Making the Connection

IMG_0862The United States today is facing a time of the erasure of its history; “cultural misappropriation” and confusion; fractioned families; identity confusion. Colleges and universities have been taken over by waves of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and Boycott, Divest and Sanction programs against Israel. There has been an ongoing bias in the UN and in the media against Israel.  Also, there has been a growing shift towards secularism and away from any and all religion. How then to connect the Jewish young adult to his/her heritage? How does one foster a connection to Judaism, to the land of Israel, to awaken a dormant spirituality, to create a sense of heritage, belonging, and identity?

Aaron Botzer, who immigrated to Israel in the late 1970s has done exactly that. From humble beginnings in the scenic mountain town of ancient Tsfat in the Upper Galilee, Aaron has cobbled together an amazing program for Jewish young adults. Livnot U’Lehibanot, Build and Be Built, is a program like no other in Israel. It is a holistic, physically and spiritually challenging Jewish experience that connects the participants to their heritage and community in an open environment. Combining hiking through the beautiful countryside while learning about the history, the land, the ecological balance, and the flora and fauna is only one experience to feed the soul. Through nature, hands-on experiences, seminars, connection to the local community, field trips, and unique cultural opportunities, the soul is elevated and can make connections not otherwise drawn.

Situated in the mystical city of old Tsfat, which is literally built atop layers and layers of history provides another advantage. Not only are the youth able to enjoy the artsy and spiritual vibes of this unique place, but the Livnot Center itself, is built on a most amazing archaeological site, the Kahal. Located on a 700 square meter site, in the heart of Tsfat’s ancient, Jewish quarter, are underground stone passageways and tunnels leading to rooms, structures, ritual bathing pools (mikvaot), synagogues, and homes from the 16th century, Tsfat’s Golden Age. The participants in this program spend time actually working on the ongoing excavations and renovations of the site. It provides a unique hands-on opportunity to connect with the past as well as to enjoy all that it offers in the present. There is a large communal hall that has been unearthed and restored. It contains wood-burning ovens from the 1500s, where today, pizza is made and challah is baked. The carved-out stone seating area along the walls of this spacious stone room is lined with richly colored Middle Eastern pillows and cushions – a perfect place for seminars, musical concerts and just hanging out.

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Livnot U’Lehibanot is not only concerned with the past, but community service programs and opportunities to volunteer within the local communities provide a link to present-day Israel. There are seminars and group discussions led by leading experts in different fields. Also, there are interactive workshops, in art and music, challah making, cooking, folk dance, ecology and sustainability, and spirituality. Fantastically fun and spirit-filled Shabbat celebrations are another highlight of the program. There are classes in leadership training as well, as the future leaders of society make up the different groups.

This life-changing program is not affiliated with any particular denomination of Judaism, which is very unique here in Israel. The philosophy behind this is that all denominations have the ability to influence one another for the good of all. There is no pressure on the youth to go one way or another, just to enjoy and grow from the experience. There are many different paths of Jewish spirituality that vary from individual to individual. It is quite open-minded in its holistic approach, which helps bridge many gaps. Ultimately, to form a bond with the Almighty, with Judaism, and with the land of Israel is the ultimate goal. Here, the young adult will meet many different people from all over the world – not just the States, but Europe, South Africa, Canada, Australia and South America. Trained mentors oversee the activities in a safe and fun environment.

The Livnot programs consist of short term 1 week, 2 weeks, and 6 weeks intensives. Each group consists of no more than 24 youth. The intensives are highly subsidized by generous patrons, making it very affordable indeed (a full week including room and board is only $195/ a six week course runs $500). It is perfect for the person who has made a Birthright trip and wants something more – to take that adventure to a higher level.  There are winter programs, running from December through February; summer programs from May through August; and special holiday programs. Perfect for the university student as well as the post graduate, who is looking for a different kind of spiritual experience. To date, over 1000 alumni of Livnot have completed the program and have gone on to become active young professionals and lay leaders in their own communities back home.

“In retrospect, there has probably been no single life experience                     that has had such a profound effect on my life. I was able to discover what a gold mine was out there for Jewish souls. Shabbat evening, with its candles and sensual setting, was a profound experience of peace and belonging, connection and fulfillment. My life has been forever transformed.”   Avi R., Program T25

” I am reminded of how one week in Tsfat set me on the path of personal legacy. Livnot has been the catalyst of my Jewish journey…my program showed me that being Jewish isn’t about scrambling to save people from being washed out by modern society, but rather that we are privileged to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We are connected to a thriving, growing family and culture that is infused with thousands of years of spirituality and wisdom.”  Abigail C., Program 256

“Life altering is an understatement!”   David B., Program 126

For more information, as a potential participant, or to donate – contact www.livnot.org

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Recipes & Ideas for the Fall Feasts

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It’s a few days after the observance of Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year – and I’m finally beginning to catch my breath. John & I had just returned from two weeks in Europe, and I was having five extra guests plus my son (on army leave) over for dinner. I wanted a really pretty table and menu with a minimum amount of hardship. Plus, we would be celebrating a traditional New Year Seder here in Israel.

For the centerpiece, I used my Rosh HaShannah seder plate which I got at Shalom House in Tarzana, California. Underneath I laid (silk) fall leaves with grapes and chestnuts (I picked off the ground in Geneva & will cook later) surrounding the plate. I decided to use my autumn colors tablecloth so I didn’t have to iron my good white damask one. Gold trimmed placemats, my autumn (meat dishes) china, and we were almost good to go. Hollowing out a few tiny acorn squash and inserting a tea light in each one was inexpensive, easy, and really lovely.  I put a hostess sized Tamar Gourmet Preserves or Chutney at each of the guests’ plates.

Now for the traditional foods and their meanings: the Seder Plate contains nine symbolic items, each associated with a blessing. The first is a pomegranate. I discussed the symbolism of the pomegranate in my last blog post. May the 613 arils remind us of the commandments in the Torah, so we  can have a holy year. Scallions or leeks are used to remind us of the whips of taskmasters and oppressors. May we never come under the rule of oppressive dictators and Pharaohs again. Amen! A gourd: may our good deeds in the coming year be as numerous as seeds of the pumpkin. The head of a fish (I use a paper one) so that we may always be the head and not the tail in the year ahead. A beet or carrot. Some of the words in Hebrew form the meanings or word play for the symbolism. They just don’t translate into English well. Also, each community has their own tradition – go with me on these. The beet (or carrot). May G-d in His mercy keep our enemies far away from us. A double Amen as we live in a very uncertain world these days. Black eyed peas: a few traditions on this food. One is that our enemies will be turned back; another is that the eyes of G-d, the angels and holy ones watch over us to guard us and guide us throughout the year. Dates. I discussed the significance of the date palm (tamar) last post, but may we bend under troubles and not break, as other less supple trees during storms.

