Israel’s Got Talent

When we moved from the greater Los Angeles area to Israel, we really felt we’d be giving up a lot. We were pretty spoiled, because LA/Hollywood is supported by “The [Entertainment] Industry” and so many of our friends and neighbors were connected in some way… stunt men, costume designers, editors, composers, musicians. We had so many musical genres represented from pop to hip hop and rap to Broadway, jazz and the best in classical with the Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale and smaller opera companies, choruses, and conservatories. We were never at a loss for entertainment from rock concerts to childrens’ choirs and loved our summers at the Hollywood Bowl and season tickets to the opera.

I really didn’t know what to expect culturally when we first moved, but I was told that each large city had its own first-rate music conservatory. This was important, as our son was a trumpet player, and I wanted to afford him the opportunity to continue his lessons and have performance venues as well. In addition, throughout the year different cities and kibbutzim host all types of concerts and festivals featuring both local Israeli talent as well as talent brought in from abroad.

Music speaks to the soul and as such, is so important across cultures. We’ve had the chance to experience firsthand the local flavor of the Arabic music and have visited some of their music schools. We’ve enjoyed Yemenite bazooki concerts and French café style entertainment. The Ethiopians have brought with them their own heritage in liturgy and contemporary music and the immigrants from the former Soviet bloc countries are known for their early training in the classical arts. We’ve found Arab Christian bagpipe bands in Nazareth, a hold-over from when Scottish missionaries came to the Holy Land in the 1800s. And we even have a good friend who is the promoter of heavy metal concerts coming to Israel.

Each year, our local music conservatory hosts a fundraising concert with all the proceeds going back into community programs. At first, we were reticent to go, but now look forward to this event as the range of musical talent is representative of the diverse fabric of our society. There is a beautiful women’s chorus made up of religious Jewish, Arab Christian and Druze and secular young ledies. They sing liturgical, folk and classical chorale pieces.

There are several sopranos, who sing the standard art song repertoire in Italian, French, German and even Arabic:

Our mid-sized city has so much talent, including a young woman cellist who has won several international competitions and will go on to study music after her army service; Russian siblings, ages 11 and 13, pianists who both perform solo and duets; a flutist from Canada and a Ukrainian balalaika player who has been performing professionally since he was six and now serves in the IDF, but made the time to play at this concert.

Karmi’el is one of several cities that prides itself on its Children’s Village. There are 200 children from grades 1-12 who live on the spacious and well-manicured campus. Some are orphans, but many come from broken, abusive or disfunctional families. Separated into 16 “mishpachtim” or family groups, they live in large, specially designed homes with sponsor parents and their families. All the kids attend the public schools, but return to the village for afternoon activities, clubs, music and dance lessons, therapy and sports. In this well-rounded program, the older children help with volunteer service projects within the city. Their success rate in academic excellence, reintegration into society, military service, sports and entertainment is unparalleled. One of the young men recently won Israel’s version of The Voice, Junior. Each year, they put on an amazing show for the community at our local theatre arts complex.

Just before the first wave of lockdowns due to the pandemic, John and I went to a hands-on drumming workshop in Nazareth. It was tremendous fun learning about the darbouka, made of wood or aluminum and covered with leather from donkey, goat, camel or skin, each having a different sound. Demonstrations even included a fish-skin covered tambourine, a bandir, based on the ancient models. The last clip in this series was an ancient Aramaic song from the book of the prophet Jonah: the prayer he made from the belly of the fish. The melody itself is centuries old.

During the summer, neighboring Tsfat hosts a three day Klezmer music festival. At Kfar Blum, a kibbutz in the Upper Galilee, there is a weeklong classical music festival. The kibbutz operates a first class hotel and the venues, for both indoor and outdoor concerts are said to be quite pleasant. The festival features vocal and instrumental music with world class guest artists from throughout the world. Jerusalem hosts an international oud festival (an ancient stringed instrument), and the Red Sea resort city of Eilat is famous for its international jazz festival.

In years past, in the Galilee, there was the twice annual Jacob’s Ladder Festival with the best in bluegrass, Celtic, and blues. Most festivals here are very family friendly with activities and workshops for even the youngest. In the early summer, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at Ein GeV kibbutz, there is an choral music festival of mostly Hebrew and European choirs. It also includes a competition.

Speaking of competitions, Israel has been placing first in the Eurovision Competition, a huge international “Who’s Got Talent?” show broadcast throughout Europe. Israel hosted last year in Tel Aviv. The Abu Ghosh Music Festival (just south of Jerusalem) is home to a classical vocal competition in the Spring. Vocalists come from all over the globe. Performances are held in ancient churches and cultural arts centers in the area. Master classes are open to the public.

We had tickets to the Liturgical Festival, but because it was during the pandemic, the events were all livestreamed.

There’s something here for everyone. If you’re into indie, the InDNegev Festival each October is the place to be. The event has grown each year since 2007, and now includes art exhibitions, poetry readings, movies, and huge parties lasting all night. As with several of these types of festivals, camping is strongly encouraged. Every winter, there is also a Grateful Dead festival with live music cover bands as well as dance tents and hippie art shows. If raves are your thing, then there’s the Minus 424 (meters below sea level) Dead Sea Rave. Electronica, lots of DJs and laser light shows have festival goers dancing from sunset to sunrise with the red desert mountains as part of the surreal backdrop. And not to be outdone by America’s Burning Man Festival, there is the infamous Midburn Festival in the Negev Desert each October. A combination Woodstock, Coachella and Burning Man, the participants themselves are the ones who create the performances. They set up an entire weeklong installation in the desert. It has become so popular, that you need to know someone who is part of the event in order to get a ticket.

Israel is truly a crossroad of the world. Because of its proximity to Africa, and due to the influence of our Ethiopian, Eritrean, Nigerian and Ugandan immigrants and visa holders, there are several AfroBeat, AfroJazz, heritage and Reggae concerts throughout the year. Every city has multiple entertainment venues, and most events are free to the public, like the Nuite Francaise which even included a wine and cheese bar and ballroom dancers!


And of course, we have our own mega stars singing pop, hip hop, and indie folk. All during the summer, our Israeli entertainment icons perform concerts in amphitheaters all over the country, many are free, sponsored by the municipality.

(Warning: the next two video clips include bright, flashing lights-)

The very popular Hatikvah 6
Static & BenEl, a high energy boy band, is extremely popular here

Saving our favorite Israeli performer for last: John & I first heard the music of Idan Raichel in Los Angeles in 2010. We saw him at different locations in California and we haven’t missed one of his concerts here (which always sell out in hours). Idan first started performing (accordion) at age 12. He’d play for the dancers at the Karmi’el Dance Festival every year. Last year he, most deservedly, received an honorary PhD in philosophy from BarIlan University and has been named Israel’s Poet Laureate. His music is not only beautiful, but the words! About the beauty of life, of love and friendship, of peace and unity. Many international recording stars have teamed up with Raichel to form the world-beat Idan Raichel Project. It truly is peace through music. So I leave you with this- Enjoy!

Solo performance at the Elmaa Arts Center, Zichron Yaakov

It’s Fig Season!

The days are sweltering, sizzling hot. At night a breeze picks up bringing with it the fragrance of ripe fruit and sages. John and I have been spending the middling of an Israeli summer driving around the lake (Sea of Galilee) buying fresh fish as it comes off the boats and picking fruits. Lychees, mangoes, passion fruit and figs! Of course, this means creating delicious new recipes, canning, drying and freezing to have produce on hand in the winter months. So for all you foodies out there, here goes!!!

Let’s start with an easy to assemble and totally decadent salad. I add blue cheese, but you can leave the cheese out if you are sticking to a kosher meat menu.

ROASTED FIG SALAD (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 8 fresh figs
  • 4 cups arugula or rocket lettuce
  • 2 cups butter lettuce or baby spinach
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thin and quartered
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/4 cup candied/spiced pecans
  • 1 small wedge blue cheese (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Set oven to 200*C/400*F. Quarter figs and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool. Reserve juices. In a large bowl, add the arugula and lettuce. Mix in the sliced red onion and cheese crumbles. Add the nuts. Place the figs on top. Drizzle with the reserved fig juices. Serve.


The next recipe was given to me by my oldest daughter. I love it that all my children have become first rate cooks. Katie raved about this one, so I had to try it. It calls for a mild white fish. We used St. Peter’s Fish, which is tilapia. I also bought a nice mild Levrak (it’s the Hebrew name so I have no clue what it’s called in English, but it was buttery, flaky and extremely mild with no fishy taste at all). There are two keys: fresh picked fig leaves and timing…. It gets baked for 6-8 minutes only.

FIG FISH

The ingredients are simple. A nice mild white fish, cleaned, de-scaled and sliced in half down the middle. A bunch of fresh fig leaves, olive oil, salt, pepper and some toothpicks.

Preheat oven to 200*C/400*F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Drizzle olive oil over the fish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap in the fig leaves and secure with toothpicks (see photos), making sure the leaves also line the middle in between the two layers of fish. Bake in oven for just 6-8 minutes. Remove and unwrap the leaves. This is seriously amazing! If there are any leftovers, it makes dynamite fish tacos! (I bring 4 large packs of corn tortillas from this US each trip and freeze them).

The next two recipes are a collaboration between Katie and myself. She came up with the first, and I tweaked the second recipe to make it truly Israeli. The result is a satisfyingly rich and filling couple of breakfast shakes.

KATIE’S FIG FITNESS SHAKE (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 3 fresh figs
  • 3 pitted dates
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • lots of ice

Mix all the ingredients in a blender or Vitamix. Pulse until smooth and creamy. Pour into a glass and enjoy. If there is any leftover, you can pour into popsicle molds and freeze for a cold summertime treat.

ISRAELI FIG AND DATE SHAKE

Ingredients:

  • 3 fresh figs
  • 2 dates, pitted
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup almond milk or fresh low-fat goat yogurt
  • 1 small individual serving packet of Turkish coffee with hel (if you live in Israel! if not, go to next 2 items) –
  • 1 TBSP powdered espresso if no Turkish coffee powder
  • 1 tsp powdered cardamom if no powdered hel or Turkish powder
  • 1/4 cup techineh (‘tahini’)- if you can find Ethiopian dark techineh, all the better
  • 1/4 cup silan (date syrup, at Trader Joe’s) or honey
  • lots of ice

Put all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix and pulse until smooth and creamy. Pour in a tall glass and top with crumbled halvah. Makes a great dairy dessert!

