We Remember

Two years ago (April 23, 2016) I wrote a blog post on Yom ha Zikaron, the Israeli Memorial Day. Please read. America has a lot to learn from how Israel remembers its history and its fallen.

Tonight begins Memorial Day and Yom haAtzma’ut, Independence Day – this year Israel celebrates its 70th year as a nation recognized by the United Nations. Memorial Day begins the preceding evening with a two minute national siren calling the nation to attention for a day of mourning the fallen.

Throughout the day the music on the radio is soft and pensive. With many songs of prayers and sad songs of remembrances of national tragedy. The television stations broadcast ceremonies from the graveyards and stories of the lives of the victims and heroes. All day. Nothing else.

Israel also has another way of remembering its fallen sons and daughters, both of soldiers and victims of terror. Throughout the land, monuments are erected, both corporate and private. They can be found in city parks; along the ocean drive; in the middle of forests; standing solitary in the desert sands; and in larger cities.

A particularly beautiful memorial is the pair of angel wings at the foot of a soldier’s grave in Netanya.

In our city, I came across a large monument rather obscurely placed in a local park. It is pretty hidden from the road, in a place the soldier liked to frequent… in a lovely secluded park near a small hiking trail-

Others are incredibly thoughtful and meaningful. These are usually more private memorials set up by immediate family members and friends. Early this spring as I was walking home from a friend’s house, I discovered this tribute to a young man who had given his life for his country. It was in one of his favorite places, close to his home, with a beautiful view of the valley below. He has left this earth and has walked up the stairs and through the door to heaven- his dog can be seen at the door. It’s poignant, beautiful, thoughtful, and my favorite.

There are other ways Israel remembers her war dead and victims of terror on this day. People wear small bouquets of the red flowers, Blood of the Maccabees. The tiny blooms signifying drops of blood.

From the setting of the sun until an hour after sunset, IDF soldiers are selected to stand guard at the graves of fallen soldiers in the national cemeteries. This year, my son was one of those chosen for this high honor. Throughout the day, free transportation is offered to those wishing to visit the graves of their loved ones. It is one of the most solemn days of the year. Ceremonies are held, sirens blare through the country at 10 am. All cars stop on the roads. People get out and take a minute to say a prayer and remember. It is all quite surreal, something you never forget. The siren blares into your innermost soul…. and the world stands still.

It is the most incredibly moving experience!! The entire nation comes to a complete standstill for two minutes!

Israel will never forget the tremendous cost of its freedom- of being surrounded by enemies, of the victims of acts of terror, of what it means to be the only Democracy in the Middle East. And the evening it ends, she celebrates that independence – knowing full well it’s price.


The whole story started in earnest 7 years ago, when John, Max and I made our first trip to Israel the week following Max’s Bar Mitzvah. As a youth, I had dreamed of moving to Israel, but after I got married and started having children, the raging fire inside me had died out completely-or so I thought.

Visiting this amazing country, we felt a connection to the land and the people. The spark inside leapt into a flame and I had a burning desire to return.

Three years later, after a lot of soul searching, research and planning we sold our beautiful Southern California home, packed up our belongings and the adventure truly began!

We arrived the week before Passover, a quasi reenactment of the Exodus experience. After touching down in our new rented home in Karmi’el in the North, we headed for a week in Jerusalem. How apropos and glorious. The spring festivals were upon us, and it was a time of visiting old friends, making new ones, and intense bonding between my husband and 16 year old son. We were invited to a Pesach Seder by the most welcoming family, the Eisenberg’s- the best Passover experience for us to date. We toured the Old City, experiencing the sights, smells, history and traditions of our new home.

Returning to our new home in Karmi’el the true adventure -and hard work- began. Our city was lovely, well-planned, with a tight Anglo community that was open and ready to make us newcomers feel at home and integrated into the new land. Our neighbors, all native Israelis were friendly, hospitable, and more than ready to help us make the adjustments to an entirely new culture and language. For the first six months, we never once were without an invitation to a Friday night Shabbat dinner!!!

The last three years has been a time of intense growth. We’ve had wonderful times exploring our new land from the mountain trails and archeological sites of the Galilee region. We,be strolled along romantic Mediterranean beaches. Discovered new cities. Rode camels in the desert and snorkeled among the tropical fish in the Red Sea. Floated in the Dead Sea and stood under the waterfalls at Ein Gedi where David hid from King Saul.

It’s been fun eating different new foods from a wide variety of cultures. We’ve celebrated holidays and joyous celebrations- weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, IDF swearing-in services at the Kotel, national festivals; and days of remembrance, mourning and funerals.The sweet and the sad, both.

For the most part we’ve had wonderful experiences. I wondered if my teen son would acclimate. He’s made life long friends in his gap-year Mechinah program. He drafted into army service and surprised us his first Shabbat in the army in full uniform. An unforgettable memory.

