into the atmosphere. The amount will decrease over the years, but as more additions are made to the area of landfill surrounding, safe, cheap and efficient energy will be piped to companies into the next several decades.

Everything has been so carefully thought out to the very last detail. Grassy small ‘amphitheaters’ have been placed in strategic areas for school groups, tour groups, outdoor meeting areas and Shakespeare in the Park in the summer months. At the far end of one ridge is a 50,000 seat concert venue. Spectacular covered terraces and outlooks offer sweeping panoramas of Tel Aviv, the Mediterranean, the Shefela Valley below and the Judaean hills in the distance. The trash heaps have been covered with volcanic gravel and concrete, layers of thick clay, straw, more clay and garden soil. Flowering vines clamber over wooden trellises and gardens from around the world are featured in each area. There are natural playgrounds for children with rope courses; things to climb over and on; musical instrument sculptures from recycled materials; brain games and interactive play areas. Disability compliant and equipped with many bathrooms and mothering stations, nothing has been left to chance.

There is a native herb garden with sages and lavenders and scented geraniums where the air is perfumed and heady. We strolled through desert gardens of sand, succulents and cacti. In each section are benches, pathways, and picnic areas. Park Ariel Sharon is definitely now a green lung in the country’s most densely populated urban area. It is a place that is open to all, free of charge (except for concerts and special events). It is a great place for wedding photography – we saw two wedding parties there. This once polluted, neglected dump is now a flourishing metropolitan park. Guided tours can be arranged in advance. At the bottom is the Mikva Yisrael agricultural school where classes are held on sustainability and organic farming. Israel is an amazing country in its innovation and is a leader in environmental issues.

Lavender Fields Forever

The rains and winds and chilly days are hopefully behind us here in Israel. It’s tiyuulim weather! In Hebrew a tiyuul is best described as a day-trip, and Israelis are crazy about them. I’d heard about Azizo Lavender from a friend who brought us the most heavenly lavender liqueur, so we decided to drive way up in the highest parts of the southern Golan Heights. The mountains were still spring green and the wildflowers were in full bloom making splashes of pinks and purples over the ridges and wadis. On a high plateau overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), we finally pulled into Azizo Farms just outside the tiny moshav of Kanaf.

In the center of a field of row upon row of different varieties of blooming lavender is the Azizo visitor center. We were met by the owner, Lilach Assraf, who welcomed us with cups of lavender lemongrass tea and lavender shortbread. Can you say heaven???? John and I sat on the expansive terrace cafe and listened to Lilach tell the history of the farm and business. It started in 1985 with 11 men, all friends who had served in the IDF together. They were going to start a new agricultural community on the wild plateaus of the Golan. Lilach and her husband, Dan, lived on a nearby moshav (village) while they built their homes and plowed the fields around what was to be Kanaf. They started with orchards of plums, pears and grapefruit. One day, another of their army buddies, a lone soldier from France, came to them with a proposal. Norn had just returned from working on a lavender farm in Provence. He was looking for a few daring, open-minded farmers willing to set out on a new course: lavender.

In 1987, 15 acres, about 60 dunams, of French lavender were planted along the Syrian border. The volcanic soil would be perfect as well as the hot days and cool nights. The plants needed little water and drip irrigation was put in. The amount of flowers produced was surprisingly enormous and the quality of the essential oils was the highest on the spectrum. They made and sold the oil and sachets filled with the dried seeds. The venture grew and grew to include the purchase of more dunams and marketing of more products sold within Israel. The original farmers still worked in other fields, holding onto “day jobs” with the lavender being a side business. Then in 1992, everything was “gone with the wind. It was the end of the world, complete heartbreak for us,” recounts Lilach. After severe rains and flooding followed by the most intense heatwave and drought, all the lavender dried up. What to do? Lilach and Dan made the decision to persevere.

They traveled the world – to France, Hungary, Bulgaria, the United States, to visit other lavender growers. The Israeli Volcanic Research Institute was called in to examine the Golan soil. More irrigation was installed and more dunams were planted with heat tolerant, high yield varieties. Now six different types are grown and new cultivars are being tested. The Assrafs used to pay the teenagers on the moshav to harvest the crops, but now they have a special lavender harvester. Lilach took us and two other couples on a guided tour of the farm and explained the process and manufacturing. We went into the drying room. The smell!!!!! The lavender stalks hang for weeks in a special atmospheric controlled room as they dry, preserving the oil content. Dan and Lilach re-engineered a chicken plucking machine into a device that separates the dried seeds from the stalks. All the distillation is done on site, the oil separated from the hydrosols (water), and both used for different products. The distilling machinery was purchased in Bulgaria, famous for the distillation of its famous roses in the manufacture of perfume. The Assrafs called in Professor Nativ Dubai of the Neve Yaar Agricultural Research Center to confer on varieties of lavender suitable for the climate that would produce highest yield of flowers per plant and the highest concentration of essential oil.

There is a classroom on site at Azizo Lavender for demonstrations, experimentation and projects for different ages. Throughout the year schoolchildren visit the farm to learn about the distillation process. They learn about all the different uses of this herby flower from medicinal to cosmetic to culinary. The ‘King of Essential Oils,’ lavender is antiseptic and anti inflammatory, so can aid in burns, headaches, digestive issues, skin problems, insomnia and is an anti-anxiety remedy. Azizo produces the finest soaps, candles, lotions, balms, oils, diffusers and sachets. The list is quite lengthy. Beehives have been placed adjacent to the fields, and now lavender honey is also part of their venture. Lavender fruit jams, lavender liqueur, lavender syrup, lavender chocolate! Azizo Farms has teamed up with DeKarina Chocolates to produce the chocolate and the liqueur. Powdered lavender is jarred for culinary uses. Herbes de Provence, their secret blend of Israeli herbs with lavender, mint, thyme, oregano and other dried spice is also available in the shop, which has been open daily for six years now.

After over 40 years farming lavender, Dan and Lilach have finally given up their secondary jobs. All of their time is now devoted to Azizo Lavender, which has also become part of the eco-tourism industry in the Golan. Everything they do is sustainable and environmentally friendly. No pesticides are used in the growing and no chemicals are added in the production process. All of the labor from fieldworkers to cafe and gift shop employees live on Moshav Kanaf or the surrounding area. The gift shop is, of course, loaded with all things lavender. I bought a case of the liqueur. Now that summer is almost here, it’s amazingly delicious on vanilla ice cream, melon, or in a drink made with a tablespoon of the nectar with a spritz of soda water. I bought some sachets, a candle, and the ground dried seeds to use in cooking. John got a pot of bug balm for insect bites and a little vial of the essential oil for our diffuser. We ended our tour by splitting a small pizza with dried lavender sprinkled on top… it was very different, and very good. And we had the lavender ice cream for dessert. It’s definitely a place we will return to with guests. The views are spectacular and the hospitality “welcoming Israeli.” Admission is free.