BAKED CHICKEN WITH FIGS AND ROSEMARY

I forgot to take a picture when it came out of the oven! This was after we ate and added in the leftover rice-

This was dinner tonight. The secret is to prep it in the morning. Let it marinate in the “sauce” all day, and then pop it in the oven. Of course, I served it with the fig salad (but this time I left the figs raw and didn’t add blue cheese) and a heavenly Middle Eastern spiced rice with lentils. Oh my word!! This was just super flavorful! It smelled so good, we just dug in before I could remember to snap a picture-

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole skin-on chicken, cut up
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small red onion, cut up
  • 1/3 cup silan (date syrup… Trader Joe’s) or honey
  • 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp powdered cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces and place in a large freezer baggie. Cut up the red onion into bite-sized pieces and add to bag. Add the liquid ingredients, then the dry spices and the rosemary. Seal the bag tightly and squish the ingredients around to evenly distribute. At this point, you can freeze the bag of chicken for later use or let it marinate at least 6 hours in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 170*C/350*F. Place the entire contents of the what is in the chicken baggie in a large baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 10-12 minutes. Serves 4-6.

So glad I took a preliminary photo this morning!

FIG BALSAMIC GELATO

This was our weekend dessert. Can’t believe I gave away my ice cream maker before we moved. I bought another the first summer we were here. Nothing speaks lazy summer nights than fresh fig gelato on the terrace.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound/1/2 kg fresh ripe purple figs
  • 10 ounces/284 grams mascapone cheese in Israel I use Gad Dairy)
  • 2 cups 32% sweet cream (in Israel, there’s nothing comparable to Yotvata Dairy)
  • 1 14 ounce can sweet condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup honey (or coconut sugar)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • juice 1 small lemon
  • 3. TBSP brandy
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200*C/400*F. Trim and halve figs & place on foil lined baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and purée until mushy using an immersion blender. In blender or food processor, add cream, canned milk, cheese, honey. Blend thoroughly. Transfer both the container of figs and cream mixture (I use Mason jars) to fridge and let chill overnight. When all is really cold, shake the jar and put the cream mixture into the ice cream maker. Add the salt. Let churn for about 15 minutes. Scrape down sides and add fig mixture, cinnamon and squeezed lemon juice. When rich and thick, drizzle in the brandy and balsamic. Finish churning and pour into glass or plastic containers. Put a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the gelato. Let it freeze for a couple hours to become firm. This makes about 24 small scoops. Adorn with a quarter slice of fresh raw fig and a ginger wafer to serve.

The Three Weeks: The Latest Conflict

The past three weeks have marked a period of collective fasting, prayer, charity or alms-giving and mitzvot, or doing good deeds for the Jewish people of Israel. It comes at the hottest, driest time of year when all a person wants to do is sit in front of a fan and eat ice cold watermelon. The period starts on the 17th of Tammuz, the Hebrew month. On this day, thousands of years ago Moses came down from Mt Sinai to see drunken orgies and the people worshipping an idol, the golden calf, so in anger, he smashed the tablets with the Ten Commandments. A year later (1313 BCE) 12 spies were sent out into the Promised Land to scout out the lay of the land. On the 9th of Av, 10 spies came back with a bad report. Instead of proclaiming a land filled with natural goodness – super huge fruits, date honey, goats, cows, milk, rich soil, a land with which they were bequeathed, they spoke of walled cities. They spoke of appearing to be like tiny grasshoppers in the eyes of giants. They said it was untamable. Wild. Dangerous. Instead of relying on the L-rd, they fell into despair. And they took an entire nation into absolute hopelessness and despair with them. Instead of being filled with gratitude and strength and optimism, they were defeatist. So the entirety of the Children of Israel were made to wander in the desert for forty years.

From that time on, it seem those three weeks would be an infamous swamp of bad karma for the Jewish people. Biblically, the 10 Northern tribes were taken by the Assyrians during this time. Then the Babylonians swept in, breaching the walls of Jerusalem on the 17th Tammuz and taking the city. On the 9th of Av, Solomon’s Temple, the First Temple, was razed and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were led into captivity for 70 years. The Temple was rebuilt under Cyrus and lasted until 70AD, when it was leveled by the Romans. Most of the Jews were scattered throughout the world in the Great Diaspora. Fifty two years later, the walled fortress of Beitar, held down by the last Zealots against the Roman regime was breached on 17 Tammuz. Again, after a three week siege, the Romans killed the thousands of remaining Jews and destroyed the city (just outside Jerusalem near Bethlehem) on 9 Av. It marked the end of a Jewish homeland for almost 2000 years.

The tragedies of Tisha b’Av ( Hebrew for 9 Av) and the three weeks continued throughout history. European Jews were burned alive in synagogues in Italy, Germany & France in the 1100s-1200s; the Jews of England were expelled by King Edward “Longshanks” in 1290; King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled the Jews of Spain in 1492; on Tisha b’Av in 1914, Germany declared war on Russia thus beginning World War l; in 1942 Hitler’s Final Solution was announced; on that same day, the deportations of the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the death camps commenced. In more “modern times,” the deadly bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires by Iranian-backed terrorists killed 86, seriously wounding over 300. And in 2005, on Tisha B’Av, in the name of “land for peace” Israel forcibly and permanently removed the remaining Jewish residents of Gaza (they had until then been living relatively peaceable lives with their Arab neighbors), in essence handing the territory over to Islamic militants like Hamas (the word actually means VIOLENCE!!!) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. There has been no peace ever since.

With that brief history, we’ve been watching events unfold over the past few weeks. Israel had been seeing a sharp uptick in Palestinian violence recently. There were car-rammings, stabbing, shootings, the throwing of projectiles onto the windshields of cars, and other incidents of violence. Hotbeds of illegal weapons, cash and drug smuggling were uncovered in the cities of Nablus, Um-Al-Fahmm and Jenin. In an IDF raid, on which I reported several weeks ago, the journalist Abu Ahkleh was shot. Despite video that showed evidence to the contrary, TikTok clips released by the Islamists in real time, her death was blamed on Israel’s attempt to assassinate an Arab reporter. Things were heating up again as the summer sun blazed on.

During this years’ Three Weeks period, several more surprise raids were made by the IDF to try to curb the violence. Entire terror cells were taken into custody. We were closely following the news, as friends of mine in Tekoa and Gush Etzion in Judaea (West Bank near Jerusalem) had their gate guarded communities breached by men wielding guns. Last Tuesday, 2 August, in Jenin ( the West Bank) the IDF arrested Bassam al-Shaadi, the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Founded in 1982, the PIJ is an internationally recognized terrorist organization which has direct backing by the Iranian and Syrian regimes. After Hamas, it is the second largest terror group in the region, ruling over much of Gaza. Its sole purpose of existence is to destroy Israel and make it free of Jews. Al-Shaadi had been directly involved in planning and executing several deadly attacks against Israeli civilians. Bags of cash and illegal weapons were found upon his arrest and the arrest of two other wanted terrorists.

Marches of protest and cries of revenge sprang up immediately in the Arab towns and cities. The PIJ, in return, threatened to commence the bombing of Southern and Central Israel where 70% of the Israeli population lives. As a precaution, all the roads leading up to and within the Gaza envelope were closed off to any traffic. Roadblocks were set up. The citizens living within the area were all told to remain inside and lock down, staying close to the nearest bomb shelters. The following day, a senior PIJ military leader announced, “We have every right to bomb Israel with our most advanced weapons.” They threatened to attack the most populous areas including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, 80 km or 50 miles away. The rhetoric intensified on Thursday, as many residents remained hunkered down, not going to work, not going to the market, not sending their children to summer activities.


Special cabinet meetings were held. Israel was attempting to appease the PIJ, to stop their threats to now carry out attacks across the country. Later it was reported that there was actionable intelligence of an imminent attack by the PIJ using an anti-tank missile to blow up a bus. The chatter was recorded. The launcher was found along with the ten terrorists headed to the border to instigate the attack. In a well-coordinated, heavily-planned preemptive strike, Israel entered into its latest conflict, Operation Breaking Dawn, on Friday afternoon just before the Sabbath. Also struck with absolute surgical precision, was the apartment of PIJ senior commander in Gaza, Taysir al-Jabari. Al-Jabari was killed and in return, the PIJ immediately started their missile barrage against the citizens of Israel. The missiles rained down on Central Israel continuously for over 50 hours. In all, over 1,100 were fired. Just stop for a second or two and think of that. Over 1100 missiles in just over 2 days!!

Although heavily inconvenienced, many in shock from the trauma as the bombs whistled overhead and shook the ground upon impact, the Israelis stayed resolute. All were united behind the IDF efforts to take down this most recent threat. In an almost supernatural answer to the prayers and fasting of the people, and much thanks to Iron Dome, there was not one Israeli casualty. Several cars and a couple buildings were hit and a few people were treated for falling while on the way to shelters and for shock. But there were no major injuries. This was a Tisha B’Av miracle. Still, sirens wailed throughout the center of Israel nonstop. Another huge miracle, not to be underestimated, is that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, decided to sit this one out. Perhaps it was because the knew that the IDF was only targeting PIJ. Maybe it was because they were pummeled last conflict and did not want a repeat performance. A miracle, nonetheless.

We were completely unaffected by this in the North, but still, the people were all on edge. Last year, many of the surrounding Arab villages and mixed cities experienced uprisings and violent riots which saw the destruction of Jewish property and resulted in several deaths. The government had well-prepared for this scenario, and this year made sure the police were out in advance to quell any disturbances before they could take hold. Simultaneously, the IDF was making military incursions into places like Nablus and Jenin arresting terror cells and confiscating stolen and homemade illegal weapons. It was a well-coordinated effort.

The Israeli army has a policy to go out of their way to avoid incurring civilian damages. Both PIJ and Hamas go out of their way to hide their bomb and rocket launchers behind their own people: in schools, hospitals, mosques and inside high-density housing units. Israel has every right to defend its people. What would you do if a neighboring state started attacking your city? There is a popular narrative that is being spread by many mainstream news outlets and by members of the US government: that there is an imbalance of power. That the Iron Dome affords Israel a unique advantage. This narrative is both misleading and dangerous. Iron Dome definitely saves countless lives and property. It is because of the strength and accuracy of Israel’s army that Hamas, Hezbollah, PIJ and other terror organizations that have genocidal racism as their epithet have not proliferated and taken over in the region. Their goal is not to “resist the occupation.” Their goal is to make the entire MidEast, especially Israel free of Jews, free or Christians, free of homosexuals and free of any other group they do not approve of. Their goal is to make the entire Mideast a vast wasteland of their religious intolerance and supremacy as can be seen in countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Yemen. They have no desire in making life better for their own people, who live in abhorrent conditions under a militaristic religious dictatorship.

