Some say it’s the European model. Most explain it as an effect of socialized medicine. Add to that cultural and religious idiosyncrasies and I call it craziness.

If you read my last blogpost, you’ll know where I’m coming from (read it now to catch up). John was hospitalized a couple weeks ago, undergoing major abdominal surgery. Even though we were at the highest rated medical center in the MidEast, medical care was still very different from the US in many ways.

Because we have socialized medicine, the doctors and nurses make nowhere near what they make in the States. So, the care is very basic. No frills. No extras. The patient is monitored and given medications, IVs are given, drains and bags changed. That’s about it for nursing care. Most people have a designated caregiver who stays with the patient throughout their hospital stay. It’s a bit on the crazy side.

I was the caregiver for my husband. I fed him and helped him out of bed. I supported him on his walks around the hall; showered him; changed his bed linens (I brought pillows and blankets, towels and washcloths from home… through experience). When he needed something from the nurse, I went and got it… all typical for the caregiver. Things nurses or attendees would do elsewhere. As there was no TV, I would read to him (Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad) and raise or lower the bed.

Following last weeks’ debacle on Shabbat when I was caught in a world where everything was closed, I started panicking Sunday night. Perhaps it was exhaustion from sitting/sleeping bedside in a plastic chair, but my imagination was running fast and free. The High Holy Days we’re fast approaching. Friday and Saturday Shabbat followed by Sunday through Tuesday Rosh HaShannah. Yikes. What would that look like at the hospital? I’d be trapped in all respects!

All transportation would be down. All shops, stores, restaurants would be closed for five days. They would be on a skeletal nursing staff… I found out later there would be four nurses and one intern on the floor per shift. The only food for the caregivers would be that which was brought in by friends and relatives beforehand. What would I do?

There was talk on Tuesday about placing stable patients on “khofesh” or vacation/break/holiday from the hospital. So, if John was stable enough, he would be allowed to go home on “vacay” so to speak. Thursday evening until Wednesday morning. He’d still be admitted. Same room. Same everything. He’d just get to go home. I’m completely serious. It sounded like pure craziness.

I learned how to put the medicine in the little cup on the mask and give breathing treatments by nebulizer …. every four hours. No biggie. I used to do this with my son when he was little. Next came learning to give subcutaneous injections of blood thinner… once a night in the thigh to prevent embolisms. I can do this. Also intramuscular injections of another medication. Emptying a drain, a little plastic hollow donut attached to a tube inside the abdomen that sticks out of Johns side like a pocket watch on a chain and fob. Sheer craziness.

There were a couple more unpleasantries, but I learned everything I needed. A bit of IV morphine was given before he was “disconnected” and we were off. Backseat. Pillows to tuck in. Two hour car ride. Into the house. Up two flights of stairs. Into the bed. We made it. John was wiped out but home.

I had picked up catered meals for two weeks. I had an emergency nurse on speed dial on my phone. I had all the meds and all my instructions. I could do this! At least we were home and I could get some sleep in my own bed, take a shower, and enjoy a proper meal. And Max was home most of the time to help as well.

My parents always wanted me to be a doctor. For once, I felt like one. As of today, all is well. The patient is resting comfortably. I even snuck out of the house to go to synagogue yesterday for the New Year service.

The synagogue a block from my house is Sephardic/Moroccan. I had never been to such a place. Most of the old prayers and liturgy I remembered were there, but the melodies chanted and sung were completely unfamiliar. There were many additions to the services…. I really loved it. Even though there were separate men’s and women’s worship sections, all the ladies participated wholeheartedly. When I lost my place in the prayerbook, several different women were more than glad to help me out. It was a totally memorable experience and I cannot wait to return.

Tomorrow morning, first thing, we pack John back into the backseat with all the tubes and lines attached. The drive back down to Sheba should be uneventful… I can do it in my sleep by now. I have no idea how long he’ll be there. I’m thinking not more than a day or two since he’s already been home and all went well. Still, this entire process has been sheer craziness for me.

Real Life in Israel: Reality Bites

No matter who you are, or where you live, your life is filled with tremendous highs and lows that seem like you will never climb out of.

Whether you live in Indiana or Israel, India or Italy there will be easy times and life-challenging situations. For us, this past week was filled with all of the above: the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Last Tuesday we took a huge American style dinner up to my son’s IDF base to celebrate his last week there. My husband and I brought crockpots of vegetarian Texas chili with all the fixings; bowls of potato salad and cole slaw; corn bread; fresh Southwestern-style corn on the cob; broccoli salad…. and six apple pies. Enough to feed an army. Well, at least a platoon.

We met in their clubhouse and it was a blast. We heard stories; they presented him with cards and pictures and parting gifts. Max presented them with new kitchen utensils, a wok, stockpot and a coffee service for when the UN coalition comes for meetings there. They shared laughter, hugs and tears…. and we packed up all his duffel bags of gear and laundry for the ride home. It felt a lot like picking kids up from summer camp, actually. And… we have seven soldiers coming to our house for Thanksgiving. Two from last year. Nice!!

Max doesn’t officially end his army service until early October- it was just his last full day on the base he’s been stationed for the past 2 1/2 years. Definitely finished on a high note.