Lilach’s Lavender Shortbread

Lilach served her cookies with a pot of lavender lemongrass tea. So easy to make, you just put a teaspoon of lavender and some dried lemongrass in a teapot, pour hot water over and let steep 5 minutes. The result is quite soothing and can be served both hot or over ice on a summer day. The tea stands on its own and needs no sweetener. The cookies were crisp and buttery—


  • 11/2 cups butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh lavender or 1 Tbsp dried lavender (organic)
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped lavender leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornflour (cornstarch in the US)

Cream together the butter and sugars in a large bowl. Mix in the lavender. In another bowl, stir together the two flours. Add to the ‘wet’ ingredients. Mix together well until all ingredients are combined. On two sheets of waxed paper, form the dough into two logs. Roll up and place in refrigerator at least one hour until quite firm. Preheat oven to 325*F/160*C. Remove dough logs from fridge and slice into coins. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 16-18 minutes until just turning slightly golden. Remove from oven. Let cool. Keep in covered tin for about 2 weeks. These also freeze well.

Lavender Honey Glazed Grilled Chicken

We had friends over for the holiday of Lag b’Omer, when it’s traditional to make bonfires and eat grilled food (it’s often the food that goes with these holidays). We celebrate the creation of Light and the Divine Light that entered the world. It also commemorates the death (Feast Day) of the great Rahsbi, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the 2nd century Talmudist. Anyway, we had a barbecue with friends and I served grilled green beans from my garden and butternut squash and chicken glazed with lavender honey. Rather than buy the honey at Azizo, I made my own. It’s really easy and I use it on/in tea, cooking, over yogurt or ice cream and as a glaze. It imparts a lovely fragrance and flavor.

To make the honey, I steeped whole fresh lavender leaves and flowers in 2 cups of honey. I put it in a saucepan and heated it on medium heat on the stove and just let it gently simmer for about 20 minutes. The kitchen smelled so good!!!After the honey cooled, I strained the liquid back into the jar. No need to refrigerate.


  • 2 kg (4 lbs) chicken..I used breasts, each one halved (thighs/pargiot) work well too
  • 1/2 cup lavender honey (see instructions above)
  • 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • salt & pepper

This is so easy to make. Rinse and pat dry your chicken pieces. Salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the honey, vinegar and rosemary. Pour over chicken, reserving a bit for the glaze. Refrigerate the chicken and let marinate about an hour before grilling. Grill each piece over a high flame to sear, then lower to medium high heat. Grill chicken about 6 minutes each side. In least minute of grilling, brush with the honey glaze. You can sprinkle dried lavender or some of the chopped rosemary over the top to serve.

Some of the lavender drinks I’ve been “playing around” with are Lavender Lemonade: freshly squeezed lemon juice, some water and the lavender honey to taste. Last night before bed I made a Lavender MoonMilk: I heated a can of coconut milk and added the lavender honey to flavor. It was a nice end to the day, and I think I’ll try using that same recipe to make an ice cream by putting it in the ice cream maker and then freezing. When I was in England, I discovered their London Fog Tea, which became my go-to drink. It soothed try soul – between the cold, wet weather and everyone driving “on the wrong side,” it kept my nerves in check just to sip and smell.The London Fog was Earl Grey tea, a spot of milk, and lavender simple syrup.

Holidaze Again

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….

Living History: Sassoon Codex 1053

For one week only, the ANU Museum in Tel Aviv is displaying living history. A book, written over 1,100 years ago; passed on for generations; lost and now resurfaced. A mystery as to its exact author. No one knows exactly where it was written. This codex (a codex is handwritten on parchment, before the advent of printing on paper or vellum) is one of the world’s great historical treasures. It is the oldest, most complete Hebrew Bible to date, a bridge between the fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls dating from the First Century BC and other Hebrew writings dating to the Middle Ages. This Bible, known as Sassoon Codex 1053 predates the handwritten Medieval illuminated manuscripts by over a century. And it is coming up for auction at Sotheby’s in May. The codex is expected to break all records and sell for upwards of $50 million. The history behind this magnificent book is a story in itself.

Some time in the late 9th century, probably in Tiberias, a small city on the Western shore of the Galilee, an unknown sofer (scribe) copied the entire Jewish Bible over a period of years by hand on sheepskin parchment. It was most likely transcribed at the time of the great rabbis who wrote the Biblical commentaries of the Talmud. Much of the oral tradition was beginning to be codified in writing during this period. The Sassoon Codex Tanach contains all 24 books of the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. Christians uphold these books as the Old Testament. Muslims believe the Torah and Psalms were divinely inspired. So this manuscript marks a foundation to Western civilization. The writing is a little bit messy in places in some of the vowels and spelling. But the writing style of the Hebrew only adds to the mystique of this 792 page manuscript.

Historically, Torah and Haftarah scrolls were written completely without vowels or punctuation: all of the pronunciations and chants were passed on exclusively through oral tradition. The Codex Sassoon was written in the Masoretic text. In the early Middle Ages, mostly in Tiberias, the great sages of old, rabbis and scribes known as Masoretes created a body of notes that standardized the Hebrew text of the Scriptures. Vowels were added along with punctuation marks and trope or chant marks, called nickadot (jots and tiddles). The root of the Hebrew word ‘masor’ means to transmit. These notes were added to ensure correct transmission of the traditional oral text and to eliminate any possible human error in copying the Scriptures. The Masora, all the nickadot, are of utmost importance as they instruct the reader exactly how a word is pronounced, thus ensuring the correct meaning. The punctuation ensures the correct grammar, and cantillation marks indicate how the text is chanted, also ensuring correct punctuation (when to pause at the end of a phrase; specific words requiring emphasis; where to stop at the end of a sentence or paragraph). 

The earliest Hebrew manuscripts found are the Dead Sea Scrolls dating to the First Century BC. They are very incomplete, missing entire books of Scripture. Most of the scrolls are fragments that needed to be pieced together. After a silence of almost 900 years, the Sassoon Codex is a bridge to the ‘modern’ era. It has been carbon dated to the late 800s AD. There are notes of ownership written at the back of the text and a deed of sale written in Aramaic Hebrew was discovered in the middle of the Bible. From this, as well as carbon dating, historians can site its provenance. What is known is that the manuscript traveled throughout the Middle East. Most likely written in the Galilee, Israel, only the wealthiest could have afforded its commission. Eventually it made its way to Damascus, Syria, where the codex was owned by a Khalef ben Avraham. It was sold to Yitzhak ben Yehezki’el Al Attar who, in turn, bequeathed it to his sons, Yezki’el and Maimon ben Attar. Along the way, a leather cover was added and the manuscript was bound in a book. In the 13th century the manuscript found its place in the great synagogue in Makisin (present-day Markada),Syria. Before the synagogue was destroyed by Mongol hordes in the 14th century, the codex was given to a Muslim man named Salama ibn Abi al-Fahkr, for safekeeping, with the promise to return it after the house of worship was rebuilt.The synagogue was never rebuilt. History of the book remained silent for the next several centuries. It was as if the book had completely vanished!

600 years later the leather-bound book resurfaced in Iraq. In 1929, the manuscript was sold to David Suleiman Sassoon (1880-1942), son of a wealthy Iraqi international merchant. Sassoon was born in Bombay, but moved with his mother to London after his father died. Educated in London, and inheriting his father’s business and wealth, his greatest mission in life was to find and collect Judaica and historical Hebrew texts, much of which he bought in Baghdad, Israel, and Persia. Eventually, he would hold the world’s most impressive private collection. Each item received a number, catalogued in the order in which they were added to the collection. One of these included Sassoon Codex 1053, named for its sequential number. It was bought for £350 in 1929 in Baghdad. This copy of the Old Testament is older than the earliest Hebrew Bible now come to light, the Leningrad Codex, written in the 10th century. Sassoon 1053 was possibly written at the same time as the famous Aleppo Codex, but the latter is very incomplete, missing almost 200 pages. Scholars have been aware of the existence of Sassoon’s holding and importance since the 1960s. 