All the violence could be stopped in a single instant if the Islamist terrorists would just put down their weapons to live in peace. We all want peace here. We do not seek conflict. We just want to live normal lives. All they have to do is accept our existence, something they all have been given the opportunity to recognize officially on many occasions, but refuse. There is no easy answer. Usually the blame falls on Israel. For example,, early on in the conflict, Gaza reported that 7 civilians including 5 children were killed in the Jabalia refugee complex when an Israeli bomb struck the tenement housing. They even released footage of the strike. Upon inspection, it can be seen that their own missile completely backfired, making a slowly arching u-turn before crashing down and hitting the Jabalia site. The news, first broadcast by AlJezeera then picked up by international mainstream media was debunked as fake news within the hour. More footage released shows that not only did this bomb fail to reach its target, but that over 20% of the launches misfired, falling back into Gaza.

Late Sunday evening, a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, was announced. So far, it has held, but things are tenuous at best. The PIJ has called for the release of al-Saadi and other “political hostages.” As of this morning, Tuesday, 9 August, Israel special ops were in Nablus encountering extreme and wild fire power. So far 11 terrorists including the head of the AlAqsa Martyrs’ Brigade have been killed with zero IDF casualties with the exception of a counterterrorism dog. A large number of explosives and additional weapons have been located at the site. Hopefully this will deter the terrorists and help break the wave of recent violence. We pray for peace and security and for the wisdom of our government. We pray for truthful reporting. And we thank G-d that this Ninth of Av we were spared.

Diversity in Israel: Meet the Circassians

Circassian Cultural Heritage Center in Kfar Kama, Galilee

Adding to the rich cultural diversity in Israel, we have the Circassians. Mainly living in two communities in the North and numbering approximately 4,000, the Circassians’ history goes way back to pre-4th century. Originally from what is present-day Russia – from between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, they were the indigenous people of the Caucasus Mountains. They lived from Sochi to Baku: their capital city was Nalchik and they were known as the Adyghe (Adiga) people. In their language Ady means highlander and ghe means sea. Between the 4th and the 9th centuries, many of them converted to Christianity. When the Tartars and Ottoman Turks conquered their territory, many were forcibly converted to Islam. The Turks called them Cherkess which was Latinized to Circassian. After many years as dhimmie under the Ottomans, most adopted the Muslim religion voluntarily. 1763 marked the 100 year war between the Circassians and the Russians for access to the Black Sea. Eventually, in 1864, Russia launched a genocidal campaign. 90% of their population were exiled from their land – put on ships bound for the Balkans, Anatolia, Bulgaria and Turkey. From there they were taken to the Middle East and can be found throughout the Levant. Their population is about 1.5 million.

Because they were such good fighters, the Ottomans took them in as brother Muslims; and it was the Turks who scattered them throughout the Lebanon/Syria/Israel/Jordan region as a counterweight tothe non-Muslim Jewish, Christian and Druze populations as well as to the Bedouin. Even though they are Sunni Muslim, they are not Arabs. They were brought here in the 1870s as tax collectors for all the other Arab villages in the surrounding area (today, this practice no longer exists).Here in Israel, they maintain excellent relations with the Jewish and Arab populations. The Circassians, although very separate with their own language and educational system, all serve in the IDF. They have kept their ancient phonetic language, Adyghebza, but are fluent in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Their educational levels are very high, their communities, impeccably clean with flowers blooming in every windowbox and garden. There are only 26 family groups or clans within the Israeli Circassian community.

We visited the two Circassian towns recently. Kfar Kama (pronounce Comma) is a thriving village on the upper slope of Har Tavor (Mt. Tabor) in the lower Galilee. The mountain village is walled in, an old form of defense. All of the stone houses are interconnected, sharing a back or side wall. The only way through into the village is from a guardpost/ gate, like a fort. The mosque stands in the very center of the town. And it is the location of the Circassian Heritage Center. Every day, the center welcomes Israeli school groups as part of their educational enrichment program. We were greeted graciously by our docent, Ibek, dressed in a black costume and high fur hat.

After sharing their history with the large group, several members of the village put on a dance exhibition in their native noble costumes. Red and black are their battle colors, turquoise symbolizes the sea and green, the land from which they came.

All Circassians are taught the traditional dances from the time they are young, and all can play at least one musical instrument. The women have much power in their society, and are free to make their own decisions. When a young man comes of age, it is traditional for the Circassian man not to ask permission of the girl’s parents to marry. He asks the girl to marry him directly. This is where the story gets good. Without her parent’s knowledge, the bridegroom and his male attendants, kidnap the beloved at an agreed upon time and place. Two of the bridegroom’s attendants, then go to her family’s home to inform the parents (after she has not shown up). The family must then go out in search of their daughter, but it is the girl’s decision entirely to marry. The parents have no say in the matter. The bride is taken into the groom’s family’s home, and it is they who pay for the entire wedding feast. The families marry within their clans. Sometimes the men travel to Eastern Europe or Turkey where other clan member reside to find their betrothed.

Circassian young woman in native dress

Much of their labor today is agricultural. Olive growing has played a large role in their subsistence . They follow the Muslim dietary laws (refraining from pork, Hallal slaughter) with the exception of fish. Because so many of their people were killed in the Black Sea War, fish and seafood are off the menu in homage to their brethren. They are fairly famous for their smoked meats and hard smoked cheeses. The cheese shop in Kfar Kama boasts of the oldest cheese in Israel: this hard, smoked cheese is shaped like an enormous dagger and is 43 years old!

Today in Israel, about half of the Circassians are devout, the other half fairly secular. There is no pressure to be traditional, although all intimately know the culture and traditions. Observant women wear a white headscarf, like Druze women, but the Circassian style for every day is more like a hijab. Colorful clothes as well as pants are worn by the younger women.

The other Circassian village is Rechaniya, near the Lebanese border, established in 1878 by 66 families. It too is built in the fortified walled village style with a central mosque as in Kfar Kama. Because of their location, the village maintained active ties with their Lebanese and Syrian relations across the border. This proved problematic for the Israeli authorities during the 1967 and Lebanese Wars. Frequent home searches were conducted by the IDF for security reasons. Smuggled weapons were confiscated and some of the Rechaniya townsfolk were temporarily moved to Kfar Kana, 30 miles to the south. Mostly, they preferred to remain neutral during the wars Israel faced. Today, friendly relations have been restored. They pride themselves as being full Israeli citizens and part of the fabric of society. Many Circassians today serve in the police and border patrol units. Several are noted Israeli football stars.

Hani Madaji is the owner of the Rechaniya restaurant, Nalchik. There you can eat like a local, feating on lots of carbs, some baked, some fried, all with different fillings. One of the favorites is Haliva, a fried dough dumpling filled with Circassian cheese, potatoes and herbs. Some variations use beef and leeks.

There are Kalkata, dumplings filled with sheep milk yogurt and paprika; memjak, a savory lentil dish and an interesting type of chicken salad. The shredded, cooked chicken is dressed with a rich, garlicky tehineh and is served at room temperature. Before eating a red olive oil that has been infused with spicy Aleppo pepper and paprika, is drizzled over top. Walnuts, also are sprinkled over (Note: for those visitors keeping Kashrut, this food is definitely not Kosher! Still, interesting to see and learn). Also in Rechaniya is a specialized cheese dairy that has been in the same family for generations. It is an art that has been passed down from mother to daughter for hundreds of years.

Nadi explained to us when we asked how the Circassians fit into society in Israel today that it is a matter of tolerance. They see other people and other cultures as having tremendous dignity and worth as human beings. We are all brothers and sisters, she said. We seek to live peaceably among our own people and alongside the other Israeli citizens. However every Circassian carries deep within him the desire to go back to their original homeland that is today part of Russia. They are all a part of the Great Circassian Diaspora. For them, May 21 is their Genocide Remembrance Day. In both Kfar Kama and Rechaniya there are parades, special services and speeches made. All are welcome to attend.

A Twisted Narrative (Political Explanation)

Usually my blogposts are about culture, archaeological finds, interesting places to visit, and entertaining feature articles. I purposely avoid anything political or potentially inflammatory. In the past month there has been much misinformation and information that has been conveniently hidden or deleted about the events surrounding the death of Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. As of this morning there are reports out by CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and other mainstream news outlets – all completely defamatory to Israel. I have followed this story carefully from the beginning, detail by detail. I can no longer be silent about the tragic (and it was utterly tragic) death and funeral of the reporter Shireen Abu-Akleh. I will start at the beginning to set the stage.

The Lead-Up:

Jenin, population 41,000 is the northernmost city in the West Bank and has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance. It has been in existence since the late 1800s when its recorded population was below 1,000, all Muslim. Because of its location at the southern end of the fertile Jezreel Valley, it became an outpost of the Turkish & German forces united against the Allied powers in WWI for their forays into northern Israel. Jenin was captured by the British in 1918 and came under the the rule of British Mandated Palestine. By the 1930s, the town was the northern spearhead for raids and ambushes of the Jewish villages in the Jezreel Valley. After the British left, and during the newly-formed State of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence (in which the nascent country was attacked from all sides by the neighboring Arab countries), the town was reinforced by Iraqi forces entering through Jordan. The strategic town fell into Israeli hands in 1967 during the Six Day War, but was then promptly transferred by Israel to the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority according to the Tabah Agreement.

Since coming under the full control of the PA in 1996, Jenin has become a hotbed of terror-organizing, smuggling, and illegal activity. The surrounding area is very agricultural and the surrounding small villages have about 256,000 population, all but 3% Muslim in this area. It is the regional center of government for the PA. It is also known as a militant stronghold exporting terror. Jenin is a heavily armed city. At least 23 of the suicide bombers during the 2002-2005 Second Intifada were from Jenin. Over 1,000 people in Israel, both citizens and international tourists, were murdered in these bombings, shootings and stabbings.

This year, from March 21 – May 5, during Ramadan, a new wave of terror broke out in Israel. In seven separate terror attacks on citizens, 19 people were murdered, 36 injured. Three of these attackers were from Jenin and two were from a town 7.2 miles to the east. Following the attacks, the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Security Forces conducted counterterrorism operations in Jenin and the immediate vicinity with the clear objective ”to uncover and prevent any future terrorist attacks based on reliable and actionable intelligence. We have already thwarted dozens of pre-planned attacks, thereby saving the lives of civilians. The IDF in no way targets non-militants in any of its activities.”