Wednesday, we drove down to Sheba Medical Center where my dear husband would have extensive surgery for cancer the next day. I will spare you all the unpleasant details. Suffice it to say, he was in the operating theater for nearly seven hours, and recovery for four more- waaay longer than we expected. The doctor said it went well “Not to worry.” Getting information from doctors here is, most of the time, less than minimal, but Dr. Chaikin is the world’s number one surgeon for this type of operation.

So, we’ve gone from tremendous highs to steep troughs in 24 hours. I’ve been bedside since Wednesday night. Things here are completely different than in the States as far as hospitals go. I’ve been told “It’s the European system” and “Don’t compare. Just accept the new reality.” In any event, there are lots of cultural differences and at the least, by the end of this ordeal, I’ll either have enough material to write a book on what new immigrants can expect; have a bang-up film script; or a full stand-up comedy routine.

So, first of all: we’re not in the travel tourism part of the hospital. I suspect things are a wee bit different over there. From experience, I brought towels, washcloths, all the bathroom amenities; pillows; blankets. The patient gets a bed. A fitted and a flat sheet. That’s it. There are no TVs in the room. No menus with gourmet spa food. No private rooms. Nothing that is not absolutely necessary.

It is more than strongly advised in the best-of-circumstances that you have a person to sit with you 24/7 at bedside… relatives taking turns or a hired metapellet, caretaker. The nurses are here to administer medicines, clear catheters and drains and take care of medical problems that arise. The metapellet takes care of the patient’s personal needs- feeding, washing, raising or lowering bed, walking and all else. It’s very different. In my case, my personal service also includes being a translator.

The Shabbat experience: a story unto itself. Here in Israel, the Sabbath, Shabbat, is a complete day of rest. Culturally – Saturday is really the only full day of the week off work. Religiously- it’s not taken lightly. By noon Friday, things start slowing down; a few hours before sunset, stores close up shop. An hour before, public transportation comes to a halt. I know this. I really do. I spend all day Friday cleaning and cooking for dinner Friday through breakfast Sunday, as we don’t do any work. I just don’t cook. I know this. I really do.

Friday snuck up on me this week and bit me in the butt. I’m at the hospital and the steady parade of people shlepping coolers and bags and boxes and containers of food for their loved-ones started around noon. I realized I was in trouble. So I started asking. Fortunately there are a few special “angel” agencies that come around and deliver food bags for the weekend to the caregivers that need it. Most are ordered the days before Friday.

So late Friday afternoon around four, the two gentlemen arrived. Have you seen “Shtisel” on Netflix? If so, you’ll know what I mean. The black fur hatted, black silk bathrobed, white stockinged, bearded dwarfs showed up in the lobby a little later than the agreed-upon meet-up with various satchels on a cart. They were in a great hurry. Running late. No time to waste. They spoke an Eastern-European heavy dialect of Hebrew I found hard to understand. Did I perchance speak Yiddish? Not to worry. They hand me a heavy plastic trash bag filled with Shabbos wonderfulness. My mind raced back to the mouth watering Shabbos meals my Gramma Weissman used to prepare.

I got back toJohn’s ward and opened the sack. A liter of Shabbat wine. Nice start. I can drink myself into a Shabbat stupor. Two challah breads, obviously handmade. Great. Twenty Shabbat candles. A little excessive, but if there’s a power outage, I’ll be set. Four trays of cakes. Uh…. 5 packages of napkins. Somehow I think Shlomie and Homie gave me the wrong bag. No way to change now… looks like a sugar and carb stupor is in the works for me this weekend. Honestly I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Cafeterias closed. Restaurants on site closed. Vending machines stopped… not only do you not turn on or off electricity or push buttons, or use phones, or drive or cook or anything… you don’t use money. It’s a day off from worldliness. A foretaste of heaven. Don’t get me started. I promise to write a serious Shabbat blog soon explaining the why’s and wherefore’s.

In the meantime, by 3 pm Saturday I was near meltdown when I bumped into Him! Mr./Dr. Dreamboatberg, the handsome, young intern making the rounds. You know. Tanned. Beautiful hair and smile. Wearing shorts, flip-flops and a lab coat. Progressive as all get out. With an ego the size of New York. A social activist as well. He’s spotted walking the halls of UCLA Medical Center; Sloane-Kettering; Mount Sinai Coral Gables. There’s one on every staff. He’s in control, Baby. He’s got all the answers.

So I asked the obvious question. Obviously. Duh. Dumb me. “So, is there ANYTHING open around here for food?” Simple question. Then I got it: “Madam. Tell me. Where are you?” I answered, “Sheba.” “Madam. Did you vote?” “Wha…..” I stammered perplexed. “Madam. I see who you are.” “Wha????? Me????” I am beginning to think he has x-ray vision. Perhaps a Rasputin in disguise. “Madam. Remember this the next time you vote. If you want the religious to run the country, you can expect not to eat on Saturday. And this is only the beginning. That is all, Madam.” And with a flip of his clipboard he was gone. Poof. I kid you not. Perhaps I should think about slugging the wine after all. It couldn’t hurt. Nu?