None of us could have imagined the friends we’ve made from all cultures. True, caring, wonderful people we’d trust with our lives. Israel is a very, very connected place, we’ve found out. Hard to explain, but something I’ve never ever experienced before. Although rough on the outside at times, seemingly gruff at first, the Israeli will go out of his/her way to help his fellow Israeli. It is a true connectedness. A how can I help attitude? We’ve met the most remarkable people and made great friends.

In return, we’ve learned the art of hospitality. We’ve opened our home to visiting family, old friends and new ones. Sharing the beauty and history of our new home with pilgrims of different faiths, world adventurers, scholars, Lone Soldiers, or those needing a meal and a place to stay is new to us- but has been the most incredibly rewarding experience. I just wish people in America knew the true benefits and joys of hosting the way these people do. We’ve learned so much, have had so much unexpected fun, and have had our hearts enlarged.

It has not always been easy. In fact, this move has been the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. Leaving behind four daughters, friends, lifestyle and home was huge. Thank goodness for skype and other social media immediate connection with our loved ones is possible. We’ve made a lot of adjustments. Learning a new language at my age has been painful, but there were lots of resources from our five month Ulpan classes, ongoing survival Hebrew class, and all the people willing to help out. I learned that if you truly try with all your heart to integrate, people give you much more respect and kindness. And even though modern-day conversational Hebrew is very different than the Biblical/Liturgical Hebrew I grew up with- it’s added to my understanding of the latter.

Difficulties have included seemingly simple things now difficult like banking, understanding the utility bills and daily life…all in Hebrew(without the vowels!!) We’ve had to deal with the trauma of health issues, for me, hospitalization, surgery, treatments- everything in Hebrew! Conversion from the English to the metric system; the dollar to the shekel. But we’ve tried to have a sense of humor through the difficulties; a sense of adventure; and the attitude of “it’s an opportunity to learn and grow.”

An added benefit has been the ability to travel Europe…. airfares are much cheaper than flights from Los Angeles. And travel is something we always dreamed of!! Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Italy, France, Switzerland ,Scotland-

We’ve planted gardens, fed Israeli soldiers, volunteered with the army, and I started my own business. John has become a coach of several Little League baseball teams. All in all, it’s been a full life so far. We’re living the dream, as difficult and glorious as it’s been. And look forward to more to come! What a three years!!!

The Wait

Yet another unplanned post-

Living in Israel has been mostly positive. Of course everything has its ups and downs. Being separated from friends and families has been made tolerable due to modern technology: Skype, FaceTime, SMS, Email, the myriad social apps, and our favorites, Viber and WhatsApp that allow one to call or text anywhere in the world for free. We’ve also been host to a fair amount of pilgrims, adventurers and family wanting a home base as they tour our beautiful country. Keeping in touch has never been a problem.

The past week, though, we were thrown headfirst into a most dire and difficult situation that grew beyond our most distressing imaginations. I had bought my ticket back to California last December. With plenty of time before the birth of our first two grandchildren- one due late March, the other at the end of April. My husband was due to follow late April.

A week and a half ago, Tess messaged me photos she had taken of her legs, feet and hands. Swollen so large she could not wear shoes. Her blood pressure was elevated. She was feeling nauseous and dizzy. Despite my pleas to take off work, rest, hydrate, and go to the clinic, she went to work…. for most of the day until she could take it no longer.

That night, she and Michael made the trip to UCLA Medical Center, thank G-d, a top level hospital! As I had suspected, she had preeclampsia and her BP was sky high. After a small seizure, she was put on morphine, but her and the baby’s heartbeats and blood pressure plummeted so they gave her norepinephrine. They wanted to get the baby delivered, so pitocin was started along with a whole host of other meds. That’s when we got the phone call.

John and I were beside ourselves. Me, especially, since I was to be present at the delivery. We could only pray, wait, and give them our “attaboys.” The long night for us passed with no news. Finally, late morning, calls from older sister who was taking my place as L&D coach. Tessa was ready to push, but having a really hard time.

No word. We are on pins and needles, but praying. My strictness in observing the Sabbath without phone in hand had been thrown out the window hours ago. Three hours later. Finally!! There are problems. Baby stuck and they have to try to turn it manually. More pushing. We are praying now harder than ever, our pleas ascending to G-d from the Holy Land. Two more hours. No word.

At last, baby is born but not breathing. Rushed to NICU. Tessa in bad shape. They are working on both patients. So…. what can we do??? I’m dying that I’m so far away from my babies. I want to be there for my daughter, to comfort her, hold her. My dear husband reminds me that we can do the best for the both of them just by our prayers. So I text four really close friends to have them join me in intercession on Tessa and Quinn’s behalf.