I really love these sticky, sweet fruits for so many reasons. As an object lesson, think on the date palm. They bend: they give when pressure is applied. When an intense wind storm hits, they drop their fruits. I like to think of myself as being especially fruitful during a hard situation. Yes, sometimes I lash out and can be pretty miserable; but like the date palm, that’s when I want to be spreading the most help, the most cheer, the most optimism to others. Going with the flow, accepting what I have no control over, and being as positive as possible.

The next food, perhaps the most famous combo associated with Rosh HaShannah is apples and honey. May we have a sweet year. A year of health!!! A year of joy!!! A holy year. A year of prosperity. A year of peace!!! And lastly, the wine and the challah. From Rosh HaShannah through Simchat Torah we use a round bread, not the traditional braided one. The roundness is to remind us of many things – the cycle of the year and the cycle of life. The fact that G-d has no beginning or end. He was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Also, the rounded loaf looks like a crown. During this season we crown Him King of our Lives.

I love the new round challah cover I just bought for the holidays in Budapest last week. It was made by a 93 year old woman who somehow survived during the Holocaust and now works at the Dohany St. Synagogue. She’s a lively, chatty old soul – but has had to slow down over the years due to her failing eyesight. She now uses a machine instead of sewing by hand, but either way, this is a beautiful piece I’ll treasure always. It says in Hebrew “Sabbath Peace and Holiday Happiness.”

During, the holidays, I try to keep to a healthy diet, using as many of the fall fruits and veggies – Israel’s Seven Species, and incorporating as many of the symbolic foods as possible. Because there is so much cooking this time of year, I also try to make things as simple as possible. Hope you can try a few of these as well during your fall feasts.

BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD, ITALIAN STYLE                      parve, serves 8

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked black-eyed peas or 1 large package frozen peas
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 large stalk celery (or 6 tiny Israeli stalks)
  • 6 large scallions (green onions)
  • 1 small bunch flat, Italian parsley, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  •  Italian dressing (I make my own using 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 1/4; 4 cloves smashed garlic; 1 tsp oregano; 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper; 1 tsp sea salt)

Soak the dried peas overnight, covering with boiling water. Drain, rinse, then cook in salted boiling water 15 minutes. Let simmer for 1-2 hours or until softened. Drain & rinse well. Drain again.                                        You can save yourself all the extra trouble by using defrosted frozen or drained & rinsed canned black eyed peas, if available.  Place peas in a large bowl. Cut up veggies into a small dice. Add to bowl. Pour the Italian dressing over top. Before serving, mix in the minced parsley leaves. Garnish with parsley leaf and the top of a pepper. Refrigerates and keeps well for leftovers. Can be served as a hearty salad lunch or as a side with either meat or dairy. Protein packed!!!

HARVEST QUINOA SALAD                                         parve   serves 6-8

I love quinoa. It’s gluten free and great for special needs diets; so versatile and easy to prepare!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked, fluffed quinoa (cook according to package directions)
  • 1/3 cup dried sweet pitted cherries
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1’4 cup sliced almond pieces
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash or pumpkin cubes
  • 1/2 cup dressing (if in US, Brianna’s Blush Wine Vinaigrette is amazing!!!!! If not, recipe follows…

Cook the quinoa according to package directions to yield 2 cups. Fluff and set aside to cool in large bowl. Halve and de-seed a butternut squash or small pumpkin. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. In  220*C/450 *F oven, roast the gourd for about 15-20 minutes until tender. Let cool. Add dried fruits, sliced scallions and almonds to quinoa. Mix gently to incorporate. Cube the flesh of the squash/pumpkin into small bite sized chunks and add to quinoa bowl. Mix gently. Pour dressing over top, and mix in. Can be served room temp or refrigerated. This makes tasty leftovers – if there are any!!!

Dressing: Blend well-

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup blush or rose wine
  • 2 Tbsp red onion juice (I use my garlic squeezer to juice my onion) and remaining pulp
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger juice (squeeze fresh) – optional
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg -optional

 

              ROASTED FIGS ON BABY GREENS                    parve      serves 6

Another easy one, that is raving delicious! I cook the figs with all the other items I’m roasting that day, running the oven only once….

On a foil-lined cookie sheet, halve washed figs. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil, salt & pepper. You can also add a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar, but only if it’s sweet (3-5 coins on packaging). Roast at 220*C/450*F oven for 10 minutes.  In large bowl, put pre-washed mesclun or baby green salad mix. Lay the roasted figs on top SAVE THE JUICE!!!!!! Add a few thinly sliced purple onions to the top, and sprinkle on some candied pecans.

Dressing: pour the reserved fig juice into a small bowl. Add a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper. Squeeze in 2 Tbsp onion juice (I use my garlic press) and pulp. Blend well & pour over salad just prior to serving.

SHOESTRING VEGGIES SALAD

This is also quick and easy. It’s very colorful and oh so good for you. Can be served at any meal. The veggies can be bought pre-prepared and mixed or you can run the fresh veggies through a food processor. I use my mandoline slicer –

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  • 3 medium red beets, peeled, raw, and julienned
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, raw, julienned
  • 1 large kohlrabi or jicama, peeled, raw, juilienned
  • 1/3 cup Brianna’s Blush Wine Salad Dressing if in the US. If not see recipe for the dressing above in the Quinoa Salad.

Enjoy, my friends. I hope your Fall Feasts are sweet – filled with family, friends, good food & good music. And in this holy season of introspection before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atoning:

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The Seven Species

“For the Lord, your G-d, is bringing your into a good country, a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up in the hills and valleys; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, of olive trees and (date) honey; a land where you will always have bread and lack nothing.”                                         (D’Varim)Deuteronomy 8:8

 

I absolutely love this Scripture!! It is so true!! Israel is exactly as this is described – from the warm springs of Park HaMayanot/Sachne and Tiberias to the cold waterfalls of Banias and Ein Gedi. So beautiful! And the area around our town in the Galilee is surrounded by grove sand groves and groves of olive trees and pomegranates, ripe for the picking! And the figs…don’t even get me started!!! There are seven species of plants indigenous to Israel, each with their own Biblical and spiritual characteristics. They are fig, date, barley, wheat, pomegranate, grape and olive.