In all seriousness, for us, it will be an uphill climb. Slow, but hopefully steady. I expect we’ll be in the hospital another couple of weeks, minimum. Max will stay over one day and night so I can do laundry and shower and catch up on some zzzz’s. Already I’m trying to plan for the “weekend” ahead… the looooonnnggg weekend. Not only is it Shabbat starting Friday at sundown, but Sunday evening is the beginning of the High Holy Days, Rosh HaShonnah, the New Year (think as far away from Times Square as possible. think Jerusalem. No raucous parties; lots of rowdy prayer) which lasts through Tuesday night, translated Wednesday in reality. Lord only knows what will happen then at the country ‘s medical centers.

One things for sure: I’ll be ready for any and every possible situation. Watch out, Sheba. I’m moving in big time. You asked for it!!!

May we have only good news and peace in the new year, 5780. May we have only health. May my husband heal fully. May I be able to deal with any and every situation better than I did this morning. May we always look for the humor. May we fully rely on G-d (F.R.O.G.). May we see great and mighty miracles in our day (housetraining my dog is a good start). May we all enjoy the richness of family, friends and a roof over our heads.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, holy and peaceful new year!

The Two Hour War

For many of you in khool ( Hebrew slang for khootz l’aretz, or outside of the country) who are not keeping up with or don’t get accurate news reports, let me share our weekend with you.

To catch you up on the past few weeks, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been quite busy. Iran has been supplying our immediate neighbors to the North, Syria and Lebanon, with rather sophisticated guided long range missiles. They have been building munitions factories in both countries – outside of Damascus and Beirut. And Iran has been sending Al Quds and Iranian Revolutionary Guard generals to both countries to train Hizbullah terror cell leaders how to best wipe Israel off the map. In the past two weeks, the Israeli Air Force has bombed several of the ammunition production and storage facilities in Syria outside of Damascus. Israeli intelligence has exposed photos and information on key Iranian and Hizbollah leaders setting up terror cells, delivering money and arms and training groups of terrorists.

Last week the final Israeli insult came. Israeli intelligence drones released footage of a group of Iranian backed Hizbollah operatives in Lebanon transporting explosives-laden attack drones for a deadly incursion into Israel. The terrorists were spotted, filmed and eliminated before they could launch their drones. The next day, Israel bombed a Hizbollah headquarters in Beirut. Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hizbollah in Lebanon released a video from his underground hiding place vowing revenge. Imminent action to be taken. Over 150,000 rockets aimed at Israel. Watch out…..

Our son came home on regular IDF leave last Wednesday. He has only 18 days of IDF service left, and we were thanking G-d they had been peaceful years and we could plan his cutting up his khoger party. By Friday we were hearing that all reserve duty soldiers were being called to the borders. Soldiers not already on Shabbat leave were confined to their bases. Max would be on-call operational. Nasrallah’s threats were to be taken seriously.

By Saturday night, the messages on Max’s phone were coming in fast and furious. Some he could share. Others not. Iron dome batteries employed. Public bomb shelters being opened in border communities. Navy on emergency watch. Bases on lockdown and high alert. Heavy artillery movements… we could hear the low rumble of jets overhead and helicopters patrolling the area.

I spent Saturday night taking down all my paintings, photos and decorative plates from the walls. Moving dishes and breakables off shelves for safe storage…. and praying… a lot. I wasn’t scared: I was merely determined to be prepared. For whatever came hurtling from the sky our way. I inventoried our mamad (bomb shelter – it’s really cool!!!). Water – check. Food -check. Medical supplies – check. Sanitary supplies and portable potty -check. Cook stove and camping lights -check. Clothes -check. Bug out backpacks with copies of papers and two days worth of supplies for each person- check. The menfolk were laughing, thinking I was nuts, but it kept me busy. And I could at least heroically save those closest to me. Mental notes made of extra water and toilet paper to get the next morning. I tried to fall asleep to the sounds of the IDF jets overhead.

Sunday morning was the first day of school here in Israel. The neighborhood kindergarten is across the street from our house, and by 7:30 proud young parents were escorting their little children to Gan. The first-timers were easy to spot as lovely floral wreaths encircled their angelic heads – both girls and boys. Moms pushing younger siblings in strollers and dads with babies in sacs on their chest… all without a care in the world.

People were going about their business as usual for an already hot, late-summer morning. I got to the grocery store expecting to find long lines and bare shelves. Neither. Didn’t these people know what was going on 16 miles to the north???? Were they all delusional????

The sound of jets and drones and copters thundered and whirred all morning. Max’s phone buzzed continually. I pried for news and prayed even more. For protection. For cool heads to prevail. For peace. I connected with my support group of moms of soldiers. We were all trying to calm and console one another and we’re praying for our kids on front lines. Several were moms of Lone Soldiers who had left comfortable lives in the States, in England, South Africa and South America were desperate for any news.

We watched live-feed of the Stromboli volcanic eruption off Sicily. And we worried about my 92 year old father-in-law who lives on the coast of Florida as Hurricane Dorian intensified. It seemed the whole world was exploding. I stayed glued to the internet.