David Sassoon passed his extensive collection on to his children. In order to pay his estate’s British tax obligations, many of the tomes were sent to auction or were sold privately between the 1970s and the 1990s. Today most remain in private collections, universities and libraries. His son, Rabbi Solomon David Sassoon, sold Codex 1053 to the British Rail Pension Fund, who, in turn, put it up for auction at Sotheby’s in 1989. The precious manuscript was bought by a dealer for £2,035,000, who turned around and sold it to a Swiss investor, Jacob (Jacqui) Eli Safra, heir to the Lebanese-Swiss Safra banking family. Codex Sassoon 1053 then became known as Safra JUD002. Safra had the original leather cover completely rebound to keep the integrity of the parchment pages intact.

Mr. Safra allowed Biblical scholar, Prof. Yosef Ofer of Bar Ilan University to study the codex at his home in Geneva as guards stood outside the room. The leather-bound manuscript measures 12” X 14” and is 6” thick, weighing 25.5 pounds. The script on each page is divided into three columns. The Scriptures start with Genesis 9:26, as the first few pages of the folio are missing. To decipher the Masora requires a considerable amount of knowledge for full understanding of all the notes, which Professor Dr.Ofer has. Only a select few people have been able to study the notes found in the margins of texts from the Medieval period. This particular manuscript is incredible! The Hebrew writing is clear and dark, although a bit sloppy in places, without vowels or trope marks. The latter, the nickadot, have been added in a lighter pen at the bottom and top of the Hebrew letters. Notes on grammar, punctuation and inflection are written between the margins and at the top and bottom of the pages are more extensive handwritten notations. 

Tickets were free, so the minute I heard about this, I made my reservation. The museum is dedicated to telling the story of Jewish history through archaeological findings, art, writings, artifacts and oral tradition. The Bible on display is encased in a large glass vitrine, and spotlighted so the writing is crisp and clear. Much larger than I originally expected, it is truly amazing that I was able to read these pages. The letters are crisp and clear, but lacking the beautiful ornamentation or ‘crowns’ found at the top of certain letters. The text is quite plain, different from a Torah scroll. Although the edges of the parchment seemed worn and discolored, it was as if this was written recently. Absolutely incredible that something this old could be so well preserved! The margin notes were indecipherable to me, and the notes penned at the top and bottom of each page were tiny and without vowels..

Sharon Mintz, Senior Judaica Specialist at Sotheby’s states that this evolutionary history of the written Tanach “radiates power.” It is one of the most significant books as it documents the foundations of Western society and history. Before Codex Sassoon 1053 is auctioned in New York on 16 May, 2023, it will be on display for one week only in March and April in London, Tel Aviv, Dallas and Los Angeles. 

Cooking and Convalescing

To update all you loyal readers: this is the eighth attempt at publishing this blog, as I’ve had nothing but glitches with this WordPress site. So let’s hope all goes well this time. My husband, John, underwent an extensive surgery last month and was set to be transferred to a convalescent hospital almost two weeks ago. Our health care group would only pay for four hospitals in the North (the periphery). All were overcrowded, understaffed and not as clean as I’d like. So we petitioned the doctor to let John do shikum at home. We’ve had a nurse come to show me how to do wound care and apply dressings and give medications; a physical therapist who gave exercises (that turned out to be way to advanced at this time); a social worker and a dietician.

Together with the dietician, we worked out a specific meal plan with foods that are low in acid and fiber, are easily digestible, high in protein and soluble fats, red meat free, grain and seed free, salt free, cruciferous veg free…. Plus I wanted to serve him a diet high in probiotics and prebiotics to replace his gut flora. He lost 22 pounds, so they wanted to put him on Ensure and other highly processed drinks and shakes. I wanted to keep the diet as natural as possible. Yes! Challenge accepted!

Healthy recipes here we come! As soon as we got home, I made a 48-hour bone broth in the crockpot. I took beef bones with the marrow, onions, carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaves, ginger, peppercorn, garlic and cooked it until the marrow was completely melted into the soup. High in protein, probiotics and collagen, super delicious, it would be a base for other soups once strained and frozen. There was zucchini mushroom soup, chicken soup with matzah balls, potato leek soup and two varieties of the quintessential Israeli Marok Katom orange soup, so named for its bright orange color. Every household has their own version of orange soup which uses any of an assortment of orange veggies and spices. I made one of a large bag of peeled carrots, a peeled sweet potato and water with some cloves and nutmeg. My favorite (I’ve given the recipes in past blogs) uses a sautéed onion and peeled apple slices with roasted sweet potato, butternut squash and carrots. This gets a can of coconut milk, grated orange peel, a hefty tablespoon of curry powder and water. All the soups are well blended with an immersion blender until creamy.

For breakfast John I make a smoothie. I like to buy as local and as fresh as possible… from our local farmers. We are so blessed to have free-range goats and goatherds throughout the Galilee. Fresh goat milk products are amazing- not at all ‘goaty’ or ‘wild’ tasting. The milk is very mild, sweet, and easily digestible. We have more than a few artisanal goat dairies in the vicinity, so I eat a cup of goat yogurt every day and use it in smoothies. Recently, I found a new superfood called fonio. It’s high in protein and minerals and low glycemic. The closest I can describe it is that it is a bit like cream of wheat when cooked as a breakfast food. I add a scoop of PB (peanut butter) protein powder that I order from the States, goat yogurt, cinnamon, honey and banana. It’s very tasty!

Roasted, peeled beets are extremely high in antioxidants and iron. Another superfood. You can find them prepackaged in the supermarkets (and in the US, at Trader Joe’s). I developed this recipe with a couple Israeli/ Mediterranean twists. I use a goat feta that is very very low in salt and very firm and mild. It comes in a block submerged in water, and can be cut into smaller cubes. Hopefully you will be able to find something quite similar. Fresh dill is found in many recipes here, as is mint. The two together make this salad really fresh and the dressing is a twist on the Israeli lemon juice and olive oil.

Mediterranean Beet Salad


  • 3-4 medium beets, roasted & peeled, or 1 pack pre-cooked beets
  • 1/2 cup goat feta, as fresh as possible
  • 2 TBSP freshly chopped dill leaves
  • 1 TBSP freshly chopped mint leaves
  • Vinaigrette , recipe below

In a large bowl cut the roasted beets into bite sized cubes. Add the fresh feta, cubed. Add mint and dill. In a small bowl mix together the vinaigrette until it forms a creamy emulsion. Pour over salad and mix thoroughly.