For the next couple days, the news is not good. For either. We now have people davening and praying and fasting and offering up all over the world as the small group of four pass the intentions on to others. It is very comforting, but still… I have 2 days before my booked flight- and this is the first time I don’t want to be in Israel….

Finally news on our granddaughter- after blood transfusions, oxygen support and other numerous procedures- takes an upturn. We are praising HaShem and rejoicing for this miracle, for new life!!! We get pictures. Of the baby. Hooked up to machines. Various tubes and monitors. It takes me back to the days when I delivered my preemies without family support. But Mike and her three sisters have put their schedules asides and are taking turns round the clock staying with Tessa – and visiting the baby. I feel a little better.

Still, as I mother, I’m beside myself. John reminds me that if I were in another state, we’d be in the same boat. But I’m not!!! I’m a world away!!! Tess takes a huge turn for the worse and begins to hemorrhage. She receives several units packed red cells. We pray even harder. We pull out specific Scriptures reminding G-d of His promises. Tessa’s fever has spiked to 104.6F/40.5 C! More IV antibiotics. They can’t figure out the exact cause of the infection.

Her gallbladder goes. I’m scheduled to leave the next day. A 25 hour trip with layovers and travel times. She’s going into surgery. Surgery is delayed until they can control the bleeding… I contact a whole host of other friends for prayers. Please go straight to the Kotel. Put a petek in the wall and daven, daven, daven! I plead with my Jerusalem girlfriend.

Priests are praying at the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, throughout the Galilee and around the world. Rabbis in Los Angeles are praying. Torah classes are studied in merit of mother and child.

Tessa’s lungs are building up fluid and she’s having trouble breathing on her own. Unresponsive to antibiotics. Women’s groups are dedicating their Tanya studies to Tess & “Malkah bat Tessa.” I’m pacing the balcony, praying, glued to the phone. Possible sepsis? Clots removed. Heparin. Lasix. Blood. Morphine.Echocardiograms. MRI. Chest X-ray. CT scans. I’m floating in medical jargon.

John says to have faith. Look at all the good that’s already coming from this. We’ve told seven people and now there are prayers all over the US, Israel, Canada, the U.K., Europe, Australia and even Africa. People of all faiths are turning to G-d and doing goods deeds on her behalf. That G-d is faithful and merciful and compassionate even when we don’t get immediate results.

We are being purged emotionally, drained spiritually, but our faith is still unfaltering. Think of the many close calls, the many miracles we’ve already witnessed in our lives. John goes off to coach his baseball team when I get the news. Liver is going south. Heart and BP irregularities. I leave in four hours- not soon enough. I just want to hold my daughter. Tell her how much I love her.

I send encouraging texts to her sisters. We’re strong women. She’ll pull through. Keep up the faith. Don’t stop praying. I send them photos from my book, Talking to G-d by Rabbi Naomi Levy ( highly recommended!!!!!!). John comes home and I plead with him to come with me on the next flight. He reassures me that our G-d is faithful. That faith is believing without seeing. Hoping beyond all hope. When I get there in a few hours, if needed, he’ll change his flight-

This was the only time I’ve been in Israel that I really wanted to be elsewhere. By this time, we were being flooded with emails, calls & messages from concerned folk. Hundreds of them. I needed time to de-pressurize. To cry quietly. To breathe. The flight proved the perfect opportunity. 18 hours of blank space. Time to pull myself together. Hope I’d be there “in time” crossed my mind a few times, but I quickly pushed it aside and opted to focus on the saving power of a merciful Creator. He could do this. We could only pray for wisdom for the doctors. As my husband had reminded me, ” This is completely out of our hands. We can do nothing. G-d is in charge. What good will worry do?” Now you know why I love this awesome man so much!

By the time I arrived at Tessa’s bedside, the bleeding was under control and six antibiotics were down to four. She was sitting up and lucid. Mike and my three other daughters were there. They hadn’t left her side in almost a week. I could breathe a sigh of relief – and give these exhausted kids a much needed break. I was there.

By the next day, IV lines were pulled and oxygen was lowered. The baby, still in NICU, was allowed to be brought down to see Mama. The worst was over and all would be well in the long run.

Last night we were surprised when the evening rounds were made and discharge orders were written up for both. Shocked, but elated!

Yes. Sometimes we go through pure hell. Sometimes things happen in life that are simply beyond our control. But we have a most awesome G-d who listens and is merciful, and if we let Him, He can bring tremendous good to a broken world.

I’ll spend the next few days helping the new family get settled- cooking, cleaning, shopping, running errands so they have time to bond. It will be a long, slow process for Tess- but she’s skied, parachuted out of airplanes, rapelled up the tallest mountain cliffs in Hawaii, New Zealand & the States. And more. She’s a strong, athletic woman. Then I’ll move on…

I’m eternally thankful to HaShem for His mercy towards us. How can I ever repay????? And to all those out there who prayed for us; who sent notes of encouragement….. see, our prayers were answered! Hallelujah! Thank you so much for your outpouring of love. Hugs and high fives to all.