By late afternoon Sunday, I began to hear the muffled booms of artillery in the distance. It had begun. Would we be forced, imminently, into the mamad when the warning siren sounded? School was out, and children were playing in the street. Neighbors were walking their dogs. This was just surreal.

The sun set, painting the sky a brilliant red and Jupiter shone brightly in the dusky sky. Portents of Armageddon (by the way, we live just 20 miles north of Megiddo)? The new moon hung on the Western horizon – the moon of the Hebrew month of Elul. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” “The King is in the field.” Popular epithets said here throughout this month. During the month of Elul, the month preceding the High Holy Days, G-d is incredibly close and the heavens are open. Please, G-d. Please.

And the night sky grew eerily quiet. No jets. No booms. No sirens. No drones. Just the occasional barking of a dog and the gentle symphony of crickets. A peaceful Galilee evening.

The news started surfacing. Hizbullah anti-tank rockets had been fired at an IDF base adjacent the Lebanese border. A Jeep and an ambulance had been hit. There were casualties. Two dead. Two critically injured. The IDF had responded with an artillery barrage. Two more Lebanese rockets were fired, hitting targets.

Netanyahu made a nationally televised speech stating there was an exchange of fire. There were no injuries. “Not a scratch.” In the meantime, we were beginning to get footage from Lebanon. Flag waving. Honking horns. Candy passed out. Fireworks in celebration of the 2 high-ranking IDF soldiers killed and scores wounded. What was going on????

By 9pm, the news was forthcoming. Israeli intelligence knew there was going to be an attack. They saw the buildup and had the wherewithal to surmise the place from/of the attack. They set up several vehicles… jeeps, humvees, an ambulance along key roads and on the military bases. Inside we’re mannequins in full IDF uniforms, some even looking through binoculars.

The Hizbullah artillery fire indeed struck their targets. Bandages and bloodied actors were filmed being airlifted on stretchers onto helicopters and brought to ambulances in true “Pallywood” style (The Palestinians are notorious for fake filming bloodied casualties who then get up off their stretchers and walk away). The images flooded the Muslim countries and they began to celebrate their victory. An eye for an eye. They thought they had gotten their revenge. The whole “war” lasted two hours.

As of today, we are still on high alert, but I drove Max up to his base this afternoon. Life never really stopped being normal for most Israelis. Our Israeli neighbor friends laughed at this new olah (immigrant) when John told them of my preparations. They were more than used to life on the brink and took everything in stride. The IDF and G-d will protect us and when the real time comes we’ll know in advance what to do and where to go. Explicit instructions will be given to everyone.

We’re still watching Hurricane Dorian and praying the East Coast of the United States will also miss the bullet. And I’m standing firm in my preparations. It was a practice drill for me in real time. Coming from Southern California where earthquakes, fast-moving brush fires, and mud slides are imminent, this is one olah who will be ready for whatever threat comes our way. In the meantime, the khoger cutting party is back on!!! Woohoo!!!!!!

Do you have your disaster plan in place???

Humus Wars

Humus, correctly pronounced khoo’ moos, is serious business here in Israel. So much so that it’s even sparked minor wars. The Arabs accuse the Jews of culturally misappropriation of the thick, creamy chickpea paste served at every meal. Men heatedly discuss the absolute best, hands-down humusia (restaurant specializing in only humus pronounced khoo moo see’ yah)) to the point of loud, irrational arguments. I’ve actually seen this numerous times. And in January a local Galilee village incurred mass riots with fireworks and stones being lobbed (one fatality) in a Hatfield-McCoy style fight between rivaling factions. The cause of the dispute that got way out of hand? Which local tribe made the best humus. Go figure. Never say your uncle makes better humus that someone else in an Arab village –

Some say humus originated in the Holy Land in Biblical Times. Others, that it came from Egypt. Arabs claim it is a true “Palestinian food,” while many claim it was brought along with the dried chickpeas from Jewish refugees fleeing the hostile Arab lands in 1948. Either way, it’s one of our beloved national foods.

Depending on your personal preference, humus is made and served many different ways, but always made with the basic ingredients of rehydrated chickpeas, lemon juice, tehine (sesame paste) and water. Some swear by chunky humus – I like mine smooth. Some enjoy it hot – I like mine cold or at room temperature, with a splash of olive oil and a spattering of the spice zata’ar.

Depending upon the humusia, you can order humus with chickpea balls, ful mudammes (favs beans), hard boiled egg, or shakshuka style – hot with eggs cracked on top which gently cook in the paste. It is not uncommon to have your hummus served with chopped picklim (pickles) or served with a raw onion – I love this!!!!

Arab restaurants, not of the Kosher variety, serve chopped lamb and other meats on top. Jewish humusias are typically pareve, neither serving meat nor dairy. There, expect to find falafel (fried chick pea balls) served on the side. It always comes with fluffy pita bread- think biting into a cloud.