Vinaigrette ingredients:

  • Juice of 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

I’ve made a big casserole of Mac and Cheese from scratch, and several egg dishes including this one quiche. Usually coming up with new recipes is successful, but there are occasional flops. The tuna quiche was one of those disasters. It was crustless with a sliced potato base. I loaded it up with spinach, peeled finely grated carrots, cheese, and a lovely custard. Coming out of the oven it looked absolutely glorious, but it smelled and tasted like cat food. It was pretty gross, and the neighborhood felines had quite a treat. So much so, that I believe I’ve made a new friend. She comes around to my kitchen window every morning now.

Eggs have become a really important part of John’s diet. After all these years, I just found out he hates hard boiled eggs by themselves. Who knew? I love that after over 40 years together, we are still discovering new things about each other. He loves fluffy scrambled eggs, in Hebrew – mitgushgeshet. It reminds me of the Netflix “Somebody Feed Phil” episode where his father insists on fluffy eggs. It’s even on Max’s tombstone: But are they fluffy? I’ve come to love the Israeli chavitah pronounced kha-vee-TAH. Its origins are from kibbutz days. They were made in the main kitchen en masse for the agricultural workers. The scrambled eggs are cooked very flat and very crispy then folded into a rectangle. That way they could be quickly put between pieces of bread, wrapped up and taken into the field. The IDF soldiers are still fed this way in the field. Add an Israeli salad of chopped cucumber and tomato with a drizzle of olive oil and a spritz of lemon juice and you’re good to go.

Israeli Chavitah


  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • 3 TBSP assorted fresh herbs, chopped finely. I used parsley, cilantro, dill and chives
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped red onion, optional
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese cubes or crumbles

Melt butter on medium high flame in medium sized pan. Scramble the eggs with a splash of milk. Finely chop all the herbs and the onions. The onions should be a teeny, tiny, mince. Put the eggs into the pan and let sit. The edges should brown slightly. As bubbles for they can be popped. Sprinkle half the herbs on the eggs, which should be undisturbed and completely flat. Flip the eggs and let brown slightly on the other side. As they are cooking, sprinkle the feta and remaining herbs and onions over top. Fold the edges over so the eggs look like a rectangle or fold blanket. Slide onto the plate. It can also be put into a sandwich with a sh ear of cream cheese and mustard. Really!!!! Try it. The combo is surprisingly good!

The next recipe is a variation of my mother’s salmon loaf recipe. So it’s a real comfort food to me as well as being protein rich and high in Omega fatty acids. I used canned salmon, which is easy to find here and much cheaper than fresh. It’s boneless and skinless, so there is little waste. The dish can be served hot or cold and makes the best sandwiches the next day. In the photo below are my Mrs. Meyer’s products. I order them from the States because they are my favorites. They do a fantastic job, are ecologically friendly, and the scents are heavenly… it’s a bit of a comfort of home for me.The loaf pan was made by my son, Max, when he was 14 and took a ceramics class. It’s one of my favorites. My dill is in a little earthenware crock from England. That’s how fresh cream used to be delivered in the late 1800s….it’s just so sweet! I’d been looking for one for decades and found it in Scotland for £6 at an antiques store.

Salmon Loaf


  • 3 200g cans boneless, skinless salmon, drained
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated finely
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh dill

Preheat oven to 170*C/350*F. Line a loaf pan with parchment/baking paper. In a large bowl combine all the above ingredients, mixing with your hands, until it quickly comes together. The mixture should be moist and malleable, but not overly wet. If it seems too loose, add a bit more panko breadcrumbs. Place in the loaf pan and form into loaf. Make a deep well down the center and fill with ketchup. Bake for about 40 minutes and salmon is gently browned on top. Garnish with extra dill sprigs. Enjoy!

My pour neighbors have been totally helpful and understanding. My next door neighbor went and bought a little chair for the shower. Other Friday of Shabbat, he brought over a full dinner. Complete with challah, wine and candles! It was the sweetest thing ever.

Our other neighbor, a Ukrainian refugee who is living with her host family, brought over a wonderful Apple Charlottka, which was kind of like a pancake, but different. She serves it with a dollop of sour cream. Amazing! I got the recipe and made one after this was rapidly devoured. It’s really easy to make, and the ingredients were on John’s diet list.

Ukrainian Apple Charlottka


  • 3 green cooking apples
  • 3 red cooking apples
  • 1/freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 TBSP sugar (I use coconut sugar)
  • 4 cup yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 gluten free baking flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (you can use regular, but this is low glycemic)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 3 TBSP white or sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 200*C/400*F. Line a springform pan with baking/parchment paper. Peel the apples and slice thinly. In a medium bowl, toss apples with lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar. In a large bowl, mix the eggs and sugar until thick and lemony yellow. Mix in the yogurt and almond extract. In separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Whisk to incorporate the air and make light and fluffy. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Stir until smooth. Fold in the apples. Pour into the pan and bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from oven. Pour the melted butter over top and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the cake. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven. Loosen the pan. Remove ring after 10 minutes. Let rest until transferring to plate.

To Plant a Garden

In California I always had a large organic garden…and fruit trees….and chickens. When we moved to Israel in 2015 (has it really been this long???) I wanted to be able to at least have a small plot for growing veggies. We were fortunate enough to rent a home with lots of room for gardening. Outside each window of this house we have large, deep, concrete planter boxes. Outside the kitchen I grow my herbs. Outside our den/family room window I have all my lettuces. In our front yard there is a very productive lemon tree. In the back we have oranges, pomelos, grapefruits and clementines. And I hope to add two avocados by early spring. Plus we are blessed with a magnificent pecan that I harvest every October. Yes. We are truly blessed.

In Israel, it is pretty much a given that every home or apartment has at least one mirpesset, which is an outdoor balcony/patio. Israelis love to have their coffee on the mirpesset in the mornings and spend sultry summer evenings hanging out of doors on the patio in hopes of catching a cool breeze. Plus so many places in Israel have these glorious views. There’s even a Hebrew song, “Bashana Haba’ah” where one of the verses speaks about peacefully sitting on the mirpesset counting the migrating birds overhead and listening to the laughter of children playing down below and eating grapes just picked off the vine (Steve Lawrence & Eddie Gormé made it famous in the 1970s). Our bedroom is upstairs in this tall, skinny house. That’s the third level, and wrapped around our bedroom is a huge mirpesset with sweeping views of the rolling mountains, the Mediterranean, Haifa, and sprawling Arab villages in the adjacent valleys surrounding our city. It’s all quite breathtaking, and our blessings overflow. To cap all this off, the mirpesset is bordered by deep concrete planters: my garden!

Last year was a year of shmitah, which happens once every seven years in Israel. It’s actually an ancient law from the Bible. Interesting aside: how many times in America did I hear people say how completely impossible it was for people to keep ALL the 613 laws in the Torah? In actuality, some laws are so specific they are just for men or just for women. Some laws are exclusively for people of the priestly tribes of Cohen and Levites, i.e. Cohen, Kahn, Katz, Cone,Kahane, Levy, Levine, Levenson. Some laws are only applicable in the Holy Land, like letting the fields lay fallow every seven years. It’s really smart actually. When the land rests, it has a chance to replenish. So here, the religious Jewish people honor that law. Driving the countryside last year, many of the fields owned by observant Jewish farmers were unplowed, unplanted, and covered in weeds. I also let my little plots go. Planted absolutely nothing. It’s amazing how way up on the roofline balcony, weeds quickly took over. How did they get there???