We are fast approaching the Fall Feasts, the Jewish holidays of Rosh HaShonnah (the New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Covering of Sins/Atonement); Sukkot (Tabernacles & Harvest); Shimeni Artzeret (Great Rejoicing); and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah). The stores are all brightly decorated with holiday sales on clothes and home goods. The outdoor markets and grocery stores are full of late summer produce, and I am thinking RECIPES!!!! Today, I’ll incorporate the Seven Species into each recipe, giving the significance of each.

                                    FIGS (Tay’ ah neem)

Did you know that there are over 70 varieties of figs???? Green, brown, red, purple, yellow – small and large. I didn’t until last year when John and I went wild fig picking in the Golan. Israeli figs ripen only at this time of year, late summer, and are best picked at sunrise before the bees come! There are both male and female fig trees, and the buds never open, but go on directly to the fruit. Some species are very seedy, others more fleshy, some are dry, others moist – and a couple varieties are actually poisonous in their alkalinity. Picking these can cause terrible itchy rashes, so we learned to take along gloves and a lemon to rub on our skin afterwards. I use the figs mostly to make my Tamar Gourmet Fig & Port Wine Conserves, but we absolutely devour them roasted on the grill or in the oven!!! They are so succulent, sweet, tender and delicious. Served on top a warm cheese or in a salad – yum!!!

Archaeologists here have unearthed ancient clay pots with pressed, dried figs – 3000 years old!!! They are said to be used to help with constipation, high cholesterol, and warts, and from Biblical times have been written of as a true aphrodisiac. There is a legend that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was actually a fig.  The Hebrew word for fig, te’enah, is very closely related to the word for trouble, ta’anah. This is one kind of temptation that would be totally hard for me to resist!!! Adam & Eve, put fig leaves together to cover their nakedness after their great disobedience. The fig is spiritually symbolic of the virtue of patience because they take so darn long to ripen!!! And the fig tree is often used as a metaphor for Israel. With that said, I present an amazing, and easy to assemble salad-

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CARAMELIZED FIG SALAD (Serves 4.  Pareve or Chalavi)

  • Ingredients:
  • 8-12 ripe figs
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 heads Endive
  • Blue or Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled
  • Candied pecans

2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar (best quality for sweetness)

Wash and quarter the figs, checking thoroughly inside for any unwanted crawlies. Place the quartered figs on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Wrap up well and put on the grill or into a 400*F/220*C oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Vent steam, and let cool. Do NOT throw out juices!!!!

Arrange washed endive leaves on a platter. If dairy meal, sprinkle the blue or gorgonzola crumbles. Lay the cooled roasted figs on top. Sprinkle the pecans onto the salad, and drizzle the fig/oil juice over that. Sparingly drizzle the Balsamic vinegar over top. Amazing!!!

                                 OLIVES (Zay teem’)

Here in the Galilee the olives grow EVERYWHERE!!! Rows and rows! EVERYWHERE!!!!! It is a source of food, wood, cosmetics, light. The olive tree grows in the harshest of environments and lives for centuries!! The listed, gnarled tree and its oil are mentioned a lot in the Scriptures. The dove bringing good news to Noah carried an olive leaf in his beak. It is now the international symbol for peace. Kings and priests were anointed with pure olive oil – as in Tehilleem, (Psalm 133) – ‘Behold how good and pleasant is the dwelling of brothers in unity. Like the precious oil upon the head running down upon the beard of Aaron, running down over his garments, so the dew of Mt. Hermon descends upon the mountains of Zion.‘  Jesus spent his last night on earth in agony in the Garden of Olive Trees in Jerusalem, directly across from the Temple Mount. The symbol of modern-day Israel is a menorah flanked by olive branches (Zechariah 4:2-6). And olive leaves signifying the desire for peace decorate the insignia of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Because next month, I will be participating in the olive harvest, pressing, curing, and making olive oil, I’ll save the recipes for a later date…

                  POMEGRANATES (Ree moe neem’)

Pomegranates!! So beautiful – make great centerpieces!!! So healthy – in this season I drink my fresh squeezed pomegranate & orange juice every day for the antioxidants. Prevalent everywhere here in nature and in art! And so spiritual!!! I have learned to love them even more since I’ve been here.

We used to do homeschool lessons with the pomegranate. The pomegranate has 365 arils or seeds inside. Count them – and there are 365 laws in the Bible. Silver pomegranates adorned the hem of the robe of the High Priest. They were actually tiny tinkling pomegranate bells. The High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur each year to make atonement on behalf of Israel. If he was not perfectly pure, he would die – so a rope was attached to his waist. If the pomegranates stopped tinkling, it was a sign that something went wrong… Josephus Flavius described the oil lamps illuminating the inner colonnade if the Holy Temple. They were in the shape of pomegranates. If you cut the fruit in half across its equator, the Star of David is visible. The top of the fruit has a royal six-pointed crown that also forms a Star of David. The juice stains scarlet red – remember the saving power of the red blood on the lintels of the door of the Israelites escaping the angel of death in Exodus; the red pitch that covered both Noah’s ark and the baby basket of Moses; the scarlet thread that hung from Rahav’s window in Joshua…. lots and lots of meaning there. Especially at Yom Kippur.

So, I present you now with a fabulous great-for-company dish that is borrowed from the Jewish people of Northern Africa. A one-pot wonder, great in a crockpot for Shabbat, easy to make… I adjust the spices way down for my family, so be alert to that. Serve with Israeli Couscous or rice… and bread for sopping up the sauce!

       NORTH AFRICAN CHICKEN STEW (serves 4-6.           Basari, but can omit chicken & sub veg broth for vegetarians)

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 pound (1/2 kg) boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite sized bits
  • 2 cups chickpeas, canned or cooked
  • 1/2 cup dates, cut into slices
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 purple onion, cut into bite sizes
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut bite sized
  • 1 chipotle or ancho chili, minced (can omit if too hot)
  • 4 carrots. peeled and cut up
  • 1 cup broth (chicken or veg)
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice, concentrate
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp Silan (date syrup) or honey
  • 1 juiced lemon plus the zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pistachios

Mix the dry spices together in a small bowl.  Coat the chicken pieces in the spices. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the spiced chicken mixture. Brown on all sides. Set aside. In same pan, heat oil and sauce’ the onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, ginger & chili about 6 minutes. Add chicken back to skillet along with (canned or cooked) chickpeas. Stir in broth and pomegranate juice, honey or silan, and tomato paste. Bring to small boil, then turn way down to simmer until mixture thickens. In crockpot, I set on high 4 hours or low 6-8 hours.