Traditionally, humus can be served before the main meal in small dishes as part of a larger mezze platter with a bazillion different salads and a basket of pita. It always shocks first-timers. The endless salads (eggplant a million ways; chopped veggies; pickled everything; tabbouleh; tehine; humus; and more) keep coming until the little dishes fill the entire table. Don’t be fooled! Don’t fill up! You haven’t even ordered your entrees yet!!!! Or humus can be served by itself in a huge bowl, cratered in the center and filled with olive oil and your above-stated accompaniment, sprinkled with zata’ar or fresh chopped parsley, chopped garlic or paprika. With your pita, veg and raw onion to scoop it up, it makes for a protein-packed, very filling, cheap and satisfying meal. Add a glass of tea or limonanna (minted lemonade) and your day is made.

In the summer, my go-to breakfast every morning is a finely chopped cucumber, chopped hard boiled egg and a serving spoon of humus all mixed together. Very rarely do I go through the effort to make my own, as humus is one of the few pre-made foods (some ‘salads, i.e. eggplant and mayo; cabbage and mayo) that can be found in every store… and it’s delicious.

However, there are a couple really good recipes I’ve tried and my own riff on the tradition. So, here goes:


  • 1 1/4 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 6 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup & 2 Tbsp tehine paste
  • 4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 1/2 Tbsp ice cold water
  • Salt

Soak dried peas in a large bowl of boiling hot water to cover. Let sit overnight until size doubles.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place medium large pot on high heat with drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a full boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and skins that float to surface. The peas should cook between 20-40 minutes, maybe longer, depending on type. They should be very soft and tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, but not be mushy.

Drain the chickpeas. You should have about 3-4 cups. Place in a food processor or blender until you get a thick paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tehine, lemon juice, garlic & 1 1/2 tsp salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth paste.

Transfer the humus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes before serving.

Tamar’s Quick and Easy Humus (pareve)

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup tehine
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • Salt, pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Drain 1 can and 1/2 can chickpeas. Pour peas and 1/2 can liquid into large bowl. Add lemon juice and blend with immersion blender until smooth. Add tehine and garlic. Blend until creamy. Can add up to 2 Tbsp oil to create a creamier, smoother texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Turn out into serving bowl and top with extra olive oil and any of the toppings in blogpost above.


  • 1 can white/capellini beans
  • Handful (1/3 cup) fresh basil leaves
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
  • Salt & pepper

Drain beans. Blend with remaining ingredients until creamy and smooth. Turn into serving bowl and garnish with roasted sesame seeds or roasted crushed garlic pieces. That simple. Quite easy and delicious with crusty rustic bread. Enjoy!

The Incredible Israeli Breakfast


Before I visited Israel for the first time in 2011, I asked an ex-pat Israeli friend what she missed most about her native country. “The breakfasts. Definitely the breakfasts!” was her answer. Was she kidding me or just plain crazy?

Israelis take the most important meal of the day incredibly seriously. If you’ve ever been to Israel (and not stayed at a hostel or pilgrim house), you will know what I mean. I’ll never forget that first morning in Jerusalem’s Dan Panorama Hotel. The breakfast spread was simply overwhelming. Different from anything I’d expected. Delicious!!!! I fell madly in love at first sight, smell and taste. It was so different than anything I’d ever seen. So, what makes this meal so wonderful?

There are several different staple courses. First of all, because of the Kashrut rules (most Jewish people keep Kosher to some degree), the meal is dairy. No meat to be found anywhere at all. No bacon. No ham. No sausage. No meat. Fuhgeddaboudit!

We’ll start with the salad course. There are salads of every kind… not the typical American tossed salad, but chopped fresh vegetables, sprouts, nuts, grains, olives, and eggplant. The national food of this country, found at just about every meal is the Israeli salad: cucumbers and tomatoes diced finely and topped with olive oil, lemon juice, or tehine. There can be cherry tomatoes (did you know they were developed here first?) with cheeses and balsamic vinegar; sprouts with green onions, mushrooms, radishes,  arugula and nuts dressed with olive oil;


quinoa salad with pomegranate arils, juice, green onions and feta cheese;


lentil salads; cold eggplant cubes in picante tomato sauce; smoked eggplant with garlic, pureed; carrots in vinaigrette; all types of cabbage salads; anything fresh, colorful and in season cut up and dressed is fair game. Avocado and hard boiled egg with sprouts and walnuts is popular here as are tabbouleh and fattoush. And the beet salads! Don’t get me started-



An Israeli breakfast is not complete without the dairy, namely wide variety of cheeses: cow, sheep, and especially goat-milk cheeses, both hard and soft. We have whole pieces of gouda, kashkaval, manchego, grana padana at our tables. There are the soft cheeses, like tsahoba (yellow cheese), emmental, and buttery emek cheese. Add to this feta: Tsarfatit and Bulgarit, which is a very salty feta. Cream cheeses; labaneh is a mainstay here – a thick cross between a sour cream and a yogurt, spread on bread, dolloped on salads, on eggs, on veggies and everything in between. A reason I gained so much weight in my first three years here. And yogurt – with fruit, with honey, with nuts, with granola, usually fresh goat yogurt. I eat this every morning. The darned delicious cheeses!