The IDF had entered the refugee camp on the outskirts of the city in prior days to raid a cache of illegal weapons. Most were home manufactured or smuggled in through Jordan. They arrested several known terrorists and suspected accomplices.

The Fateful Day: A Tale of Two Narratives

On the morning of May 11, IDF soldiers entered Jenin Camp on the outskirts of the city and apprehended eight suspected terrorists. During this planned counterterrorism operation, dozens of Palestinian gunmen ambushed the soldiers from the buildings and alleyways above, from all directions. Very shortly afterwards, videos of the ambush were posted to Facebook, Tiktok and Instagram by the Palestinians. The gunmen were recklessly firing pot-shots around corners and hurling improvised explosives at the troops. The Israeli soldiers responded with gunfire. At the time of the activity, hundreds of bullets were volleyed and the AlJazeera journalist, Shireen Abu-Akleh, was caught in the middle and killed. In the uploaded video, you can hear the Palestinian gunmen yelling in Arabic, ”We got one. We killed a soldier. An IDF soldier is down.” However, no Israeli soldier was reported killed or injured.

This is where the two different narratives begin. It is essential we get to the truth, because the truth matters and facts matter. And now 57 U.S. legislators have called on the United States FBI and the U.S. State Department to investigate the journalist’s death, to sanction Israel and to condemn Israel for acts of aggression and humanitarian violence because the reporter was a dual Palestinian and American citizen.

The IDF Chief General of Staff Aviv Kochavi stated, ”During the operation in Jenin, suspects indiscriminately fired an enormous amount of gunfire at IDF soldiers and hurled improvised explosive devices. Forces fired back with live fire. Our soldiers in Jenin acted under fire, as in many cases, demonstrating courage and determination to protect the citizens of our State. As in many other events, the Palestinians launched extensive fire at our forces and indiscriminately wild fire in every direction. Unlike the Palestinians, IDF soldiers carry out trained and selective shooting. At this point it is not possible to determine what shooting the reporter who was killed [sic] and we are very sorry for her death. In order to reach the investigation of the truth, we have set up a special team that will find out the facts and present them as fully and as soon as possible.” Initially Israeli officials stated that Abu-Akleh was likely killed by an errant Palestinian bullet. Later that evening, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, ”It could have been Palestinians who shot her – or erratic fire from our side.” This opened up an entirely new narrative.

Shireen’s lifeless body was immediately taken to a Palestinian coroner who removed and kept the bullet. The officials conducting the autopsy said they were unable to determine the bullet’s origin. The Palestinians have refused Israeli requests for a joint investigation into her unfortunate and untimely death. Without the bullet, the Israeli government cannot accurately determine what happened. The Israeli government wants a full investigation to happen in order to find out as much information as possible.

The Palestinian narrative has been spread throughout the mainstream media and has gained considerable traction. “Not only was Abu-Akleh shot by Israeli troops, rather than hit by indiscriminate Palestinian gunfire, but she was deliberately targeted by Israel in order to silence the voice of Palestine (David Horovitz, left of center, Times of Israel).” Al Jazeera comments on that day: ”We condemn this heinous crime, intended to prevent the media from carrying out its message, and we hold the Israeli government and the occupational forces responsible for her death. We hereby call on the international community to condemn and hold Israel occupational forces accountable for the deliberate killing of our colleague Shireen Abu-Akleh.”

The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “execution” and said, “We vow to bring the matter before the Hague to the International Criminal Court to punish the criminals. We have rejected a joint investigation with the Israeli authorities because they are the ones who committed the crime.” This was said without full evidence. Senior PA official Jibril Rajoub, called Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett a Nazi, accusing him of giving the direct orders to hunt down and assassinate the journalist. This was a spurious comment and outright lie that has been disseminated throughout the world by the mainstream media.

The Funeral of Shireen Abu-Akleh

By now, many of you have seen the (heavily edited) video clip of the funeral procession of Abu-Akleh. It was floated first on social media then picked up by legacy news outlets. It is very misleading. The images of Israeli police shoving, pushing and hitting away the pall-bearers burns an indelible image into one’s psyche. It is a very tiny portion of a much larger story. The clipped video was disseminated throughout the world to make it seem as if the Israeli Police interfered with the procession, when in fact, it was the exact opposite. The various videos are shown and explained below:

This is the heavily edited version

Jerusalem is a political and religious hotbed waiting to boil over. In the days leading up to the death of Ms. Abu-Akleh, throughout the Ramadan period, gangs of roving youth from East Jerusalem were going into (the main city of) Jerusalem tearing down Israeli flags that lined the streets for Memorial Day, Independence Day and Jerusalem Day. For many Israeli Arabs, the formation of Israel as the Jewish State, their ancient and ancestral homeland, marks ”The Nakba” or The Great Catastrophe. There were riots on the Temple Mount with young men barricading themselves into the iconic gold-domed Al Aqsa Mosque, using it as a fortress from which to throw rocks and explosives.

Shireen Abu-Akleh was a Melkite Christian born in Jerusalem in 1971. Her immediate family was originally from Bethlehem. Orphaned at an early age, she went to live with her mother’s family in New Jersey receiving a Catholic education both there and on her return to Israel for high school. She graduated from Yarmouk University in Jordan with a degree in journalism. Fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Greek, she was hired by Al Jazeera in 1997. Her career, reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, women’s issues, and global dialogue made her a leading journalist and an inspiration to many young Palestinian girls. She resided in East Jerusalem at the time of her death.

After her death, Abu-Akleh’s shrouded body was carried on a stretcher draped with a Palestinian flag from Jenin through Nablus, then Ramallah for the residents of the West Bank to pay their respects before it reached Jerusalem, where the Christian funeral was scheduled to take place. Her family made arrangements for her coffin to be taken by hearse from the hospital to the church, not paraded through the streets of East Jerusalem. The following is the direct account of the notes written by the Israeli Police Force on the events of May 13:

– Plans for the funeral procession of Shireen Abu-Akleh were coordinated in advance by the Israel Police together with the family. – On Friday, about 300 rioters arrived at St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem and prevented the family members from loading the coffin onto the hearse to travel to the cemetery as had been planned and coordinated with the family in advance. – Instead the mob threatened the driver of the hearse and then proceeded to carry the coffin in an unplanned processional route to the cemetery by foot. – This went against the wishes of the Abu-Aklah family and the security coordinations that had been planned to safeguard the large number of mourners. – Israel Police instructed that the coffin be returned to the hearse, as did the EU ambassador, and Abu-Akleh’s own family, but the mob refused. – Molotov cocktails and fireworks were thrown by the mob at the police. Israel Police intervened to disperse the mob and prevent them from taking the coffin, so that the funeral could proceed as planned in accordance with the wishes of the family. – During the riot that was instituted by the mob, glass bottles, Molotov cocktails, fireworks, rocks and other objects were thrown, resulting in the injury of both mourners and police officers.

Incidentally, the Israel Police is made up of a vey diverse force of Arab Christians, Muslims and Druze as well as Jews, both secular and religious. Full, uncut footage of the procession shows the throwing of rocks by the mob on the sidelines. After an explosive device is hurled towards the pallbearers and rolls under the coffin, an Israel Police officer shoves the pallbearer and kicks the explosive, causing a melee to ensue and the coffin to almost be dropped. This was what was only partially shown in the edited video above.

The mob that gathered in front of the hospital tried to prevent the coffin from ever getting to the hearse. They were chanting anti-Israeli slogans, waving Palestinian flags, blocked the hearse and snatched the coffin. A Palestinian flag was attempted to be laid over the coffin in order to cover up the crucifix. When the police stepped in to try to disperse the rioters, flash bangs were hurled from the roof by the mob and objects hurled at the police. Amjad Abu Asbeh of the PA explained that the Palestinians wanted to carry the coffin on their shoulders through East Jerusalem ”so that it would not seem like a Christian funeral with a church car.” The men of the mob wrestled the coffin away so they could carry it as the tradition is for shahids, Islamic martyrs killed in battle.


Shireen’s brother told the BBC, ”We were leaving the hospital towards Church and Israel Police came and bombarded us without the family knowing why.” It must be understood that the family is in an extremely difficult position. As Christians, who have been heavily persecuted by the Muslim contingent, telling the fullness of what actually happened, they will surely face persecution, including real death threats from the PA and Hamas. A question that begs answering is who has more interest in the funeral processing peaceably as planned, the Israeli authorities and the family of Abu-Akkeh or the mob, the PA and Hamas?

In the United States, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated, ”You know…Shireen Abu-Akleh. We need to have eyes on what happened. She was killed by Israeli forces in Palestine. Hmmmm… and you know, aahh…we can’t allow this. A lot of people will say you’re treating this differently and ….. mmmm… you’re, you’re, you’re picking them out and you’re treating them differently. Our, our, our tax dollars are a part of this. Our resources are a part of this. We can’t even get healthcare in the U.S. and like our taxes are funding thiiiiiiiissss (throws hands up). Shireen Abu-Akleh was murdered by a government that receives unconditional funding by our country with zero accountability.” AOC has over 8 million Twitter followers, over 8.5 million Instagram followers as well as a commanding Youtube presence.

U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib attended Nakba Day rallies in Dearborn, Michigan May 15. Accusing Israel of her deliberate and targeted murder, Tlaib also called for a moment of silence on the House floor in honor of Ms. Abu-Akleh, later tweeting, ” When will the world and those who stand by Apartheid Israel that continues to murder, torture and commit war crimes finally say ’Enough’? Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by a government that receives unconditional funding by our country with zero accountability.” She called for immediate boycott, sanctioning and divestment from all Israeli products as well as co-introducing legislation to have Nakba Day declared an official American holiday.

These false narratives, the misrepresenting of the truth, the failure to cooperate in an unbiased full investigation all help to destabilize the already fragile Middle East. Just last year, Israel was normalizing relations with several of its Arab neighbors as part of the historic Abraham Accords. Last week Israeli delegates from the high-tech sector and cultural entrepreneurs flew to Morocco to visit the Parliament and participate in several pre-arranged meetings throughout the country. Many of the talks and scheduled events were canceled as the rumor spread that Israel had assassinated the journalist to ”hide the truth about her reporting on Apartheid atrocities.” In those meetings that did take place, extra security was required for the protection of the attendees.