Remove to serving bowl and top with sliced dates, pomegranate arils, pistachios, and fresh cilantro. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top and add a dash of lemon zest as well. Fragrant and intensely flavorful meal!!

          GRAPES (Ah nah veem’)

There is a song I used to love from waaaay back in my childhood. It was an Israeli song about the coming year in Israel. Despite all the hardships faced in the past year, next year was sure to be sweet – peaceful and relaxing. “Od tireh, od tireh, cama tov yee’hee’yeh” – how sweet it will be. We’ll sit on the patio at sunset with a big platter of freshly picked, cold, sweet red grapes. Today, I live the song… of course grapes are made into the sweet, holy Kiddush wine, but I’ve recently tried something new. You MUST try this one!! Easy, yet elegant and bursting with color and flavor! Serve it as a a pareve (neither meat nor dairy) dessert at any meal, or over a warmed brie with crackers. Oh – don’t forget that bottle of wine!!!!

 BAKED GRAPES

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup red, seedless (or concord!!!!) grapes
  • 1 tbsp honey or silan
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp finely minced lavender leaves or rosemary)
  • Sprinkling of freshly ground sea salt

Sooooo easy peasy!!! Just combine all ingredients and dump onto a piece of aluminum foil formed into a well sealed packet. Roast in the oven 220*C/400* F for 10 minutes. Pour over ice cream. Over sponge cake. Over warm goat cheese or Brie. Or just enjoy as is…

WHEAT ( Khee tah’)

Wheat is the absolute staple life. We use it to make bread. According to my friends in the Mystical City of Tsfat, wheat teaches us many spiritual lessons. It represents our ability to change and improve, a great lesson for this holy tie of year. According to Jewish tradition, the word “Adam” has two meanings: taken from the soil (ah dah mah’) – and man (likened to the divine adahmeh l’elyon)created in the image and likeness of G-d. There are two sides of human nature – the pure, the divine, and the sinful. The first side of the soul wishes to contribute to society, to act selflessly out of unconditional love. To love G-d and neighbor. The other side, the sinful nature (yetzer ha rah) is totally selfish, prone to sin. There is always an internal struggle over the two natures. We must learn to live our lives continually dying to self, choosing truth and good and right. Not easy at all. But in dying to ourselves, we produce much fruit. All of our actions are a reflection of our innermost being. What actions do you express?

The next recipe uses cracked wheat in a traditional Israeli cold salad, tabbouleh. With the addition of grilled veggies, and either chicken strips or feta cheese crumbles (not both), this makes a hearty meal. It will be one I serve in our Sukkah in a few weeks, to be sure!

             TABBOULEH WITH A TWIST

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  • Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound  (250 grams)cracked wheat (cook according to package directions)
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh mint
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1 small purple eggplant
  • 2 large zucchinis
  • 1 purple onion.halved along the equator
  • 1 whole garlic
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup feta crumbles (optional)
  • 1 grilled seasoned chicken breast in strips (optional)

Cook cracked wheat according to package directions. Rinse, drain, let cool.

Brush sliced veggies with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill or oven roast until nice and tender (this includes whole unpeeled garlic). I find the grilling method lends an incomparable layer of depth of taste and smokiness.

In large serving bowl, combine the cracked wheat, mint, parsley, 1/4 cup olive oil, squeezed juice from lemon, salt and pepper. Add warm veggies. Squeeze the soft cloves of garlic from their skins. Toss and serve, chilled. If desired, you can dress this up with the addition of either crumbled feta cheese or chicken strips.

   DATES (Tamareem)

I’ve saved the date palm, the Tamar, for last. It is the Hebrew name I was given when I was born. I LOVE my name!!!! Tamar (pronounced Tah mahr’ – NOT Tay’marr!!) I love it’s deep meaning. From Tehillim, the Psalms -number 92: the righteous person will flourish like a date palm. It is a beautiful song we sing at the Shabbat table, and a beautiful dance. I love the image of the date palm, growing strong and stately  in the barren desert land. Tall, thin, graceful, it bends in severe windstorms without breaking from stress like other, heavier trees.

And the fruit it produces is sweet, sticky, like caramel. The honey mentioned in the Scriptures was most likely the syrup extracted from the dates, Silan. At least this is what the archaeologists and anthropologists are now saying. I love to use this product! Very healthy and you only need a little to sweeten.

Date palms have been growing in Israel for thousands of years. Bedouins still feed ground date pits to their old, toothless camels who can no longer chew. The pits are rife with vitamins and nutrients. Fibers from the palm fronds are used to weave baskets and make ropes, mats, even sandals!! The fronds were used to make thatched roofs for houses, to build tabernacles, and to wave in praise of a passing King. Like the fig, the date palm comes in male and female.

Palms are labor intensive to be productive. When Max was in Mechina, he used to prune the sharp fronds in the early spring.

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Fresh baby palm fronds brought home by Max. Soooo Cool in their intricacy!!

The female plant often has to be fertilized by hand with pollen from the male tree to produce fruit. Up and down ladders, all by hand. Because it is fairly salt tolerant, it grows in the desert and especially around the Dead Sea and Gaza areas. It can thrive where few other plants can. In the late summer, nets are cast over the hanging bunches of dates as they ripen. Everything is done by hand. After the sugar cane was brought to Europe by the Crusaders (who ripped up large swaths of Israeli palms and planted sugar cane), the dates & silan waned in popularity. The fresh dates are usually bright yellow or red in color and can be found attached to their stalks in bunches at the shouk. Most people are familiar with the sun-dried dates, brown and plump, glistening with stickiness.

Anyway, we just returned from a vacay in Scotland, where fudge is all the rage. Except it’s not like American fudge. It’s more of a caramel. So I found and made experiments using dates to make this scrumptious treat. It’s a British style fudge, or American style caramel – Israeli style! Easy! No cooking involved!

 DATE CARAMEL FUDGE

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  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dates (Medjoul are the best!!!!), pitted
  • 1/2 cup tahineh (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • Sea salt

In a food processor, or in a bowl using an immersion blender (that’s what I did), combine the PITTED dates, tahineh, oil and vanilla. Blend until a thick, creamy paste is formed. Spread out in a parchment lined baking dish. Press down. Scatter sea salt on top. Put in fridge or freezer until hardened (fridge about 2 hours; freezer about 30-45 minutes). Cut into small, bite-sized squares, which can be wrapped individually in waxed paper.