Lately I’ve been spending about an hour each day weeding the spaces, adding compost and new soil and gradually planting seeds. Over the past seven years for me, it’s been hit or miss in growing, but I can start some seed outside year long since it really doesn’t get cold enough for frost. I order my organic, nonGMO seeds from the States and bring them back with me. I try to grow things not available here like yellow and chioggia beets, parsnips, rutabagas, and different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, Japanese radishes, Russian pickling cucumbers, Brussels sprouts and colorful carrot and bean varieties. So far, I’ve had reasonably good luck.

They say that the best way to connect with the land is to dig in the earth and plant a garden. It was one of the first things I did when we moved here. To plant a garden is a sign of permanence and hope, an expectation of tomorrow. For me, it was also a link to the past. And yesterday, as I was clearing out the weeds, with my hands sunk into the rich dirt, I thought about all those who were here, in the Galilee, long ago. People in biblical times. What were they growing? This was a lush country abundant with dates, grapes, olives, barley, wheat, pomegranates, figs, spices, herbs, and vegetables. Did they, too battle with hungry snails at night and powdery mildew on their vines? Were they aware that in a few years they would also be battling Babylonians or Greeks, Syrians and Romans? Who planted on this land after that? Did it lay fallow during the expulsion of the Jews from the Holy Land in 70AD? I know our area was trod upon by Byzantines. In this town there are remnants of that early 300’s – 600’s civilization on every hilltop. Then came the Mamelukes, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the wandering Bedouin. Mark Twain traveled through this country in the late 1800’s describing it as a vast and arid wasteland, full of rocks and good for nothing. Barely a tree for shade. It lay like this until the early 1900s when Jewish pioneers from Russia and other parts of Europe returned to their ancient and ancestral homeland. They cleared rocks, drained swamps, succumbed to malaria and other disease, defended themselves from marauding Bedouins and tribal chiefs and their bands of men seeking plunder. They diverted streams, planted trees, irrigated the land and sowed crops. They waited for the earth to become fruitful once again. And it has. Today, I am planting.

The other day I heard Rolling Stone put out their list of the top 200 singers of all time. Checking it out, I was shocked to see Israeli singer, Ofra Haza, of blessed memory, was there. I used to listen to her music in the 1970s. It was a time when much of the music here was about the love of this land – its natural beauty. It was about the people living in the land. Songs of thanksgiving and wonder. Working in the soil, even if it was in raised planters, I began to feel that connection with the past as I listened to those songs once again. The lyrics were about dependence on G-d, of the privilege of being alive at this time despite all history has dealt, living and planting in the ancient and ancestral homeland after 2000 years. They are songs of hope above all else.

And then BANG! It happened! I started this blogpost a week ago, and had hoped to put in a recipe or two, proof and post. But my husband took a turn for the worse with an intestinal obstruction. I rushed him back to Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. John is currently under observation awaiting surgery as soon as his doctor returns from the States next week. The good news is that the cancer doesn’t seem to have returned. The operation isn’t an easy one and healing process will be long, so field tripping is out for a few months. In the meantime, I have a few left over from last year to share with you. Also look forward to some really interesting and culturally diverse recipes. Plus, there are a few people I’d like you to meet and a few fascinating subjects onto write about. So stay tuned. Wish me luck on cultivating those recently planted seedlings. And prayers for John for a complete and speedy recovery or as we say in Hebrew: refuah shleyMAH.

Let the Cooking Begin! Chanukah Edition

Hanukkah. Hanukka. Chanukah. Chanuka. Chanukkah. Whatever. The holidays are upon us. And for many of my readers that means Advent, Christmas, New Years and Kwanzaa, Kwanza, Kwaanza, Whatever. Let the celebrations: the telling of the story, the decorating, the cooking, the presents and the feasting begin!

We are Americans living abroad. We celebrate American style. Always did. Always will. I love decorating the house seasonally. To make the home warm, inviting, beautiful and fun no matter the occasion is always something I enjoy. And, along with our California neighbors, decorating for Chanukah was no exception. We were not competing with Christmas. It was a festive way of spreading cheer. So when we moved to Israel and put up all the Chanukah decorations (minus the 8 foot Star of David in the front yard made of shiny silver, blue and turquoise Mylar balloons lit by white up lights), our Jewish neighbors thought we were absolutely mishuggeh. Stark raving nuts!! Wow! Those Americans! I don’t care. Now, we have several Israeli friends who stop by just to see the American decorations. I am not worried about assimilation. I know we celebrate the heroism of Mattityahu, Judah, Shimon, Yochanan and the Maccabees who valiantly fought the Greeks, the Seleucids, the Syrians. They faced certain destruction of Israel, their ancestral homeland. They faced annihilation of their religion, Judaism. They saw the defilement of their sacred Temple, yet they fought on to victory. They reclaimed the Temple and saved Judaism. The commemoration of these events are recorded in the books of the Maccabees and in the writings of Josephus. We celebrate this season of Light in the darkness for eight days. Lighting the menorah/chanukiyyah; chanting the blessings; singing great songs that just get better each year; playing games and eating fried foods to remind us of the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days in the Temple.

This year is especially great. When I was back in the States a few weeks ago, all the stores had their holiday wares out. Target had really nice kitchen towels 2/$5!!! Beautiful banners and signs. Window clings. World market had ornaments for Chanukah (OK- so I bought a ton of gorgeous fruit and veggie blown glass ornaments to hang up in the sukkah… can’t we just skip ahead to fall?). Don’t even get me started on HomeGoods, Marshalls and TJMaxx!! Sofa pillows and bathroom towels. PJs for the entire family. They even had Chanukah pet offerings, which I did not get. This time we brought back six full suitcases. Oy to the world-

This year, we’ll try to have over a just a handful of guests: our dear Russian-Israeli neighbors. They are nuts over America and I brought back several goodies for them including the candy they requested. Chanukah jelly-bellies anyone? My old Ulpan teacher and her family. We’ve stayed in touch for years and they’ve become dear friends. Then on Thursday, our son comes home. His university has been on Chanukah break, but he’s been called up for army reserves for most of it. No matter. On Friday three of his school friends are also arriving. They are international students. One is Jewish from Argentina. One is German, and the other American, both Christian. So we’ll be doing a combined Shabbat/Chanukah/Christmas weekend for all to feel included. The more the merrier. (Please, G-d, let my back hold up!!)

Anyway, before we dig into these glorious recipes – I’m just super excited this year! – let me show you some of our table settings past. I use my good blue and white china, which I especially love for the holidays. Before anyone makes any comments about blue and white being dairy plates…I’ve always had this as my good dishes. They are our meat holiday dishes. So, please…. For Chanukah I have my blue tablecloth. At least one Chanukiyyah/Menorah is out as a centerpiece. I use fairy lights, shiny dreidels and gold foil wrapped gelt/coins scattered about. This Shabbat, I’ll combine my white and gold dishes with the blue for a more festive feel.