Using this latest twisting of truth to their advantage, Palestinian youth throughout the Western world organized protests, marches and parades. In particular, American youth, recruited mostly on campuses, took to the city streets, flags in hand. Their chants include ”From the River to the Sea, Palestine must be free!” Do they understand that they are saying from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea (the entirety of Israel, not just a small part), the Land must be completely free of Jews? What happened to peace, love and tolerance. Also chanted was the Arabic ”Khybar, Khybar yo Yahud…” I’m pretty sure they do not know their chant is a reference to the complete massacre of the entire Jewish town of Khayybar and the expulsion of all the Jews of Saudi Arabia by Mohammad in 628 CE. The disseminated false narratives have ripple effects throughout the world and are not just isolated within Israel. It has the potential to lead to anti-Semitic violence and to the destabilization of power in the Middle East.

Let’s Get Pickled!

O.K. Four spinal surgeries in seven months and I’m pretty much done! Yup. I managed to do a short desert trip in early December and the rest of the time it’s been Indoorsville. I’m ready to climb the walls… only I’m not up to climbing yet. I just got home again from the hospital last week. I’m ready to … let’s just say it’s time to GET PICKLED!!!!! Together. Please join me. The more the merrier.

You see, Israelis have this mad love affair with pickles. It seriously reminds me of that ”Portlandia” episode, ’We Can Pickle That.’ They seem to pickle just about everything that doesn’t move on its own here. Each cultural community has its own specialties and preferences. The Ashkenaz and Russian/Ukrainian/Slavic peoples have the more-familiar sauerkraut and pickles, very delicious and easy to make. Russians make big, huge jars of pickled tomatoes that are incredibly garlicky and totally addictive.

Every single falafel stand here has its own accompanying pickle bar. Inside a light fluffy pita, humus is spread. Then you select a couple kinds of pickles, then in pops the hot falafel balls, more pickles or ”salat, (chopped veg),then more balls, some fried eggplant or chips (french fries), more kinds of pickles, topped with techineh or amba, my fave, which is a pickled mango sauce. This is street food at its best. And cheapest. A normal falafel sandwich, bursting at the seams, will set you back about $5 with drink. And it’s always a serve yourself pickle bar. So grab a plate and PILE IT ON!! If it’s too early for falafel, get a sabich, also served in a pita, but with hard boiled egg, boiled potato, fried eggplant, humus, techineh, spicy schug sauce and PICKLES!!!

Some of the ’peek-leem” here are as simple as thin slices of red onion marinated in vinegar with a little sumac. Others more complex, like the bright neon pink turnip pickles, which I was hesitant to try at first, but now love. Their pink color comes from beet juice. There’s a pickle that’s ubiquitous here: a fluorescent yellow veg mix, also a street food stand staple. Oh and just about every person from every culture has their own to-die-for version of a carrot salad or carrot pickle. All of these healthy choices are served as part of the pre-appetizer course when you go to a restaurant in Israel. It’s much healthier than filling up on bread… at least you don’t feel as guilty for ”spoiling your appetite” before you even see a menu (Jewish moms are notorious for telling everyone, not just their kids but their husbands, their kids’ friends, the guy at the next table, ”Don’t snack or you’ll spoil your appetite!!”).

The menu hasn’t come yet, so don’t spoil your appetite!

The Ethiopians, Indians, the Mizrachi (from the MidEast), and Sephardic Jews from North Africa/ Spanish speaking countries have pickles that are honestly five alarm hot pickles. They will burn your lips off so you don’t have to worry about spoiling your appetite. I’ve even had the most delicious pickled fruits from Middle Eastern kitchens. They are not spicy hot, but sweet, sometimes sweet and sour and fragrant with ginger, cloves and cardamom.

Russians, Eastern Europeans, Ukranians and Ashkenaz eat pickled fish in the morning with their dairy breakfasts. I was actually raised on pickled herring in cream sauce, pickled herring with onions on top and pickled whitefish. Pickled sardines are a hit among those Eastern Europeans – swimming in a rich tomato sauce. I’ll pass, thank you. It seems you can pickle everything! Not that I’d care to. Also pickled cheeses are not unusual to see floating in tubs or jars in the dairy section of local markets. These pickled cheeses are spread on breads for breakfast. Always served with hard-boiled eggs.

So I sent off my dear(poor) husband who’s been waiting on me hand and foot, to trot around town taking pictures….of pickles! I told him to hit up the street food stands and anybody or anything that looks pickled. It’s like a scavenger hunt, Honey. And while he’s hunting I’ll be sharing recipes with you at long last. These are recipes I’ve been collecting over the past few years. I’ll seriously ask ANYBODY for a favorite recipe. It’s a great ice-breaker and even greater way to break the culture barrier. And who doesn’t love a good crunchy pickle? They’re incredibly healthy. Low calorie. Easy to make. And delicious. Some of the recipes are lacto-fermented like the cucumber pickles, which means they do wonders for your gut flora. So, here goes:

This first recipe comes from a woman I follow on Instagram. Malka Channah Amichai is a wife, mother of four young children, social influencer, doula, teacher on women’s issues, cowgirl, potter, cook. You name it, she does it all. In Yiddish this is a balabusta, the highest compliment, imho. Malka calls herself ’The Bohemian Balabusta.’ Her sense of style is incredible. Modern Orthodox hippie chick. American. Israeli. Funky. Fun. This is her pickle recipe.

HOMEMADE PICKLES

These really are amazing! Crisp, fresh, garlicky, sour, salty….these pickles from bohemian balabusta are my grandfather’s kosher pickle recipe. So good, so easy, and full of good bacteria for the tummy!

STEP 1: The Mixture In a large jar add- 1 liter jar of natural spring water
1 TBSP coarse salt

STEP 2: Shake mixture until all the salt is dissolved.

STEP 3: Wash very well 15-20 mini cucumbers or as many will fit nicely into the jar..Add to jar of brine.

STEP 4: Add 1 tsp black peppercorns

Several sprigs of fresh dill

STEP 5: Add in a bunch of peeled, smashed garlic cloves (5-8 large) * *STEP 6**: make sure everything is submerged under salt brine so it doesn’t mold!!! MalkaChannah hack: she uses a small, clean glass jar inside the larger jar to weigh everything down. Screw the lid on top lightly. MalkaChannah says, ” Let them sit in a cool place on the counter for at least four days. It will ferment and be super yum.” The longer they are left, the better, and if the water seems a little cloudy, it’s just fine.

You can’t walk into a falafel or shawarma joint here without noticing those BRIGHT PINK STICKS OF SOMETHING!??! What are those things??? I avoided them like them like the plague for the first couple of years that I was here. They just didn’t look natural! But they are, in fact, both natural and delicious! The lowly and ugly turnip that many people avoid or cook and bash are amazing made into pickles, served with sandwiches, deli meats falafel, shawarma…. and are stunning in a little dish on a veggie or cheese board.

Israeli Pickled Pink Turnips

No, they don’t have food coloring or any additives at all. Their gorgeous, vibrant color comes from beets! The flavor is sharp like a radish, a little sour, slightly sweet, a little salty, and fairly addictive. I got the recipe a couple years ago from our neighborhood falafel guy (after much coaxing. Shlomi, see, I’m sharing your recipe just like I said. You’re famous!!). They are really easy to make and keep in the fridge indefinitely. And they are really cheap too. Did I mention gorgeous?

ISRAELI PINK PICKLED TURNIPS FROM SHLOMI

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup coarse salt
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1 beet
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 lb/0.5 kg turnips, about 3 medium-large turnips

Peel the turnips and the beet and slice into large strips. Bring water, salt, sugar and vinegar to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Let cool and pour into a large glass measuring cup. Add smashed garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf into a large 3 cup canning or pickle jar. Add the veggie strips, with a layer of beets on top and bottom and turnips in the middle. Pour the liquid brine in the measuring cup over the veggies in the jar. Make sure the veggies are completely covered by the brine. When the liquid is room temp, screw on the lid and refrigerate. They will be ready … and gorgeous… after 5 days. Enjoy!

England has their pickalili. The people of India have their chutneys and raitas. In the Deep South of the United States, it’s chowchow. Torshi is prevalent in Iraq and Iran. And Koreans enjoy kimchi. The entire world over, we all love pickled veg prepared in various ways, depending on what we have at hand and depending on our individual palates. When the summer garden yields its abundance, our grandparents were wise enough to preserve and put up the harvest for use throughout the year.

The next recipe is also found throughout Israel. It’s a staple food and anchors every condiment stand at the falafel shops. Each person has their own recipe depending on what vegetables are available. Always cauliflower! Sometimes carrots or white cabbage, red or green pepper, sometimes celery. You can also add jicama or kohlrabi. Stunning on a crudite platter or cheese board. The veggies are slightly crunchy, vinegary tangy, and very healthy. If you like a little (or a lot) of heat, you can add pepperoncini peppers. Some people add cut-up pickles. In Hebrew the word for sour is khamootz. So we ask for khamootzim and point to which one we want. Usually there are several. The yellow, the white, the orange, purple or green.

Israeli ”khamootzim”

ISRAELI KHAMOOTZIM (Pickled veggies)

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 liter pickle or canning jar
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cleaned and broken into florets
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins
  • 1 very small head of cabbage, washed, cored and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, cleaned, cored and sliced
  • 2-4 pepperoncini or more, to taste (optional)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, without skins
  • 1 well-washed lemon, sliced thin
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 TBSP coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 whole lemon, squeezed, seeds and pulp strained out
  • 1/2 TBSP Curcum (Turmeric powder)

Boil the water for 5 minutes. Add in salt, lemon juice, vinegar and turmeric, stirring well to mix. Add all your chopped veg into the empty jar. When room temperature, pour the brine into your jar. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT ALL VEGETABLES ARE SUBMERGED COMPLETELY UNDER THE BRINE!!! Screw the top on and place in the refrigerator. It will be ready after 4 days.

Now, to switch gears and go to a different type of ”pickle.” Actually these are not brined over a period of time, but are served fresh and bright, right out of the garden. I’d call it a salad, but here there part of the ‘picklim’ family. They are served in the morning at breakfast, always present at table along side Israeli Salad, which is chopped cucumbers and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkled with salt. I would love to pack this in a little dish and take it on a picnic. Great on a hot day when you don’t feel like cooking.