 

 

 

 

Food, Fall & Feasts

When I lived in California, I always had a big, beautiful and very productive garden in which I grew organic, heirloom vegetables. Our fruit trees provided us with plums, peaches, citrus, cherries and figs. It seemed sensible with five children and one steady income to supplement our grocery bill with healthy, garden-fresh produce. With super abundant yields, I learned home canning and preserving, making sauces, pickles, chutneys and jams to last us into winter. Living in earthquake country, it also seemed wise to have a store of food on hand in the event of emergency. And when I needed holiday or hostess gifts, I used what I had made to create some pretty fabulous gift baskets. There was always enough at hand to give to a new neighbor or friend in need.

Coming to Israel, not only was continuing an organic garden important to me, but making my (award winning in California) lines of preserves, chutneys, relishes and pickles would become my business – Tamar Gourmet. We were so blessed to rent a home with huge concrete planter boxes outside every window and surrounding our upstairs balcony. The first thing I did when we moved here was to plant.

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Herbs grow outside my kitchen window

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Red, Choggia & Golden Beets

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Peach Blow Tomatoes

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Brandywines on the balcony

From the beginning of our Israeli adventure, the realization that there was more to Jewishness than the narrow Ashkenaz (European Jewish) culture than that which I was brought up in. This place is diverse in its mix of Jews from all over the world: the Spanish Sephardim, the Middle Eastern Mizrachi; the Ethiopian, Ugandan and Indian. They have all come here with their own palates creating a taste explosion of spices and food preparation styles, each with their own contribution to this remarkable land. What fun it’s been to get a sampling and learn from the different cultures!!! And for me, experimenting to create a fusion of the different flavors has been challenging, and many times yielding amazing results.

This time of year, late summer, is especially wonderful here, as everyone seems to be preparing for the great Fall Feasts!! From Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year – to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Mercy & Forgiveness – to Sukkot, the Feast of the Harvest where we dwell for a week in tabernacles – to Simchat Torah, the rejoicing over the Five Books of Moses given to the Jewish people by G-d. And each holiday comes with its traditional foods (yes, even Yom Kippur, a fasting day, starts with a heavy meal before and ends in a sumptuous break fast).

I’d like to share with you some recipes incorporating these different cultures and traditions.

                     SWEET PEAR PICKLES                    

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I guess home preserving runs deep in my blood, because I remember my parents making pickled pears every year before Rosh HaShannah. Last year, I was going through some boxes and came across my dad’s recipe! So, I’m glad to be able to continue the family tradition. Totally Ashkenaz!

As my parents did, I use the tiny, brown Sekel pears. They are hard and sweet and stand up well to pickling, retaining their firmness without any mushiness. They keep really well for a year, and are delicious as a side dish or sliced up in a salad with blue cheese crumbles and walnuts. I’ve also used them on top of a cake with my Tamar Gourmet Vanilla Pear Conserves as a filling for the middle layers. Absolute heaven!

 

Ingredients: (makes 8 pints/4 quarts)

5 pounds Sekel Pears (2 1/2 kg)                             2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice                 3 cups spring water                                                  1 cup apple cider vinegar                                     2 cups sugar                                                               4 sticks cinnamon (broken in half for pint jars)                                                                               whole cloves                                                              24 whole peppercorns

Thoroughly wash the jars and lids. Submerge  them in a large pot filled with water so that they are completely covered. I use a wire rack underneath to insure water circulation. (If using Mason, Kerr, or Ball jars, sterilize lids only, not screw bands). Bring to boiling and let boil for 20 minutes while you prepare the pears and syrup.

Wash the pears and cut in half. No need to peel them. Core out the seeds. Place in large bowl of ice water with lemon juice to prevent browning.

For liquid –  Add vinegar, sugar and 3 cups spring water to a pot and heat on stove until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Remove jars from water bath. Add 1/2 stick cinnamon, 8 cloves & 4 peppercorns to each PINT jar. Add 1 cinnamon stick, 16 cloves, 8 peppercorns to the QUART size.  Firmly pack in the halved pears. Ladle syrup over the top until there is 1/4 inch headspace. Place lids on top. Screw on the bands.

Place filled jars back into hot water bath and process (bring to boil) for 10 minutes to insure any germs are gone. Take out of bath and let cool on clean towel. The lids will make a slight popping sound as they seal, and should not feel springy when pressed on with finger. This could take up to half an hour. Store when room temperature. Refrigerate after opening.

                              CHUTNEYS

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Chutneys give limitless opportunity for experimentation. I make several varieties and use them on sandwiches, as part of an hors-d’oeuvre board with crackers and cheese, and even mixed into cooked rice as an accompaniment to meats. Especially yummy on burgers or with spices Indian food! I’ve  developed my own basic recipe, but really enjoy playing around with different veggie, fruit and spice combos to create the ultimate, perfectly balanced pickle.

The British set seem raving mad about their chutneys, each having their own opinion on the perfect combo. I’ve learned a few new twists from my Indian friends from B’nei Menashe. But ultimately, I rely on what I have at hand and my family’s taste preferences.

I start with a kilo (about 2 pounds) of vegetable – my last endeavor used up the beets in my garden. Sooo yummy! You can try cauliflower, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, peppers… Into a very large pot, cut peeled veg into bite sized pieces. I always add 1 whole, peeled purple onion, cut up. Then add your fresh fruit: 2 cups cut up pears or apples, apricots, peaches, mangos, pineapple. Mix in a cup of dried fruit such as dates, raisins, cranberries, cherries, Add 1 cup apple cider vinegar to the mixture in the pot. Next stir in your sweetener, if you need it (to your taste. Often I leave out the sweetener as the fruits make it rich enough). You can add honey, brown sugar, silan – date syrup- or maple syrup. The spices can be as conventional or exotic as you wish. Powdered cloves, ginger, cardamom, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, curries, allspice, turmeric, chili, even espresso powder in small amounts or horseradish are interesting additions. Use the spices that best suit your flavor palate. Add a little at first and increase very, very gradually. The chutney flavors tend to intensify during cooking and in the week after. After bringing up the heat on the stove to a near-boil, I let the mixture simmer for a few hours, until the fruits and veggies are soft, and the fragrance in the house becomes irresistible. (Works great in a crock pot too!) Then I ladle the hot chutney mixture into sterilized jars, sealing the lids, and processing for 10 minutes in a boiling hot water bath. The chutney keeps for a year unopened, but can be stored in fridge for up to a month after opening.