Fish!!!!! Lots of fish!!!!! Thank the Russians and Eastern Europeans for this course. There is always tuna fish – whipped into a mousse, plain, tuna salad (dark tuna is used – white unavailable here, so if you visit me, bring the Albacore!). Also included are assorted smoked fishes and pickled fishes – whitefish, sable, herring, salmon (lox), to name a few. Pickled herring with onions, herring in cream sauce. Fish. Fish. Fish (It’s not considered meat, so breakfast usually is the time to eat it).


I certainly hope you’re not full yet, because we are only getting started! Olives of all types (stuffed with almonds, lemon, chiles, garlic) and all colors. Of course humus. Lots and lots of humus and pita. Mix it into your salads (I have humus, cucumber and hard boiled egg chopped small every morning). Humus with a soft egg on top. Humus with gargarim (whole chickpeas), with olive oil and zata’ar spice, hot humus. It’s ubiquitous in Israel. And of course, there’s bread. Wholegrain. Pita. Dark flour breads. Flatbreads. Crackers. Sorry, but you won’t find Wonderbread here no matter how hard you try. There are lakhmaniot (little hand-held buns and breads) of all varieties. Just recently the American-Jewish bagel started making an appearance. The Yememites introduced Jachnoon, a tight roll of filo dough that is deep-fried and soaked in a sugar syrup, usually orange blossom flavored.

You won’t find pancakes or French toast here. Unhuhh. Nope. We have bourekas, another national breakfast food that is also a snack food. The boureka is found on every breakfast buffet, in every grocery store, and in bakeries. There are stores everywhere that sell only bourekas (I have my favorite place. If you come, we’ll go. It was one of the places my daughter, Liz, requested from her last visit, they are just that good!!!). They’re sold by the kilo. So the boureka came to us from Turkey. They are thin, fluffy paper-like filo dough pockets filled with savories like mushroom and onion, cheese, spinach and feta, potato. They come in bite-size and hand-held size. Some fillings are sweet with jams and fruit butters, some have nutella or chocolate centers. A popular variety is the pizza boureka, and they are all best eaten piping hot.

Would you believe, that the rabbinate (board of Chief Rabbis) ruled in 2013 that each type of boureka has to have a pre-determined shaped based on the filling (the triangular are dairy; the square are potato; semi-circles are mushroom; pizza spirals; fruit filled have open patchwork on top)? That way, people would not get confused? Oy va voy! I’m so confused…..

Are you ready for the eggs? Another national dish is shakshuka. There are several different takes on this, but basically it’s a mildly spiced tomato sauce with eggs cracked on top and cooked by the heat of the sauce. Sop it up with that hearty bread. Put a spoonful of white labaneh cheese on top.


I love chavita (khah vee tah), our version of an omelette. I’ll include the recipe at the end. For those who want breakfast to go, try sabikh. It’s a warm, thick (think eating a cloud) pita stuffed with pieces of boiled potato, grilled eggplant, hard-boiled egg and tehine on top. And pickles. And Israeli salad. Sometimes fries. Serious food for starting the morning. Street food. Great breakfast.

Yes, there are fruits. All seasonal. Melons, fresh dates, figs, stone fruits, pomegranate, mango in the summer. In the winter dried fruits, stewed fruit compotes, citrus and apples. Sweets. Pastries and quick breads and cakes and rugelach. DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT EATING THE HALVAH!!!!!! One of my favorites since I was a kid. Halvah is made of sesame seed paste and honey compressed to form a brick shaped bar of awesomeness. Flavors that are traditional are plain, chocolate, marble, pistachio, and espresso. Now you can get many different flavors (Halvah King, Mechane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem) like chile, passionfruit, whiskey, cherry….there are over 100 varieties!


I’m sure by now you’re thirsty. Very, very thirsty with all that salty cheese and fish, the humus and the halvah. Every Israeli breakfast comes with freshly squeezed juices. Max likes apple carrot. I prefer the lemon with fresh ground mint over ice or the orange pomegranate. John, well he sticks to plain old orange, which if you’ve ever tasted the Jaffa Orange isn’t so plain, nor is it old. Add tea or coffee. No Starbucks here. The coffee is usually a strong Turkish blend with cardamom. Or have it aufrukh, upside down, a cross between a cappuccino and a latte with lots of foam on top.

From the grand hotels to the small cafes, to the kibbutz or bed and breakfast, this meal is usually a big deal. The kibbutzniks used to work very long, hard days in factories or in the fields, and needed hearty fare to keep them going until the afternoon. Most all of the food was locally sourced, seasonal, and abundant. The Israeli breakfast has become this country’s gift to the culinary world. When people come visit, I serve a big breakfast. It’s how we roll now. Lunch here is a medium sized meal, or is grabbed on-the-go like falafel or shawarma. Many people have their breakfast early and lunch around 1:00-3:00. Shops, clinics, government offices close during the hottest part of the day so people can pick up kids from school, run errands and eat lunch. Dinner is usually a smaller, large snack affair… unless of course, it’s a special occasion.

But if you visit Israel, and I hope you do, make sure you sample Israeli breakfast at several different places. You’ll fall in love and never want to leave. That’s a promise!