Light Israeli Salad/Pickles

Ingredients:

  • 3 large cucumbers, washed well and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb red radishes (1 large bunch)
  • 4 sprigs, fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 red/purple onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice, pits and pulp strained out (1-2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • optional- shredded mozzarella ( or crumbled feta)
  • 1//2 tsp freshly cracked ground black pepper

Thinly slice the cucumbers (unpeeled), radish and onions. Place in a pretty, shallow bowl. In small bowl, mix the oil and lemon juice, salt, pepper, and dill. Pour over the sliced veggies. Toss together, incorporating dressing over salad. Let stand, covered, in the fridge for about a half hour and serve cold. If desired, you can top with shredded mozzarella or crumbled feta.

O.K. so I’m running low on battery and at the point of exhaustion. John has just come home with the photos and stories of the people he chased down asking to take a photo of their food. For those of you who know him, you can just see my jovial husband doing this. He also brought this great ”mana falafel in picklim.” I’m ready to GET PICKLED!!!

Aliyahversary #7!!🎉🥳🍾

I really can’t believe it’s been 8 years now since my 5-week pilot trip to Israel (to see if moving here could work out). Nor can I fathom how 7 years have gone by so rapidly, which marks the time we’ve been here. It’s been a time of discovery, of taking advantage of some great opportunities. It’s been a time of struggle and victory, a period of intense learning and of adventure.

The very nature of adventure is the unsure nature of the results. I’ve learned that sometimes things will go wrong. Very wrong. Sometimes when least expected. Like learning a new language and not having a clue how things work in a different country. Opening bank accounts, reading mail(bills) and emails to find an alphabet completely different than English. A written language with no vowels means one’s vocabulary must be at least as strong as one’s reading skills to get context. There’s an Israeli joke that goes like this: an Oleh chadash (new immigrant) asks someone to read his mail for him; an Oleh vatik (immigrant) ignores the mail he can’t read; Israelis just throw everything in the trash.

Yet, I’ve learned the language enough to get by with some degree of proficiency, although I’m still a long way from fluency. Usually the situation goes like this: “I’ve got this!” I know exactly what I’m going to say. Perfectly. Seamlessly. Without an American accent. Confidently initiating a conversation, I’m quickly blown away by the machine-gun-rapid-fire response in Hebrew that leaves me with mouth wide open and scratching my head. ”Again? I didn’t quite hear it with these stupid masks,” I reply in Hebrew. ”Do you want me to speak in English?” the person asks -if I’m lucky. It’s a humbling experience. Israelis, whether native or those who have been here for many years are usually very quick to correct my grammar. They just love to help. So it’s totally normal for me to have a four-minute lesson at the checkout counter with six other people in line behind me. And also normal for two or three of those people to pipe up and give their teaching on how to remember conjugations and declensions. It’s the Israeli way. Everyone has their own correct opinion on every subject and will not be swayed a millimeter. And only in Israel, when you buy an item, be it a car, a new skillet or shirt, will the salesperson/cashier wish you a ”titkhadshi” which has no direct English translation. The closest I can come to this blessing is ”Use it in good health” or ”Enjoy the new item.” I just love this!!

We have learned to be careful, especially when a person says ”I speak English.” Numbers are especially horrendous for them. There was the time when we were buying a case of wine at a particular winery because the sommelier assured us of a 50% discount if we bought 12 bottles. The 50 was actually 15. When we corrected him, he insisted that’s what he said. 50. We even wrote it down. 15%. ”Yes.Yes. I know. 50.” Another example: When we meet someone at ten thirty, they say ten and a half. “Your appointment is four and a half.” OK then…

We are learning to decipher our own mystically encrypted language (English spoken by Israelis). It was only this year that I finally understood the beauty salon owners who style the long, silky-smooth black tresses of the young Israeli women. They call it ”fen.” As in ”You want me to make you fen, Mommy? I make you fen. You be young and sexy, Mommy.” Actually, they are asking me if I want my hair blown out… as in FAN. Using a blow dryer. Fen. Oooooohhhhh, now I understand. Make fen. Use the blow dryer. And what’s all this ”Mommy” business? I hear it all the time. Not just from men, but among the women, too. That word here has nothing to do with being a mother. It’s a term of endearment. Short for mamtoKAH or ”My Sweet.”

In the beginning even the most mundane tasks were extraordinary feats. You have to LEARN how to ask for a bilingual menu. Just think about that one for a minute. We’ve tried fending for ourselves many times. More often than not, we’ve learned to ask for help – especially when it comes to things medical. Finally we’ve learned to navigate the beaurocracy of the socialized medical system with all its paperwork, forms, and gatekeepers. We’ve learned to lean on other more ”in-the-know” friends to get us in with the right/best doctors. Here it’s called Protektzia. It’s very necessary. Coming from the rather cushy life, hospital experiences have surprised us. It’s bring your own towels, water pitcher/bottles, straws, emesis basin, food, even babysitter who will be there 24/7 to advocate for you. It’s a necessity here. It’s not a luxury. Everyone has a family member or paid mittapellet to stay with them bedside.

I’ve found humor in the most unexpected things. The word for the hospital gown… you know, the one that never comes together where you want it to… is called a keTONnet!!! In Hebrew, this is the biblical word for robe or tunic, as in ‘Joseph’s father, Jacob gave to him a many colored ketonnet.’ I love this!!!! And the nurse thought I was absolutely nuts when I proclaimed “ketonnet?!?! ketonnet??? k’mo Yosef?????” Or when the anesthesiologist says ”I’m going to put you to sleep,” but in Hebrew it’s the same phrase for euthanizing your pet. ”I’m going to put you down now.” Not particularly something you want to hear before your operation. It requires a world of trust in the doctor and faith in the Almighty. Still, there’s nothing like being in a clinic or a hospital and everyone wishing you a speedy recovery, a “feel good,” a ”quick return to health,” or a blessing of G-d that you will be well and the treatment successful… even if it’s for a check-up. Even the security guards and janitors wish people to be well. I think this is humorously precious.

Speaking of Israelisms and Biblical references, the Hebrew language has no real curse words. There’s lots of slang that has been introduced into the culture recently, mostly among the young, from different cultures. But I think it’s pretty funny that to say, ”Go to hell,” is “l’azazel.” Biblically, the azazel was the scapegoat that on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It carried the people’s sins out into the desert wilderness (off a cliff). And while I’m on the subject of remission of sin: the word ’kappara’ in the Biblical sense is that which covers or is a propitiation for sin as in Yom Kippur, Day of Covering(sin). When someone wants to say ’Oh my goodness!’ a lot of times it’s ’Oy, kappara!’ Also the word kappara is an endearment for Sweetie. A guy will call his girlfriend or wife ’kappara.’ Another idiom that everyone says is ’Barukh haShem’ (praise the Lord). It’s used for a myriad of responses. “How are you doing?” – “Barukh haShem, all is well.” “And your final exam?” ”It’s over, barukh haShem!” The airport: “The lines were small, and, barukh haShem, I got through in no time.” The other prevalent phrase is ’b’ezrat haShem’ or with G-d’s help. ”And your final exam?” ”I’ve studied. B’ezrat haShem, I’ll pass.”

It’s the only country where people paste signs up on their back windshield telling everyone to keep the Sabbath holy. Where the mud flaps on trucks do not have sprawling naked women but the Hebrew phrase, ”There is nothing else but G-d.” It’s like the Deep South in the United States you see billboards saying ’Jesus saves.’ Here there are billboards announcing the imminent arrival of the Messiah. And if you go to Jerusalem, be prepared to see several Jesus figures. Barefooted, white robed, some with donkeys, others wearing crowns of thorns. For reals! There’s a documented condition here called Jerusalem Syndrome. Pilgrims visit the Holy City and become so absorbed in the milieu that they have mental reality breaks. You must Google it.

There was the time when my car completely broke down. It was cold and the rain was coming down in buckets. I was alone. In the industrial sec of Haifa. And it was getting dark. Somehow I managed to call the tow truck myself. I explained where I needed to have it towed. But then things took a turn. The tow company said they would be there between two and four hours from the time of my call. Leave the keys under the mat, the door open, the hazards blinking. What could I do? It involved complete trust. I called a friend to pick me up and I hoped my car would still be there when the tow guy came. But I did it! All by myself! In Hebrew! And it worked!!!!! Victory!!!

We’ve learned to become very flexible. To be open to the experience, to the journey. There’s literally something new and exciting in every little village, around every corner. Israel is ancient. It has a lot of history. We’ve spent the past 7 years really studying Scripture – and then going to the places we read about to put ourselves in that exact spot. How did it feel to be sitting at the oldest, pre-Canaanite gate/entrance to the city where Abram rescued his kidnapped nephew, Lot? What must it have been like to cross the Jordan and enter into the Promised Land? To watch Elijah go up in the whirlwind? To see Naaman the leper get cleansed by dipping in that very same spot seven times? To be there as John was immersing his followers in the River Jordan? We’ve seen ”the high places” with their altars to pagan gods and we’ve seen Asherah poles. We’ve studied Roman history and have visited some of the Decapoli, beautifully preserved ruins of Roman towns with their markets and bathhouses (we studied the anatomy of a Roman town when I homeschooled, so this has been pure delight for me). We’ve climbed on and in aqueducts. Walked through old Crusader ruins. Squeezed our bodies into ancient first century hidden tombs in the mountains. It’s a country where the ancient meets the medieval that kisses the modern. Where an old Crusader hall is now an ice cream shop and an Ottoman khan is now a nightclub.

It’s the only country I know of where the street graffiti has Biblical connotations.

A walk in the shuk (covered open-air marketplace) is filled with the smells of fish, of ripe fruit, freshly baked breads, exotic spices (those colors!!!) and incense. The smell of fruity tobacco is prevalent here, in the shuk where vendors hang out at the entrance to the shops smoking their hookah pipes or playing sheshbesh (backgammon). In fact everywhere you go, whether to the shores of a lake or a restaurant, you will see the men smoking their nargila pipes of tobacco. Israel is a place where grilled cheese sandwiches are called ”toasts” (Anglicized Hebrew) and our toast in Hebrew is actually grilled or roasted bread. Be forewarned! It’s a place where dogs and cats and peacocks roam freely in many restaurants up here in the North. Where golf carts mix in with the regular cars on the streets, slowing traffic for ages. Where the honking of horns is used both to communicate ”nu? the light will soon turn green. Pay attention. Just sayin’” To ”Hi there. How ya doin’?” Or ”Move over NOW!!” The drivers are more than very aggressive here. And my husband has become one of them. In this instance, he’s truly learned to live like an Israeli. If you can’t find a parking spot, use the sidewalk. Make one up. It’s an empty space. Only in Israel have we seen motorized wheelchairs with oxygen tank on the side rolling along the side lane of the freeway, again stalling traffic for miles.