PICKLED BEETS

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My Choggia Beet harvest was pretty sweet last fall, so I made the most delicious – and easy pickled beets. They are soooo beautiful!! If Choggias aren’t available, golden or red beets will work as well. They’re pretty tempting straight from the jar, but my favorite is to place them on a bed of mixed greens with my pickled onions and feta cheese. I use a little of the juice as a dressing. Pretty amazing!!

Ingredients:   (3-4 pint jars)                                                         2 pounds (1 kilo) beets, peeled & sliced into circles                                                                           1/2 cup white (or champagne!!!!) vinegar         1  cup spring water                                            1/4 cup sugar                                                           1 /2 cinnamon stick per jar                                   8 whole cloves per jar                                             4 peppercorns per jar

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water bath 20 minutes. In large bowl, mix the vinegar, water & sugar, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cloves and whole peppercorns to each jar. Pack in beet slices. Pour liquid over top. Add the cinnamon stick. Seal with lid and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Keeps for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.

This summer, my basil has been out-of-control outrageous! I’ve trimmed it up numerous times for Caprese Salad (sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices, drizzled olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper & basil leaves). It’s a tremendous add to my spaghetti sauces, pizzas and panzanella (stale bread cubes, tomato pieces, red onion cubes, and basil with an Italian dressing poured overtop).Lately, I’ve been making pesto, canning much, freezing some in ice cube trays, and stirring it into a 15% cream sauce with some grated Parmesan and Pecorino-Romano to serve atop pasta. Really delicious! So – here’s an easy Pesto Recipe that’s sure to delight! Pour it over roasted chicken for an awesome change of pace.

  PESTO

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3 cups fresh, washed basil leaves                       1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil                                    4 nice big pieces garlic                                          1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Place all of the ingredients in food processor or cup of an immersion blender and process until a thick paste forms. Can be used immediately; refrigerated; frozen in ice cube trays (stored in freezer baggies); or processed in glass canning jars.

Pickles are all very popular here in Israel – the Yemenite and Mizrachi Middle Eastern Variety. Pickled eggplants done up many ways, pickled cauliflower, turnips, olives, cucumbers, green tomato, carrots. Most are very vinegary and most are harif – very, very spicy for my family’s tastes. You will not find the usual Kosher, half, sour garlic dills here (although I have an old New York deli recipe that I’ve played around with). These assorted pickles can be found at any falafel stand and are often served at table before a meal.

Here, I will present 4 versions of pickled carrots, each representing the different cultures.

          SHABTAI’S CARROTS (HARIF!!!!!)

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These are sure to knock your socks off!! Please adjust to your own taste-

Ingredients:

2 pounds very fresh, hard carrots, peeled & sliced into rounds (1 kilo)                                     5-10 small, green chilis, sliced into rounds (please don’t rub your eyes – and wear gloves. I did this with him, and it burned my skin for hours!!!!)                                                                  1 white or yellow onion, sliced and quartered                                                                1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds                                             1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds                                     1 tsp carraway seeds                                                  3 cups white vinegar                                                 1 cup water                                                             3/4 cup sugar                                                          1/4 cup salt

Shabtai didn’t bottle to sterilize his jars (I would). He recycled old mayo jars (I wouldn’t). I guess the peppers will kill almost anything…

In large bowl combine the veggies.

Toast the seeds over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to release fragrance. The seeds should just start popping, but not turn brown.

In another bowl add vinegar, water, sugar & salt. Mix well for sugar & salt to dissolve as much as possible. Pour over veggie mix and let sit for an hour. Ladle into jars. Put in fridge.

     ROLA’S EEMAH’S CARROT PICKLES

This is a Mizrachi family recipe. It’s more than possible that it came from the Persian Jews who immigrated to Israel to escape persecution and genocide in the 1970s, as did Rola and her parents.

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh, hard carrots, scrubbed & sliced into strips                                                        1 small head cauliflower, washed, cut into bite sized pieces                                                     1 red bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into thin strips                                                                1 Tbsp mustard seeds                                                1 Tbsp coriander seeds                                            1 Tbsp cumin seeds                                                 1 Tbsp whole cloves                                               1 Tbsp whole peppercorns                                   1 large bay leaf, crumbled                                   1/2 tsp curcuma (tumeric powder)                     10 cloves garlic, peeled, whole                                600 ml (2 1/2  cups) white wine vinegar              100 grams (1/2 cup) white sugar                         1 tsp salt for each jar made.

Cook the carrots and cauliflower in very salted boiling water 5 minutes to soften. Drain.  Toast seeds and bay leaf in large pot until it releases it’s fragrance, about 1-2 minutes on medium heat. To this, add vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil.

Arrange veggies and divided garlic cloves to each clean (sterilized) jar. Pour pickling liquid over top to cover the veggies completely. Add 1 tsp salt to each jar before sealing. I would place this in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for safety reasons, but Rosa didn’t seem concerned. Let it sit for 2 weeks before serving at room temp.

               URI’S PICKLED CARROTS                          I really like Uri’s carrots. I  stayed with Uri during my pilot trip, and after a long day, I would come back and devour a bowl of these light and tasty carrots! He was born in Israel to Holocaust survivors of Eastern Europe. Uri fought in the 1967 War, and is an amazing vegan chef who still practices yoga and goes for long bike rides. This is his own recipe ( I added the sugar just to balance the tartness).

1 kilo (2 pounds) peeled carrots, sliced into rounds                                                                       3 green onions, cut into bits                                 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder                                 1/2 cup white vinegar                                               1/4 cup sugar                                                           1/2 tsp salt                                                              2-3 fresh dill sprigs

Cook the carrots in boiling, salted water for a few minutes to soften. Drain. Combine rest of the ingredients, minus green onions and mix well to dissolve. Pour over carrots. Stir in green onion. Place dill sprigs on top. Cover and refrigerate.

MY MOM’S  “COPPER PENNIES”IMG_4353-525x700

OK, so this was a staple in my house when I was growing up. My mother would give them out to friends and neighbors at holidays. Today, they remain a favorite item. John & the kids use the sauce to spoon over backed chicken or roast beef. They’re a  Shabbat table regular at our house. Years ago I “stole” her original clip out recipe… if she were alive today, I hope she’d feel honored…thanks, Mom!