                             GALILEE CHAVITA (serves 1)

  • 1 large egg, cracked into a bowl and scrambled
  • 2 TBSP raw red/purple onion minced very finely
  • 2 Tbsp assorted fresh herbs, chopped very finely – Parsley, chives, and either thyme, oregano or basil are good.
  • 1 tsp butter or PAM
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a small skillet sprayed with PAM or coated in melted butter. Pour the scrambled egg in and let sizzle. Do not mix!!!! you can tilt the pan a little bit, or move the edge a wee bit with a fork so extra runny egg will cover the pan, but just leave it to bubble and sizzle. Add the chopped onion and herbs all over the top. Turn off the heat and let the herbs and onion sit a bit. Season with salt and pepper. Can be folded in half and served as a sandwich between pita or bread. I like mine plain with a chopped Israeli salad and a ramekin of goat yogurt on the side. (The onions should keep their crunch)

SHAKSHUKA (my favorite recipe is Yotam Ottolenghi’s, serves 4)


  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 190 ml olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 red & 2 yellow peppers, cored and cut into thin strips
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs thyme, leaves plucked
  • 2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper
  • 8 eggs

In a large saucepan, dry-roast the cumin seeds on high heat for two minutes. Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and two tablespoons of the coriander/cilantro, and cook on high heat to get a nice color. Add the tomatoes, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low heat 15 minutes, adding enough water to keep it the consistency of pasta sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorsome. Break the eggs into the pan (can split into four individual little skillets and crack 2 eggs onto each). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook gently on low for `10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with chunky bread.


When I have guests, I usually make this Broccoli Egg Cake, my version of Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower cake (not a cake at all). It keeps well in the fridge and can be enjoyed hot or cold.



Broccoli Egg Bake  (serves 6-8)

  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1 bunch broccoli
  • 1 red/purple onion
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 7 eggs
  • 120 g/1 cup flour
  • 1/3 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 150 g/ 1 1/2 cups grated gouda cheese
  • 100 g 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 75ml / 5 Tbsp  olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp nigella seeds
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 180*/400*F.

Cook the broccoli in florets in a large pot of salted boiling water. Simmer for 506 minutes until the broccoli has softened a bit. Strain and run the florets under cold water. Drain well.

Cut 4 round slices off one end of the red onion. Set aside. Chop the rest. Place in a small pan with the rosemary and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the chopped basil ribbons, flour, turmeric, salt and pepper. Mix until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the onion and cheeses carefully. Do not overmix! Add the cooled broccoli and fold in thoroughly. Do not break up the florets.

Line the base and sides of a springform pan (9 1/2 inch/ 24 cm) with parchment paper/ baking paper. brush the sides with melted butter. Sprinkle the nigella and sesame seeds on the bottom and sides so they stick to butter. Pour in the broccoli egg batter, spreading evenly. Arrange the onion rings in concentric circles over the top. Place in the center oven rack and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown, puffy, and set. Remove from oven and let cool before releasing from pan.





Sheba: The Queen in Israel

The central part of Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is known for its hospitals and excellence of medical care. I grew up knowing of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem – my parents were big donors. But there is also Shaare Tzedek, Beilenson, Ichilov, and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. When my husband was diagnosed with Stage 3+ cancer, we made the immediate decision to transfer from our hospital in the North to Sheba. It required some pull (proteczia) from friends who knew people there, but we were able to get an immediate appointment, thank the Lord.

Sheba Medical Center, the largest hospital complex in the Middle East (and the largest I’ve ever seen), was first established as a triage and military hospital in 1948 in military barracks and quonset huts for casualties from the Israeli War for Independence. In 1953, it also began to take on civilian patients. Today, it sits on a 163 acre campus east of Tel Aviv. With over 125 departments, Sheba has been rated in the top ten medical centers of the world by Newsweek. It is number four in cancer care worldwide. It is a city unto itself, complete with its own infrastructure.

John and I were more than a bit overwhelmed by our first visit – just trying to find our way around this huge campus was daunting. However, we were immediately put at ease, as an entire personalized team had been pre-assembled for John which included his own oncologist (world famous, Dr. Anat Shmueli who specializes in colorectal cancer), radiologist (Dr. Jacob Lawrence also only sees colorectal cancer patients…he’s the best!), surgeons, dietician, nursing staff, social worker, acupuncturist, alternative medicine specialist, spiritual advisors (there is a panel of rabbis, priests, pastors, imams and other spiritual leaders), and our personal patient coordinator. We understood from the beginning that theirs would be a holistic approach to healing, leaving nothing out. Unlike many of the hospitals here in the North, everyone is completely fluent in English. All the signs and paperwork are in English and Hebrew, which was a huge improvement for us. Cleanliness and efficiency are all top notch. All of our paperwork was handled the first day, so there was not the typical delay in getting referrals, approvals for each doctor and procedure, and delays in appointment and treatment protocols. It was all handled for us.

All of the departments are world class and cutting edge in research and technology. The medical center is home to the National Center for Health Policy and Epidemiology Research; the National Blood Bank; two heart centers; several medical research centers; the world’s largest rehabilitation center; geriatrics; pediatrics; a huge Alzheimer’s center; an eating disorders hospital; and numerous other clinics, both outpatient and inpatient.