Last week I sent John to the store to get a few things. One item on the list was fresh ginger. He returned with this:

O.K. I can’t blame him. It does look like ginger. But what the heck are these knobby things? Turns out they are Jerusalem artichokes, or what we called Sunchokes back in California. Actually here they are called tapuah Yerushalmi, or Jerusalem potatoes. They are not potatoes, and I don’t think they grow in Jerusalem, at least I’ve never seen any in the ground there, but…what to do with them???? I can’t believe I actually came up with this recipe, but it was the best, silkiest, richest, most decadent soup!!!! Please, try this one sometime this winter. You must. You won’t regret it. It’s dairy, but you can use plant-based milk if you want to keep it vegan. We always have one complete dairy day during Chanukah to commemorate the heroine, Judith. She vanquished the Seleucid army by plying their general, Holofernes, with warm milk, honey, cheese and wine until he fell into a stupor. Then she cut off his head. When the army saw her come out of his tent holding the head of their top general, they all fled. (Did you know that after the Madonna paintings this is the most widely represented piece of art in both sculpture and oil painting? Botticelli, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Donatello, Artemesia Gentilleschi and Gustav Klimt to name but a few). Now for the recipe:

Jerusalem Artichoke & Chestnut Soup

Ingredients :

  • 1 leek, sliced thinly, white part only
  • 3 medium white or yellow carrots, peeled, cut in chunks
  • 4 cups sunchokes, peeled & cut into chunks
  • 2 cups (4 100gram pre-packaged) roasted chestnuts
  • 5 cups water or veggie broth
  • 2 veggie boullion cubes, if not using broth
  • 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 large sprig (5-7 leaves) fresh sage, plus some for garnish
  • Sea salt, pepper
  • 1 cup milk or half and half (can use Rich’s large milk or cream substitute or plant milk)

Sauté leek slices in bottom of heavy pot. When translucent, add veggie chunks and water or vegetable stock, herbs, and spices. Bring to a gentle boil, then let simmer about 30 minutes or until vegetables become tender. Blend thoroughly with an immersion blender until the consistency is silky smooth. It will be on the thick side. Add the milk or milk substitute. Serve hot with a garnish of chestnuts and a sprig or two of rosemary or sage.

Yes, I shall serve the French brisket and techineh cookies from my last blogpost on the last night of Chanukah, which is also Christmas. Hans and James, you will be well taken care of. Friday night Shabbat, we will have turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and sweet potato latkes. I’ll do regular potato latkes and applesauce on Sunday. But as an appetizer for both evenings, I shall serve these amazing Levantine meatballs with Whisky Fig Old Fashions as a cocktail. I’m calling them Levantine because they have claim not just by the Israeli, but also the Lebanese or Moroccan or Persian or Syrian. In any case, they are decidedly Middle Eastern and incredibly delicious – and easy to make. You can serve them as a main dish over rice with a green vegetable on the side. I will give each guest a small plate of four meatballs with toothpicks to enjoy before the festive meal gets underway.

Levantine Meatballs with Pomegranate Glaze

  • makes 30 ping-pong sized meatballs


For the meatballs-

  • Large red/purple onion peeled and chopped fine, reserving 1/4 cup for glaze
  • 1 pound ground lamb (if you can’t find lamb, substitute beef, but seriously try to get lamb)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander, ground
  • 1 1/2 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat (burgil)

For the glaze-

  • 1/4 cup red/purple onion, reserved from above
  • 1 cup pomegranate syrup (found in MidEast stores) or pomegranate concentrate
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp baharat (mixture of allspice, cumin, black pepper, ground cloves, salt, ground cinnamon)

The first thing is to cook the glaze while all else is getting ready. In a small saucepan, add in all above ingredients for glaze. Heat over medium heat until just before a boil sets in. Then turn down heat to low and simmer while meatballs are prepared. The volume of the sauce will be reduced.

Place uncooked bulgur in a medium bowl. Pour about 1cup (or a little more) boiling water over top and let sit. In a large bowl, combine ground lamb, onion, chopped herbs, eggs and spices. When bulgur has puffed up and absorbed the liquid, drain well with a colander. Add grain to meat mixture and mush together all the ingredients with your hands. In a large skillet, heat up a bit of olive oil until hot and shimmery. Form meat into ping pong sized balls and add to skillet. Brown meatballs on all sides. Transfer to a baking dish. Pour reserved pomegranate glaze over top. Finish cooking by baking 20 minutes in a 350*F/170*C oven. To serve, pour a bit of the glaze over meatballs and garnish with pomegranate arils and mint leaves.

My last recipe can be served as a hearty lunch or as a side dish. It’s pareveh, which in Kosher talk means it’s neither meat or dairy: it’s a neutral food that can be served with everything. It, too, uses bulgur, which really is a staple food here. I figure, why leave you with an open bag of bulgur, which you might not use up, so here’s another healthy, hearty dish (served cold or at room temperature). And yes, I brought back 3 bottles of Brianna’s dressing with me. Go figure-

Harvest Bulgur Salad


  • 1 cup uncooked bulgar wheat
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 medium orange sweet potato
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 avocado, medium ripe, diced
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 2 red gala apples, diced
  • 1/3 cup Brianna’s Blush Wine vinaigrette dressing (or recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400*F/200*C. Bake the sweet potato until just tender (20-30 minutes depending on size). Don’t overtake! In large bowl, pour boiling water over bulgur. Let stand about 30 minutes to puff up and absorb the water. Drain very well using a large colander. Transfer bulgur to large bowl. Peel and diced baked sweet potato. Add in chopped onion, avocado, apple and sweet potato cubes. Add in dried fruit. Mix gently just to combine. Toss with Brianna’s dressing or with dressing recipe given below.

Vinaigrette: mix well following ingredients-

  • 1/3 cup sunflower or canola (or avocado or pumpkinseed oil)
  • 1/4 cup sweet blush or white wine
  • 1/4 cup champagne or white wine or forest fruit vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • juice of 1/4 onion (hack: use a garlic press to squeeze out onion juice!) and reserved pulp

Combine above ingredients. Using funnel, pour into nice bottle. Cap. Shake well before using.

And to all my readers out there in Blogland-

Welcoming the Light

Almost three months of travel!! We went to England (at the time of the Queen’s funeral) which was indescribably lovely. The occasion: to meet my daughter’s fiancé – who is every bit the quintessential Victorian gentleman – and his family. We fell in love with them all!! So much fun touring the Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire areas. Then my husband and I toured the Lake District of Northwest England, home to Wordsworth, Coleridge, Beatrix Potter, Charlotte Mason, standing stones, and the natural beauty of mountains and lakes just as the leaves were beginning to turn: it was a dream! Our son met us and it was on to Scotland with its castles, whiskey distilleries and highlands. We visited friends in the Highlands, toured Pluscarden Abbey and the Highland Heritage Center (Outlander!) and learned so much about the history and culture of the Scots. Later that month, our daughter got married in St Andrews, Scotland. We were amazed at the family and friends who came from California, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia & Maryland, Italy, France and Israel. I’m sure I left people out. The wedding itself was the most holy, meaningful, thoughtful ceremony with gorgeous music provided by Tristan’s sister, a trumpet player with the London Phil and my daughter, an opera singer. And the reception was nothing less than an outpouring of love with everyone in attendance helping put it all together the day before and during…. I’ve never experienced such a coming together of friends and families from both sides.