I will be in Southern California through the end of May. My regularly scheduled posts on life in Israel will continue as usual, hopefully uninterrupted.

The Great Bird Migration

The first week of January, John and I took a trip to the Hula Valley to witness the yearly winter migration of the Great Cranes from Europe to Africa. It was something we had planned on doing for two years, and was a spectacular sight.

Located in Israel’s far north, the Hula Valley lies just north of Lake Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Formed by the Syrian-African Rift, the valley is framed by the Golan Heights to the east; snow-capped Mount Hermon to the north; and the Naftali Mountain Range to the west. In this small area, a mere 30 km long and 7 km wide, is some of Israel’s most fertile agricultural land filled with fruit orchards, wheat, corn, peanut and barley fields, spotted with well-stocked fish ponds and lined with canals.

It is also one of the best places in the world for bird watchers. Israel, lying at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa – the Rift Valley especially- is a superhighway for over 450 species of traveling birds. That’s over 500,000,000 birds each year!!! The Hula is the last green spot before flying over the vast Sinai and Sahara Deserts in Africa. Thousands of visitors from all over the world come in the fall and spring to see the great bird migration.

At the end of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s, this area was a vast swampland inhabited by a few Bedouin tribes who made their living weaving papyrus mats, and a few early kibbutniks, mostly from Russia and Poland. It was a harsh land and malaria was always a problem. The Jews settling in the valley bought the land for their kibbutzim from the Bedouins at exorbitant prices. Even then, as they tried to farm the area, they were constantly under Arab attack.

Shortly after independence, in the early 1950s, the Jewish National Fund invested in the first national engineering project- the draining of the swampland. One third of the valley was totally swampy, another third had groundwater right under the surface. The water came from the aquifers of Mt Hermon, the Dan River and tributaries of the Jordan River which runs from the base of Hermon through the Hula Valley and into the Kinneret. The draining left spontaneously igniting peat bogs, which then had to be cleared, but which added to the richness of the soil. Canals were built parallel to the fields for adequate drainage, and in the late 1980s, man-made lakes and ponds were added and stocked with many varieties of fresh water fish. Today, not only is it prime agricultural land, but Agamon Hula has become a nature reserve for a number of animals.

Twice a year over 300 species of migratory birds (White Pelican; Cormorants; Great Spotted Eagles; Imperial Eagles; Cranes; Storks; Snowy Egrets;Herons) rest and refresh here as a midpoint in their travels.

We started our day early in the morning- entrance is free to wander the 8.5 km of meandering trails. Bikes are welcome and available for rent as well as golf carts and family friendly covered pedal carts. Our first stop was one of the beautiful bird watching platforms right on the lake. We took binoculars, but free telescopes are available for public use on each platform. Our morning sighting started with several varieties of duck, coot and loon as well as a few herons and graceful white egrets.

No one could have prepared us for what was in store next. We decided to buy a ticket to the tractor-hauled, camouflaged duck blind for a trip into the fields.

Passing through magnificent landscape, we finally arrived at a massive field where over 42,500 Great Cranes awaited. They had just arrived from Russia and were feasting on corn. In order to prevent these creatures from reaping havoc in the farmland, over 3 tons of corn per day is scattered in one of 3 fields specially designated for the ravenous sojourners. What a sight it was!

From there, we went closer to the lake to watch thousands of White Cranes and long legged storks.

Also in the adjacent fields were a herd of Water Buffalo being raised for their milk which is used by a nearby kibbutz for artisanal mozzarella.

Because these birds are so well fed here, many refuse to leave, staying in the area throughout the Hula, Golan and Galil year round. The White Cranes and Blue Herons are often spotted tagging after herds of local grazing cattle. The fish in the Kinneret are also an abundant food supply. Just last week, right above our house, there was a regal presentation of Aya, or spotted hawks. This truly is a land of diversity and plenty, and we are so blessed to be able to live in such a remarkable place.

Making the Connection

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Recipes & Ideas for the Fall Feasts


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

HARVEST QUINOA SALAD                                         parve   serves 6-8

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



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

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

Dressing: Blend well-

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


              ROASTED FIGS ON BABY GREENS                    parve      serves 6

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

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

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


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



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

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


The Seven Species

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


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

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

                                    FIGS (Tay’ ah neem)

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

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


CARAMELIZED FIG SALAD (Serves 4.  Pareve or Chalavi)

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

2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar (best quality for sweetness)

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

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

                                 OLIVES (Zay teem’)

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

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

                  POMEGRANATES (Ree moe neem’)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          GRAPES (Ah nah veem’)

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


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

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

WHEAT ( Khee tah’)

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

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



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

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

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

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

   DATES (Tamareem)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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




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

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