We’ve learned to at least appreciate the different foods here. Israel is a cultural melting pot. Highly spiced North African dishes; stuffed, cooked vegetables from the Middle East; healthy Israeli chopped salads for breakfast; pita bread so fluffy it feels like you’re eating a cloud; shawarma; falafel; firey hot sckhoog sauce; and tangy mango pickled amba sauce are some of the highlights. We’ve gone to restaurants astounded by the sheer amount of food put on the table. I’m not joking when I say there are up to 30 different bowls and small plates of salads, pickles, relishes and dips placed in front of you even before you order the ”real food.”

Hospitality is a real art form in the Middle East. When we go over to someone’s place for just a quick visit, we are usually offered coffees, teas, lemonade, plates of appetizers or snacks, dessert cakes or cookies. We’ve learned that it’s truly rude to say no. Even at places of business – like our printer or the insurance guy – it’s customary to be offered Turkish coffee in teeny tiny paper cups, served black or with sugar. Also bourekas (filo pastries filled with cheese and spinach or mushroom and potato)and plates piled high with little pastries or rugela, bowls of dried fruits or nuts. And for John: ”You want smoke? Cigarettes? Nargila? (hookah)” The first 15-30 minutes of a meeting is chat. Current events. Family. Weather. Travel. This has been very different for us, as we are often reminded: ”You Americans. Always in a hurry. It’s always rush, rush, rush. Never time to enjoy.” There have been dinners that have lasted until 2 am with the guests absorbed in conversation as each course is leisurely brought out. A bite of this. A bite of that. And lots of talking. A restaurant table is reserved for the evening at many places. At first we thought the waiters were completely inept and negligent, as in no service at all. Now I understand that they expect you to enjoy your meal and the company. If you want something, you will ask for it. A different culture indeed.

Yes. It has been difficult. My husband and I both have battled cancer successfully (b’ezrat haShem) since we’ve been here. We’ve dealt with family crises. We’ve missed the wedding of one daughter. We’ve become grandparents several times and over thousands of miles. Thank goodness for FaceTime! But we love it here. We have enjoyed the seasons and now measure time by what is growing in the fields or what is available at market. We’ve gotten to know the history here and the many different people. We can now discuss the political scene with some understanding, realizing that every person has their own opinion and everyone thinks their opinion is the only correct one. We’ve enjoyed long nature strolls and days at the beach with a Roman aqueduct as the backdrop. Lazy mornings at a cafe are normal. I think our outdoor cafe culture rivals that of Paris.

Before the days of lockdowns, we were able to travel fairly easily and inexpensively to Europe. A flight to Italy is only a couple hours. It takes about 4 1/2 hours to fly nonstop to the UK. John and I have finally been able to fulfill our lifelong dream of traveling. So far we’ve been able to visit Scotland, Amsterdam, France, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary and the Czech Republic (7 times now. Prague is amazing!) Israel is a great point of departure and there are many more places we wish to see. We’ve hosted many visitors from abroad and look forward to the days when we will be able to have more guests. One of the best parts of our moving abroad has been seeing how our son has grown and developed. When we came, Max was 16. He’s since mastered the language, gone through army service, made friends, and is doing incredibly well in university. It amazes me at how well he has adapted to life here.

So after seven years, we are no longer considered new immigrants. We have settled in and have grown accustomed to the pace of life here. Where things run from Sunday morning to Friday afternoon, after which there is a complete shutdown for Shabbat. We know the year’s rhythms; we drive back roads, sometimes faster but always more scenic; we have learned to decipher and understand our new language; we have met and made friends with many different people from many different countries and cultures. Our prayers seem more relevant and intimate now. It is indeed holy land. I have returned to a Land my ancestors prayed about and dreamed of for generations. An ancient and ancestral homeland with many modern wonders and modern problems. A Land where the past bumps up against high rises and high tech. A Land surrounded by enemies who wish to see us nonexistent. Yet we stand up and defend ourselves. A Land bringing help and hope to the world. John and I are often asked when we are moving back to the States. Our answer: This is our home now.
A joyous and meaningful Pesach and Easter to all my readers! May we enjoy days of true peace soon.

A Micronation Within Israel & Parties on the Beach

As I always say, Israel is the most random country. There are adventures and interesting spots in the most unsuspecting of places. It’s another reason we enjoy living here: we never know what we’ll find next. I had heard rumors of Achzivland when I was in high school from friends’ older siblings who’d returned from Israel. Then the stories popped up again when we were volunteering with the army. There were tales of rock concerts, hippies, free love on the beach, artists, celebs and draft-dodging wanderers in the 1960s-1970s.

Achzivland is actually its own independent country, the smallest in the world, on the shores of the Mediterranean just 3 miles south of the Lebanese border. The story begins with Persian-born Eli Avivi who immigrated with his family to Israel when he was a baby during the Palestinian Mandate, a time when the British ruled the nascent Jewish state. Always in love with the sea, Eli, who was in his early 20s, was a smuggler. He was involved with the underground navy, pre-IDF: really just a few old fishing boats, a couple freight barges and a decommissioned cruise ship. The British had imposed strict quotas on the number of immigrants after World War II and the numbers were quite low, so Eli would take a small fishing trawler from British Palestine to Cyprus and other European locations to pick up Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and smuggle them at night across the Mediterranean back to their ancestral homeland. After the British withdrew in 1948 and the newly approved (by UN majority vote) nation of Israel fought off the invasion of Arab nations in the War of Independence, Eli Avivi left Israel for colder climates. He worked on fishing boats in the North Sea, in Iceland and Norway for two years. Then he sailed to Africa. But Israel was always calling him back.

Eli returned to Israel in 1952, settling down at an old abandoned Arab fishing village on the Mediterranean Sea once known as Al-Zeb. The few stone buildings were run down, but there was a certain charm to the compound. To Eli, it was Paradise. Beautifully frescoed plaster walls and magnificent mosaic and tiled floors in each room added to the mystique. Rumor had it that the large house was owned by a wealthy Bedouin sheik and his many wives and concubines. The fishing was excellent, there was a natural-spring well, and it was close to Akko. It was quiet and remote, perfect for a solitary life. The beach-combing and scuba diving were favorite pass-times as well as scouting out the surrounding unplowed fields. Eli picked up all sorts of artifacts and antiquities, his massive collection constantly growing to include pottery, sculptures, ancient Iron Age tools and farm implements, Ottoman and Crusader weapons, glass and coins. Avivi studied the history of his ’new’ home and discovered it went back to Biblical times. It was home to the tribe of Asher and was also inhabited by the ancient Phoenicians who used to trade nearby. What more could a handsome young man want in this Garden of Eden? He was soon joined by the beautiful fashion model, Rina, who became his wife.

Technically, Eli and Rina were squatters on this 3 1/2 acre piece of prime real estate. The Israeli government repeatedly tried to take the property back, even showing up with bulldozers. After nearly two decades of battles and their refusing to leave, Eli and Rina ripped up their Israeli passports and declared their independence. They held a large press conference and became overnight celebrities in Israel. ”I fought for this country. I loved Israel. But I have no time for the government. I just want to be allowed to live on my own little piece of land, in my own place, in my own way,” he said in a television interview. As an act of protest, Avivi created the State of Achzivland in 1971 with himself as its President for Life. He established a bicameral House of Parliament consisting of Eli and Rina. The new micronation had its own flag, with a mermaid and his house as an emblem. He wrote up a constitution (“The President is democratically elected by his own vote.”), a national anthem and passports.

For all of this Eli Aviv was arrested by the Israeli police and border patrol. He was thrown into jail, but released ten days later when the judge ruled the charge ”Creation of an Independent Country Without Permission” did not exist. Still, he was hounded by the government until he brought a countersuit. The high court ruled he could have a 99-year lease.

Eli and Rina were no pushovers. A group of six Arab PLO assassins tried to infiltrate Israel from nearby Lebanon to commit acts of terrorism in the winter of 1971. The Palestinian terrorists landed their raft on the beach of Achziv on a foggy March morning. The Avivis had seen them approach from their living room window. One wetsuit-clad terrorist met up with a fully-armed Rina as he snuck into the house. Not expecting a loaded rifle and Karl Gustav pointed at his head, he dropped his gun and a bag of grenades and pita breads. Two were wrestled on the beach by Eli and disarmed. The Avivis tied up their captives and fixed a pot of hot tea as they waited for the authorities. The paratroopers, police, Golani brigade – the whole army showed up. The other infiltrators escaped inland and were later caught by the IDF. At this point, the Avivis were national folk heroes.

In the early 1970s, just as today, the world was in upheaval. It was a time of great unrest. The war in Vietnam was raging. The hippie movement was growing. Students were protesting in Europe. The Mideast was in constant turmoil. And the beach at Achzivland was just gaining notoriety. Jewish kids, whose parents sent them after high school to work on a kibbutz would end up there. European hikers and university students found out about this great, laid-back camping area and hostel right on the beach where the only rule was non-violence. They would help out around the property in return for a place to stay and a meal. Nude bathing? No problem. Free love? It was not unheard of. Drugs? While not encouraged, it was not discouraged either. The water was pumped from the well. The bathrooms were rudimentary latrines. The house had no electricity. The young people helped Eli as he constructed his makeshift second story to the house. They helped build additional guesthouses. It was a work in progress. At the time, it was an out of the way local, yet through word of mouth, Achziv attracted artists and bohemians, poets and musicians.

Israeli musicians and rock bands played free, all-night summer concerts on the beach. Soon artists and celebs from around the world were guests there. Young couples came asking Eli to perform marriage ceremonies for them on the beach. He happily complied. In the summer of 1972, the Avivis planned a large Woodstock type music festival. Young people came from Israel, Europe, America, Canada and Australia. From that summer on people from the likes of Bridget Bardot to David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Bar Rafaeli would drop in. The main house grew in size but not to any code. More bungalows were erected. Electricity and plumbing were eventually installed.

We first visited Achzivland almost three years ago to the day. It was exactly one year to the day that Eli Avivi passed away. Rina was there with several of their old friends remembering times past. Long gone ere the concerts and parties. The main house, now a museum open to the public, was in terrible disrepair. Still, it was not hard to envision groups of revelrers dancing around a fire or hanging around the salon. A few people come by to swim at the beach. But the sun-worshipping youth have now been replaced by large Arab men, their fully-covered wives sitting on the sand. We went again last year and met Ofer, helping out around the property before his army service. His parents were regulars at the beach compound years ago. He remembered the tail end of Achzivland’s glorious past.