After the wedding, we flew to Los Angeles to welcome our oldest daughter’s newborn baby into our family. The latest little blessing was named after my father and is the easiest, best baby I’ve ever seen. My husband and I were blessed to be able to take him overnight for over a week, and it was pure joy and love. It was hard to give him back. We visited our other daughter north of LA and stayed with a couple super fun grandkids while my daughter and her husband were at work. It was warm enough for my husband to take them swimming, and we watched them, too, for a week. Super fun. We now know every Superhero in the Marvel Universe and can sing Baby Shark in our sleep. On to Seattle to visit our youngest daughter and her wonderful family. Heavy frost on the ground each morning and a brilliant display of color as G-d’s majesty was on full display made for glorious walks with our other granddaughter. The last couple weeks was spent relaxing on a small island off the coast of Northern Florida visiting my husband’s 95 year old father and the Dunbar Clan there. Family, food and football marked our American Thanksgiving in the States.

Unfortunately, my back started to give out again in Los Angeles, limiting our visit to just family in our hotel room. Next time we shall see our friends in California. It finally gave up the ghost in Florida and the 12 hour flight back to Israel was intense to say the least. It’s interesting that we usually have no problem traveling in Europe or America on our Israeli passports or telling people where we are from. There’s so much antiSemitism now and anti-Israel bias that we used our U.S. passports exclusively and told people we were form Los Angeles. Not a lie, but…. How sad is it that there is so much division, mistrust, and baseless hatred in the States currently!!! I’ve never experienced anything like it before. And that it a topic I shall cover in my next blogpost after the holidays – but for now let’s celebrate!!!

It’s holiday time in Israel again, and this year the days are concurrent on the calendar as we welcome the Season of Light in the Holy Land. During the darkest point the of the year, it’s a time of great rejoicing and light. The Jewish people are celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Greco-Syrians in 150 BCE and of the Rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which had been defiled. There was only one small cruze of oil found to light the giant menorah. Only enough to last one day. The first major supply chain shortage. To bring the pure olive oil from the Galilee to Jerusalem would take a week. Miraculously, that little bit of oil lasted eight full days until more oil could be had. Therefore, the celebration of Chanukah lasts eight days and nights. We light our chanukkiahs, our nine- branched menorahs, eat fried foods and jelly-filled donuts, sing songs, play dreidels, spinning tops, and have fun.

Northern Israel is where the majority of the Christians live. Most are Maronite Catholics. The Aramaeans who dwelled in the Galilee region alongside the Jews, and with many Jews in that area, followed Jesus as their Messiah two thousand years ago. They became the first Christians. There are also Greek Orthodox and Byzantine rite Catholics up here. Today, they are full Israeli citizens with all the rights and privileges that offers (except they serve in the army only voluntarily and are exempt from property taxes). The Christian towns of Fassuta and Ma’Ilya and the city of Nazareth are all lit up with Christmas trees and decorations. Christmas markets have just become a thing. And tourism to the area is growing as many of the more secular Jewish population are drawn to the celebrations.

These Christian families are celebrating the birthday of the One who proclaimed to be the Light of the World. As a Jew living in the HolyLand (home to Christians as well as Jews), Jesus was worshipping and celebrating Chanukah at the Temple Mount in the gospel of John. So, in light of unity, we celebrate a common ancestry with each of our Festivals of Light. The Christians here commemorate Christmas differently from Europe or America. Many erect huge nativity scenes in the living rooms of their homes or apartments. Sometimes, they move out much of the furniture, spending much of the Advent weeks building rocks and deserts, inns and villages in miniature with a crèche or manger scene as the focal point. From the midst, the Christmas tree (a more modern tradition) rises.

We have Lebanese Christian friends in Tiberias. Paula makes many varieties of cookies, cakes, puddings and sweets for Christmas. (Their apartment is the above middle photo. You can see the elaborate scene they made – and if you can look out the windows, you will see a magnificent view of the Sea of Galilee at night). My favorite cookies, which are actually kosher, dairy, are the techineh and rose water balls. Melt in your mouth delicious. One bowl. They can’t be easier to put together. I’m making a batch now and can’t wait until they come out of the oven. These cookies freeze well, so I’ll be sure to have them around when my son and his friends come home for Chanukah.

Techineh (tahini) Rose Cookies

(Makes about 50-60 cookies)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup techineh (tahini)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tsp rose water (found in large supers or MidEast stores)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • optional: sesame seeds, dried rose petals (MidEast markets sell them)

Preheat oven to 150*C/3255*F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with you hand until the dough sticks together nicely. Form into balls a little smaller than a ping pong ball – about the size of a large walnut. You can roll some in sesame seeds at this point. Space on parchment or slip at lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. C when they come out of oven, you can gently decorate with pieces of rose petals, dried, organic. Or dust with powdered sugar, sanding sugar or leave plain.

The next recipe is from Lily Cohen. Lily moved here with her husband and three children from just north of Paris about two years ago. They are fairly secular Jews living in Herzliya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Even though the boys, ages 9 and 11, do not wear a kippah (yarmulke), they were constantly getting bullied in school because of their name. Etienne was on his way home, when he was beaten up by a throng of other boys, kicked numerous times, pelted with stones. The family decided it was time to leave. Daniel, the father, was a fairly respected university professor, and he, too, was feeling the effects of antiSemitism. Now the family is thriving. My son was invited to dinner at their house and called me absolutely RAVING about Madame Cohen’s delicious brisket. I have always made my brisket smothered in onions and a tomato sauce. Very heavy. This is a much lighter, dare I say, French version. I will definitely serve this for Chanukah this year. Can’t wait!!! It’s become my new favorite way to make a brisket.

Lily Cohen’s French Brisket Au Jus


  • 1 4 pound (2kg) brisket
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup white Zinfandel wine (or white grape juice)
  • 1/3 cup strong Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 7-9 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 10-12 mushrooms, sliced medium fine
  • Sear brisket in skillet over high heat on all sides until browned. Sauté shallots and mushrooms in leftover brisket drippings, adding a little oil if needed. In large bowl, stir Dijon into broth incorporating well. Transfer meat to a Dutch oven or baking pot. Pour mustard broth over. Add in wine or grape juice and seasonings. Cook, covered, at 325*F/150*C and bake 25 minutes per pound (50 minutes a kilo). Add in shallots and mushrooms over top in last 15 minutes. The natural gravy is fantastic over the brisket or rice. I’ll be pouring mine over potato latkes.

No matter what feast you will be celebrating, I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful one. Thank you for your continued readership and I shall see you in 2023.

Holiday Food

Where did the summer go? It’s still pretty warm here in the MidEast upper 30*sC/90*sF and now the humidity from the Mediterranean has kicked in making for balmy (sounds more romantic than miserably sticky) nights. We’re headed off to the UK for cooler climes and my daughter’s wedding to the most wonderful English gentleman! Then it’s off to the States to meet our new grandbaby and visit family for a little bit… so I’ve prewritten and scheduled some posts for when I’m gone. In the meantime-

Last week I had to drive my son up to his old base in the Golan Heights because he had reserve duty. Men and women are called up twice a year for a week or two to retrain and fill in spots as needed. This happens until they are in their 40s, depending on the unit. It’s a necessary part of defense here: one needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice in case of emergency.