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(Note: here in Israel, I haven’t been able to find canned soups, so I’ve learned to make and store jars of my own – even tomato!!!!)

Next week’s post will have recipes using the Seven Species of produce grown here in Israel and their significance, both spiritually and culinary…. stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortified Hospitals and Safe Havens

Living in Northern Israel close to the Lebanese and Syrian borders, and being a patient in three of the biggest hospitals here, has afforded me the opportunity to learn more about the unique and special roles our medical centers play to this region.

The Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariyya lies just 10km (6 miles) from the Lebanese border to the North – a 10 minute trip by car. During the Second Lebanese War in 2006, it sustained direct rocket hits. Miraculously, no-one was injured, as it was the first underground, fully fortified hospital in Israel. WGMC has 722 beds and a staff of 3000, caring for 600,000 residents of the surrounding communities. 50% of the patients are Jewish; 50% non-Jews. They specialize in neurosurgery, hand surgery and muscle-facial surgery. There is also a completely sealed-off emergency and triage unit, and twelve fortified labor and delivery rooms. To date, over a million patients have been serviced. There are underground facilities capable of withstanding both bomb attacks as well as chemical and biological weapons. They are equipped for every situation from war to natural disasters such as earthquakes and violent storms.

Dr. Massad Barchoum, CEO of Western Galilee explained their motto,”Adam l’adam, adam.” The closest translation from the Hebrew is “People who help people are human beings.” He stated that “It was a very important humanitarian decision to care for people who think we are the enemy. They come to us and we take care for them (sic) from the psychological point of view and the medical point of view.” 70% of the Syrians coming in from the war across the Golan come to WGMC for treatment. No questions are asked. Dr. Barchoum went on to say, ” I don’t ask too much questions (sic), but you can see the feelings that every time they come to us, they say ‘we love Israel’ and ‘we love  you for taking care of us.’ But what they will say when they return home, we don’t know.”

It can be chilling to think that we will ever have need of a completely fortified hospital here, but Rambam Hospital in Haifa is the world’s largest and most advanced. The Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital was begun right after the Second War with Lebanon after over 60 rockets landed within a half a mile of the campus. The hospital continued to treat patients while under fire. $20million was donated by the late philanthropist, Sammy Ofer to begin construction.

It was a monumental task. Rambam lies directly on the Mediterranean Coast. The foundation, which is several meters below sea level, required the pumping out of millions of gallons of sea water and sealing it off with over 7,000 cubic meters of concrete. A parking structure, holding 15,000 vehicles over 3 levels was built. This underground parking lot can empty out and be converted into a 2000 bed, fully functioning hospital in just over 48 hours. Thick cement walls and ceilings with tens of thousands of ventilation and filtration units containing carbon and HEPA filters were put in place. During an emergency situation, the lot is emptied, a thorough power wash and sanitization takes place, and beds, portable toilets, medical gas supplies, generators, imaging systems, and the like are rolled down. Food and water and brought in to last over three days. Both Kosher and Halal meals are included. Power outlets, air conditioning and heating systems can be seen in the ceilings and floors.

Because of a quick and unpredictable escalation of hostility from surrounding Lebanon and Syria, this is all necessary for  medical services to continue smoothly. This fortified hospital not only can survive chemical and biological warfare, but is equipped to serve as an isolation unit in case of a severe pathological outbreak. Rambam Hospital in Haifa boasts a completely secure triage and ER unit, operating theaters, ICU, labor & delivery, and dialysis ward as well as a unique decontamination unit. Never again will the safety of patients and hospital staff be placed in jeopardy!

Ziv (Seiff) Hospital in Tsfat also has a fully operational, fully fortified unit, secure against both warfare and natural disasters. With 30 cm (12 in) reinforced concrete walls, it houses several operating rooms, and a specialized pediatrics unit. Ziv is usually the first port of entry for wounded and sick Syrians coming in from Quneitra in the Golan. As part of the ongoing Operation Good Neighbor, Ziv has treated over 3000 Syrians, sometimes in a special ward guarded by Israeli intelligence.

Once a last resort, many are desperate to come over the border, as there are no longer any functioning hospitals in the Syrian provinces across from Israel. Patients start arriving at the border fence at night. They are spotted by Israeli soldiers on constant patrol and brought to a triage tent before being evacuated by helicopter or ambulance to Ziv. It is their only chance of surviving a devastating illness or injury. Some patients are treated for months (free of any charges!!!) before being able to be returned to Syria. These not only include soldiers, but a majority of civilians caught between the warring factions.

Many still consider Israel their enemy. In an interview with a young man who had received a critical skull fracture and had been treated at Ziv for over four months, Jaber from Daraa Province stated, ” To be honest, I never expected to go there (to Israel) in my life. When I entered the enemy’s territory I felt like a failure and a shame. I had to go there in order to save my own life. The rest of the Arab world has shuttered all of its borders to me and other Syrians. Everyone else has abandoned us. However, my opinions about Israel have not changed. The reality is that it is an occupying force. It’s very likely that the goal of treating me in Israel had to do with propaganda, because in the end Israel does nothing to make peace.”

Dr. Michael Harari from Ziv Hospital responded, “In the long run, I suspect (it) will not make any difference. I am not naive that I think the good will shown to several thousand people will translate to any tangible benefits, to any real politics in the Middle East. In the long run, however, the Middle East looks different as a result of this for every who has been involved in this project and it has been very uplifting.”

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Artwork from Syrian children displayed in Ziv pediatric unit

Mother of a patient, Issa M, expressed, “In the past we used to know Israel as our enemy. That’s what the regime used to tell us. When we came to Israel we changed our minds. There is no enmity between us. In the end, we discovered that our regime is the enemy of us all.”

 

Open Air Galleries: Israeli Street Art

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A sign of hope in Jerusalem

Whether it is a political or religious statement; call for social justice; expression of poetry; or a way of marking one’s history or passing, man has always felt the need to place a sign of his existence for posterity. From the ancient cave writings to street graffiti, Israel has its own unique style. I’m sure there are markings from Biblical times on stones and in yet undiscovered caves. The earliest that I’ve encountered here is Crusader graffiti. Notched into the walls in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem are myriad crosses, the sign of the knights and pilgrims who paid homage to the spot in the Middle Ages. There are hundreds of them!