Our good friend, Norman (now of blessed memory) had also told us of the place in its heyday. He had come to Israel the summer of 1974 to work on a nearby kibbutz. After his stint there had ended, he met a gorgeous blonde from Sweden. It was an August romance, the tale of the girl that got away. The guests and rock stars that were there. Swimming in the Mediterranean on a moonlit night. Barbecues on the beach. His ”Lagatha” returned to Sweden, he stayed in Israel… and so it goes.

We return infrequently to that idyllic beach. The large lot next door is now a national park/ lifeguarded beach where families come to picnic and swim. The strains of music have been replaced by the sounds of children. It’s a completely different vibe. At Achziv, Rina still rents out cabins called tzimmers, mostly to the locals. They are quite rudimentary, but fitting for the beach. Old timers occasionally spend a summer weekend there, chatting with Rina and recounting tales of the past. If you visit, make sure to bring your passport and have it stamped with the seal of this interesting micronation.

Old Hollywood Glamour in Israel

I love Israel for its absolute randomness. There are just so many amazingly unexpected places to discover here. I had first heard of the old Dolphin House Hotel years ago, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I had the opportunity to visit the site and learn about its history. A friend of ours took us to brunch at The Breakfast House in the little village of Shave Zion (pronounced SHAH-vay Tsee-YONE in Hebrew).

Shave Zion (Return to Zion) population 1209, is located exactly 2 miles between Akko (Acre) and Nahariyya, 5.5 miles south of the Lebanese border. It sits right on the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the most beautiful places to relax and enjoy the sun and sea breezes. It was established in 1938 by a small group of German Jews who were escaping the Nazis. In its early days, the moshav was primarily an agricultural one, growing carrots, wheat, dates and citrus fruits. Fighting off armed bands of Bedouin raiders was not uncommon in the days of the British Palestinian Mandate.

Joshua Malka (1920-2005), was born in Egypt, one of seven children born into an upper-class Jewish family. Speaking Arabic, French, English and Hebrew, he served in the hospitality sector as a manager at the Luxor Hotel in Alexandria waiting on the elites of Egypt including King Farouk. Egypt, however, was becoming increasingly hostile to its Jewish population. Joshua and three of his brothers escaped persecution, immigrating to Israel in 1948, just in time to serve in the IDF during the War of Independence. He was 28 years old.

Afte the war, Joshua, now known as ”Shua,” returned to the hotel industry. He became head of reception at the famous King David Hotel in Jerusalem. At the time, it was Israel’s only luxury hotel serving foreign dignitaries, businessmen and celebrities of the highest order. In the late 1940s, immediately after World War II, Israel saw a huge wave of new immigrants: they were Jewish refugees rising like Lazarus from the concentration camps of Europe, arriving on the shores of the newly-reborn nation with nothing but the clothes on their backs. It was an interesting time for Israel, impoverished from the war with few resources, food rationing and in most places, third world living conditions. Despite all the hardships, the people came with hopes and dreams. It was around this time that the South African movie producer, Norman Lurie started to build a beachfront hotel in Shave Zion.

The new Beit Dolfin, The Dolphin House Resort Hotel and Country Club needed a manager. Someone used to working with VIPs, serving them and catering to their unique needs. None other was more suited for this job than Shua Malka. Shua and his gorgeous wife Eva (Chava), herself a Czech refugee who had survived Auschwitz, moved to Shave Zion in 1951. They lived a charmed life. In the winter they would travel to Europe with their young daughter. At night they would scout the hottest Parisian clubs and Berlin coffeehouses for singers and dancers to entertain at Beit Dolfin. While Shua made business connections, Chava would shop for high fashion in London and Milan. They brought back the highest quality furnishings for the new hotel as well as European chefs and entertainers.

By the mid-1950s, Dolphin House had earned a reputation among royalty, diplomats and Hollywood movie stars. With ”unbeatable scenery and impeccable service,” the luxury hotel had an Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis courts, shuffleboard, library, theatre, synagogue, and activities center. Tsimmerim, private suite cabins on the beach were always in high demand year round. Besides a Kosher dining room, there was a cafe and five-star gourmet chef restaurant. There was a house orchestra, jazz band, and celebrity entertainment. It was not unusual for there to be ballroom dancing one evening, jitterbugging on the terrace the next and Israeli folk-dancing around a huge bonfire on the beach another night. Peter Sellars, Danny Kaye, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Sofia Lauren were among the most prominent regular guests. Leon Uris wrote his novel, Exodus, from a beach chair on the sand there. Later, during the filming of the major motion picture by the same name, Pat Boone, Eva Saint Marie, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward would stay at Dolphin House. Kirk Douglas first stayed at the hotel while filming ”The Juggler,” the first full-length Hollywood movie to be filmed in Israel. It was there that he ‘discovered’ the young Dalia Lavie who lived on the moshav. She told him she wanted to be a dancer, and Douglas convinced her parents to let her study ballet in Sweden. Dalia Lavie would go on to become a top model and Hollywood starlet, often playing the role of femme fatale. She is best known for her performance in the James Bond film, Casino Royale.

Beit Dolfin didn’t just bring Beverly Hills style living to Shave Zion, it raised the entire quality of life of the moshav. The resort complex employed round-the clock workers from chefs, waiters and waitresses, cleaning crews, entertainers, valets and chauffeurs, activities leaders, lifeguards, tennis instructors and managerial staff. Private tour guides would escort the guests on hikes and to historical sites throughout the land. The Malkas built a waterfront villa and were the first in Shave Zion (outside the hotel) to own a telephone, television and private car. By the mid-1960s, Shave Zion had one of the highest standards of living in Israel.

I heard the stories over what is arguably, the best brunch in Israel…The Breakfast Club cafe. We sipped mimosas on the patio – the place is always packed and reservations are an absolute must! It’s a bit out-of- the-way, but easy to find as the village only has one main street, lined with shade trees, boutiques, cafes and pubs. Their scrambled eggs on brioche served with creme fraiche and lox was to die for. My husband ordered the chavita, an omelette topped with asparagus, basil, Mediterranean vegetables and feta, equally delicious.

After brunch, we were in desperate need of a walk, so we made our way down the street to see the hotel I had heard so much about. Unfortunate is not the word. Today it is completely abandoned, fenced off, and in absolute disrepair. Sad. Sad. Sad. The bones oof the building are still there, but it is hard to imagine the glory days. We pray someone will buy and restore it to its former self, abuzz with VIPs and alive with activity. Until then, ghosts of the past haunt it halls and memories of music and laughter waft from the balconies of Beit Dolfin.

It’s a Wrap! The Art of Headcovering

Recently a good friend of mine in the States who is Catholic asked me to buy her a beautiful Israeli chapel veil for when she goes to Mass. After all, I’m sure that she thought it’s the Holy Land, so they must be sold everywhere. In all my touring the country and visiting holy sites of many different religions I have only once seen chapel veils – actually mantillas worn by a group of Mexican ladies on a pilgrimage to the Annunciation Basilica in Nazareth.

Israel is a unique place in that there are a majority of people who do cover their heads. Just by looking, one can tell which religious or ethnic group a person belongs to. Religious Jewish men wear different styles of kippah – knit, black velvet, small, large- and different styles of hats depending upon their sect. Druze men wear white knit caps or maroon fez-type turbans, depending upon their rank. And some of the Muslim men wear tight-fitting knit caps. Sometimes you will be lucky enough to see a Bedouin shepherd sporting his kaffiyeh tied around his head with black rope.

But it’s the women who really take head covering to a whole new fashion level in Israel. The married women are the ones who cover their heads here. So if the woman is religious, right away you know her marital status (secular people or hiloni as well as Christians keep their heads bare). Druze ladies are the plainest, wearing long black robes and white veils. Muslim women cover their entire heads and the neck and throat with a hijab, which gives them a very distinct look.

Orthodox Jewish women also keep their heads covered all the time. Whereas there are no Biblical or Scriptural injunctions that are given, it is a tradition rooted in ancient times. It is both a sign of respect to G-d, that one is under His authority; a sign of one’s marital status; a beautiful crown for a queen; and for some, a sign of modesty in reserving the most beautiful parts of herself for her husband only. It is NOT a sign of feminine subjugation, as the man also covers his head in the religious household.

That said, let’s move to the fun part… the fashion. The headwrap is a creative and beautiful extension of a typical Israeli look. Called a mitpachat, meet-PAH-khat, in Hebrew or tichel, TIH-khel in Yiddish, it is a single or multiple layers of scarves wrapped around the head. Sometimes a bobo is used, which is a padded pouff used to add extra volume and a wig band is essential for keeping the mitpachat in place.

Although married women of all ages wrap their heads in scarves and laces, some of the older women and women who don’t like that look for them, opt for hats. Sometimes berets in felt wool or fluffy knit are worn, others sport jaunty little caps which range from extremely casual to very dressy (weddings, Shabbat, holidays).

Not up here in the periphery where things are more casual, but in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the center you can see amazing fashion statements. I think it’s the influence of French and British Jewish women, but I’ve been recently seeing the most gorgeous fascinator hats worn by young married ladies of style. There are entire shops which just sell hair accessories… and some of the selections are very, very expensive!

The next look, worn by many ladies in the Chabad sect, is the sheitel, SHAY-tl. Be very, very fooled. These are wigs. Not yo momma’s wigs either. Beautiful, long full, silky, luscious locks which cover the head, but feel and look incredibly natural. I remember pointing out women in sheitels to my husband when we first got here and he was pretty incredulous. If you didn’t know, there’s no way you could tell. It’s now become a fun ”game” for us, especially in the larger cities. And of course, they come in all lengths, colors, textures – and price ranges from expensive to exorbitant!

So there you have it, the diverse world of Israeli fashion. One of the most popular items to buy at the shuk, the markets, here in Israel are pashminas. They are huge scarves made of lamb’s wool and woven in the most gorgeous variety of patterns and colors. Many tourists buy them to wear as shawls for cool evenings. Some use them for table coverings or even wall hangings. Jewish women collect them to use as mitpachat. I have a large basket full of them, yet I have never once seen a chapel veil for sale. Not in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem, nor in Nazareth or any other shop selling to pilgrims here. Although it is a rule that one must dress modestly upon entering a church here(no shorts, bare legs or arms), head coverings are not required. I leave you with a few more samples-