Anyway, I love the drive into the Golan. It’s so wild and pristine and gorgeous up there. Free roaming Angus cattle. Fruit orchards. Horses and cowboys. Tanks and soldiers in training. Mountains. Open space. Military bases. Crusader fortresses and Biblical ruins. Druze men roadside selling carob and date honey, apples, olives, and other local delicacies. I could tell it was the end of summer and only a few weeks until the Jewish New Year and fall festivals because…. Pomegranates!! Apples!! The trees were heavy with fruit and the orchards open to pickers. So I just HAD to. Pick. Waaaay too much, but the prices were so cheap! Like $0.60/pound or 4NIS/kg.

Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year is celebrated both religiously and culturally. To represent the sweetness of the year, we eat apples dipped in honey. We eat apple cakes, apple fritters, apple noodle casseroles (kugels), apple salads. You get the idea.

So I came home with my boxes and boxes and immediately set to work. I wanted to do things I could preserve or freeze for when we get back from our trip. So, here are two of my creations: Apple Butter and Apple Lukshen Kugel. Enjoy!


The apple butter works great with cream cheese and peanut butter on bread. Or just plain bread. Or stirred into oatmeal on a cold winter day.


  • 5 pounds (2.5 kg) apples, unpeeled, washed and cut into chunks
  • 4 TBSP apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, whiskey or brandy (optional)

Place all the above ingredients into a large pot and cook uncovered over medium heat. Stir occasionally. In about an hour the apples will have become very soft. Blend thoroughly using an immersion blender. Reduce the apple butter to lowest flame. In a separate pot, boil Mason jars (I use 1/2 pint jars) and lids (not screw-top bands) for 20 minutes to sterilize. Ladle the hot apple butter into the hot empty jars. Place lid on top. Then screw on the sealing ring band. You should get 7-8 jars per batch. Submerge filled jars in a hot water bath (not boiling- just a simmer) for 20 minutes. Remove jars and let cool. Keeps up to 1 year in dark pantry. Refrigerate after opening.


This is THE quintessential dairy comfort food for Ashkenazi Jews. You can eat it hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. It’s a main dish. it’s a side dish. It’s a dessert. But ask 5 Jewish mommas how they make it and what you’ll get is a headache: raisins or no raisins? Apples, pineapple, dried fruit or plain? Streusel crust, cornflake crust or plain? And then there’s the spices….oy vey! Is it a crime to use ginger and nutmeg or do we just tick to cinnamon? Full fat or low-fat. Everyone has their own opinion….and of course, mine is the best (wink wink). The best thing about it is that if you make a big batch, it freezes and defrosts incredibly well, so I do 3-4 at a time (and have a kugel to send back with the university kid).

This recipe makes 1 9X12 inch (23X30cm) baking dish which cuts to 12 generous pieces.


  • 1 12 ounce package extra wide egg noodles
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 4 ounces (114 grams) cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I prefer coconut sugar)
  • 6 TBSP butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 small apples, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cornflakes

Boil noodles in salted, boiling water for no longer than six minutes. They should be al dente, not mushy. Drain noodles and rinse well. Return the noodles to the pot along with 3 TBSP of the butter. keep heat on low flame just to melt the butter. Stir noodles until coated. Preheat oven to 350*F/170*C. Grease the Pyrex baking dish. In a very large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add in eggs, sour cream or yogurt, cottage cheese, spices and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Fold in noodles, then raisins and apple slices. Pour into prepared baking dish. In separate bowl, lightly crush the cornflakes. Add 3 TBSP melted butter, 1/4 cup (coconut) sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Mix well and spoon over noodle pudding. Bake for about an hour or until the kugel is firm and crispy on the top. A cake tester should come out clean- Delicious!

I’d now like to introduce you to a very special young lady. Batya Deltoff is 16 years old. We became friends with the Deltoff family because we moved to Israel around the same time and the Deltoff kids played Little League baseball on my husband’s team. That was over 7 years ago. Batya is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This straight-A student hopes to be a anesthesiologist one day, but until then she’s happy to hang with her girlfriends. And cook. Cooking is her creative outlet. She has this intuitive sense of what goes with what and is both experimental and fearless. Ethnic foods from Asian to Middle Eastern specialties are the most exciting for Batya to prepare. And she doesn’t use a recipe! It’s all done from memory of what she’s eaten and enjoyed and from taste. She cooks regularly for her parents and 3 siblings – “but they pay the fee of cleaning up after me,” she jokes. I had the good fortune of watching her and cleaning up after her last week.

This recipe has Iraqi origins and is called Kubbe. It’s a hearty soup or stew and can be eaten by itself as an appetizer or meal or served over couscous. The kubbe makes a huge pot and it freezes well. Man, is this delicious. perfect for the holidays, especially the cooler nights of Sukkot.

To me Batya’s Kubbe tasted like a hybrid Jewish-Mexican style borscht. It has lovely vegetable chunks in a tomato-beet broth. Then there are these dumplings that look just like matzah balls. One bite into the balls gives a meaty taste explosion because they are stuffed with a magnificent ground meat mixture. It’s delish and healthy and oh-so-satisfying. I was worried that it would be too spicy for me, but the range of spices complement the soup. And you can always add sriracha or Tabasco for added heat.



  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 3 large carrots, peeled
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 large cabbage or 1 small cabbage
  • 4 medium roasted, peeled beets or 1 large prepackaged cooked beets
  • 2 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for oiling hands
  • 200 grams canned chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tsp cumin
  • 2 squeezed lemons, pips removed
  • 1 TBSP slat
  • 1 TBSP sugar


  • 1.5 lb ground beef (3/4 kg)
  • 2 TBSP sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 onion, minced fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ginger


  • 3 cups white semolina
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups very warm water

Peel and cut carrot and potatoes into bite sized chunks. Slice cabbage. Peel onion. Reserve 1/4 onion, and cut the rest into bite sized pieces. In a large stock pot, heat up the olive oil and when shimmery add the above veggies. Cook over medium heat to soften. Add in the cooked beets, also cut into bite size cubes. Pour in the canned tomatoes with the juice. Add enough water to completely cover the veggies (about 6 cups). Stir in the spices. Let come to a boil, then after 3 minutes, turn the flame down to medium low. Begin the dough: in a large mixing bowl, add the semolina and salt. Mix to incorporate. Add in 1 1/2 cups of very warm water, stirring as you go. Let sit for about 10 minutes. It will set up to be a granular gooey paste. To make the meatballs: in another large bowl add the ground beef, onion, garlic and spices. Mix well.

To make the Kubbe balls, oil your hands and a ladle well with olive oil. Pinch a golf-ball sized piece of dough and flatten in the palm of your hand, making special care to flatten out the edges. Place a nice ball of the ground meat mixture in the center of the dough (in your hand). Pull the ends of the dough up to cover, and pinch off the ball at the top, completely surrounding the meat. Make sure there are no holes. Place kubbe in a greased ladle and lower it down into the hot soup. Continue for the rest of the balls. You can also put in plain meatballs without the dumpling coat. See photos-

Let the soup come back to a slow boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Let cook about an hour on low. This is best eaten the next day, and makes a great Shabbat lunch.

If you are keeping Kosher, serve it with a generous dollop of Tofutti imitation sour cream. If you are not worried about Kosher status, sour cream is a great add for the top.