Modern “urban guerrilla art” had its start in Israel in Haifa in the very early 2000’s. Four teens, Unga, Tant, Deso & Kip formed the Broken Fingaz Crew and started painting brightly colored pictures and murals on walls and abandoned buildings. At first, their work was covered up, but as people began to appreciate their  artistic endeavors, and to see the actual beauty, it gradually began to be left in place. Today, they have gained not only acceptance, but fame and a large following in the art world. Their designs have appeared on posters, album covers, t-shirts, and is displayed in trendy galleries.

Tel Aviv is definitely the place for the most unique and innovative street art. The hip Florentin District has quite a bit as do the old quarters of Neve Tsedek and Yaffo. In fact, it has become so popular, there are explanatory tours given in Hebrew and in English by Dioz (himself a street artist) and by my personal favorite, Guy Sharett (Guy has the most wonderful podcasts teaching Hebrew, Streetwise Hebrew, and several Youtube posts – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). He’s one of the most interesting guides in Tel Aviv, explaining in depth the artist and the sometimes hidden meaning behind each piece of art in this open air gallery.

Some of the pieces are just fun, starting with the easily identifiable work of Sened, known for his wood-cut block characters that are painted over and then applied to the desired surfaces. Also starting his art in the early 2000’s, his characters are known as kufsonim(boxy guys) and can be found throughout Tel Aviv.

An artist with the tag “Dede” moved from California to Tel Aviv in 2010. He is known for his images of wildlife and of bandaids, symbolizing healing (as in a globe plastered with bandaids; a heart with a bandage).

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There are several graffiti images with Biblical references. For example, the story of Cain and Abel placed in the present and making a statement of responsibility for our fellow human beings.

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There is a type of street art that pastes pre-done drawings directly on the wall. This is one, in Yaffo, upholds the virtues of ecumenism and peace. It shows a mufti, a priest, and a rabbi holding hands – notice the skateboard and skates!

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Others are cute , like the sketch of people cleaning off their feet on a wall bordering a Tel Avi beach; and other symbols of pop culture.

Nitzan Mint is a young woman who had a difficult time finding an outlet to publish her poetry. So she combined it with art and took it to the streets of Tel Aviv. She has since gained fame as a respected Israeli poet.

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In Jerusalem, the artist Solomon Souza wanted a way to add color, energy, beauty, and a bit of Israeli and Jewish history to the Mechane Yehuda market in Tel Aviv. In 2015 he started spray painting the metal doors of the vendors with gorgeous murals. He has gained international acclaim, and has had gallery shows and offers to promote several product lines. I love his pieces!!!

The “Na-Nachs” have left their mark here as well. These Hasidic followers of Rebbe Nachman Maiman of Uman, with their hippie lifestyle have graffitied EVERYTHING here – walls, stones, houses, you name it – with their tag: Na, Nach, Nachm, Nachman, from Uman in huge, usually colorful, block Hebrew lettering reminiscent of Biblical script.

And because this is a religious land, one can find all kinds of humorous references or tongue-in-cheek puns. Like this one. A take on Psalm 137:5  an admonition to never forget the importance and holiness of Jerusalem. This graffiti plays on that, with “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, it is because of Tel Aviv.” Obviously the nightlife, secularism, and activity of Tel Aviv has rubbed off!

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And to remind us that there are angels everywhere-

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Israeli graffiti can be quite thought provoking as well – for example this simple Hebrew word is the first word in the prayer said several times a day, the V’ahavtah…. and you shall love (the Lord your G-d and your neighbor). It is a command. but when a question mark is placed after, it becomes – ” And so??? Have you loved?”

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This, too is a good one. For Jewish people who keep Kosher, it is forbidden to mix meat and dairy products. So here is a reminder from the father of Zionism, Theodore Herzl. His famous quote is “If you will it, it is no dream.” Turned around here to say – “If you will it, NO!!!!”

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And of course, there are always political statements as well:

A reminder to the Anglos:

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And a clever piece for the visually impaired to enjoy as well-

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I wish I had gotten a photo of one my son thought amazing. You can see it randomly on walls or freeway overpasses, but it one scrawl that is always soon removed. “Why did I draft????”

Israel is a provocative land – one that frequently calls me to thought or to action. I do not always agree with all of the statements or ideologies that I have presented here, but it provides a glimpse into the culture and diversity of its people. I leave you with two last pieces:IMG_8463

          You don’t write the graffiti. It writes you.

and finally-

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( This piece is dedicated to Katie and Britta – the two people who have expanded my horizons in street art. Love you both! Enjoy!!!)

Celebrating Life in Art

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Tsfat, Israel

One of the reasons we love Israel is because it is a country that truly celebrates life in all its stages – from womb to tomb. Life is G-d’s greatest gift. For the most part, Israel recognizes this, especially through artistic representation.

I first fell in love with Karmiel for many reasons. It is such a family oriented city. At two the entrances to the city are big, beautiful brightly colored sculptures representing happy family life.DSCN0299

There are two other pieces of art celebrating motherhood and life as the hope for humanity here in Karmiel. The first is the sculpture by Niki Amber (also displayed in Tsfat, above) entitled “Hatikvah” or “Hope.” The other is “Dancing Mother and Child,” here pictured with the sculptor, Joan Dubov.

Haifa, to the south, has an amazing sculpture garden with works by the artist Ursula Malbin. The park sits high atop Mt. Carmel overlooking Haifa Bay and the city. It’s a favorite place to take a break and meditate… her works have a nuance of the humor of everyday parenting as well. I love the pieces of the mother schlepping a bevy of young tots and the one of the mom teaching her toddler to walk with a diaper.

In the Mamilla Mall of Jerusalem, there are public displays of sculptures (also available to purchase) by many of Israel’s best artists. The displays rotate seasonally, many with Biblical themes, but there are so many other varied subjects. Here are two of my personal favorites. The first is “Family” the second is “Knit Together by HaShem in the Mother’s Womb.”

I leave you with something John and I find absolutely amazing. It’s in the city park in Ma’alot, in the extreme North of Israel. The title of the sequence is “Beresheet,” or “Beginning.” The artist for the first pieces is Aviva Berger. “Delivery” was done by Viktor Kopach. I’m not certain of who carved the last four, but all were part of the annual Ma’alot Sculpture Festival (2012). I would be shocked to see something of this nature in the States. It pains us to know pieces like this would be instantly defaced and demolished there due to “political incorrectness.”  Another reason why we are enjoying living here. The park in Ma’alot is another one of our favorite places to stroll and to celebrate life here at all its beautiful and wondrous stages.