Some of the departments, I’ve never even heard of, like the translational medicine center. I guess that’s for people like us who need remedial help with their Hebrew????? No clue…. but I’m pretty sure that if it’s a disease, a treatment for it can be found here.


Sheba has its own hotel for guests who wish to stay close to their patients. Because it is known for medical tourism (people from all over the world come to be treated here), there is an off-campus “hotel” just for patients who need to be seen on a regular/daily basis for treatment. This full-service hotel is for patients of Sheba only, with full-time nursing staff in house and shuttle to and from the hotel to each building of the hospital. We were advised to have John spend the last two weeks of treatment there, but did not need it (it was all covered under our state medical insurance).

In addition, there are two full shopping malls for all your needs from clothing to books to pharmacies to grocery stores, banks, and a post office. There are full service hair and nail salons, offering free services to cancer patients. Four restaurant courts have a wide variety of Kosher restaurants. Sheba is a little city unto itself.

Because art and music are known to be beneficial to the soul, and have been proven to aid in the recuperation process, there are magnificent pieces of original art in sculpture gardens scattered throughout the campus and galleries along each corridor. It is not infrequently that we heard a classical or jazz quartet in one of the lobbies or courtyards. Pianists, local klezmer groups, and choirs serenade the patients regularly on a volunteer basis. This is a medical center like no other that we’ve visited. Tucked away in nooks and crannies are indoor lily ponds and waterfalls, multi-language libraries, family rooms with interactive games for the children, zen gardens, and all sorts of things to feed the soul and make the hospital stay as pleasant as possible.

Our favorite buildings included the pediatrics wings. the cheerful, brightly-colored sculptures outside (pink alligators climb the wall of the main building), indoor play areas, rainbow colors, and interactive and educational displays are everywhere. There is a full size theater, a puppet/marionette theater, and roaming clowns, mimes and musicians who roam throughout. A small rainbow train takes children and parents from building to building.

For me, the crown jewel (literally) was walking into the newly dedicated Beit Yehuda and Tamar Synagogue. Spectacular, dazzling colors caught me by surprise. The stained glass is everywhere. Modern and reminiscent of the Chagall stained-glass windows at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, it is an artistic masterpiece designed by the German artist, Yvelle Gabriel. The focal point is the cobalt blue, stained glass Aron Kodesh (holy ark that houses the sacred Torah and Haftorah) suspended in mid air. I was up in the balcony (women’s section), but the rabbi told me that when viewed straight on, it appears to be in the shape of a Star of David. The Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) is a kaleidoscopic star of reds, oranges, golds and yellows. Other pieces of stained-glass are found throughout the large synagogue symbolizing the journey of the Jewish peoples from the Beginning to modern binary pixels. There is a supernatural, almost cosmic feel to the place. There are study halls adjoining the main worship hall. Services are conducted several times daily as well as Shabbat and holidays. I was able to be present for the morning davening and Torah reading. It was a spiritually uplifting experience in every way.


Medical care is open to all. Patients from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza are also treated. And Sheba is not just in Tel Hashomer. There are outposts in Uzbekistan, Mauritania, Equatorial New Guinea, Cambodia, Armenia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka – and a multidisciplinary clinic was recently established in the Ukraine. Docotrs, many specialists in their field worldwide, fly into Sheba Medical Center for further training.

John’s radiation and chemo treatments have been easy going, thank G-d and the staff of Sheba. He has had absolutely no symptoms: no nausea; no hair loss; no low energy; no weakness; no appetite loss; no further weight loss; no ulcerations. This part of the journey has been an answer to prayer. We pray his MRI and PET scan results come back clean and that he will not have to undergo that horrific surgery. It would be a huge miracle, but we wholeheartedly acknowledge G-d’s hand in all of this. We could not have asked for better care anywhere. The oncology center has an on-call hotline for questions that is open 24 hours. We were given many different numbers for who to call/contact directly in case of emergency or just for information or questions. There were always doctors and pharmacists available and a host of nurses on call. I only wish I could say this about the hospitals in the north of the country. Truly, Sheba deserves its rating as one of the top ten in medical care.


Searching for Jason!!

When I lived in Los Angeles, there was a game my daughters, girlfriend, and I used to play. It was called “Searching for Jason (Schwartzman).” We’d casually scout him out at record stores, museums, clubs, and on the street. He was one of our favorite actors, starring in many Wes Anderson films. Seeing film, television, and recording stars was no biggie in our area. They were everywhere. But this passtime was different. Not in a stalker kind of way, just a really fun game. Sometimes we got lucky. One of my daughters even got a selfie with Jason. Another struck up a conversation with him at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. And another daughter was good friends with his dog-sitter.

Fast forward to life in Israel. Around the holiday of Shavuot, my son was given a few days army leave. During Shavuot it is customary to pig-out on dairy products (celebrating both the Land of Milk and Honey and the giving of the Torah to Moses – the milk of the Word). So, we decided to take a field trip to a dairy  and restaurant I’d heard of at the little moshav of Bat Shlomo: Schwartzman Dairy, to be exact. Who knows? Maybe I’d chance a surprise Jason sighting!

Bat Shlomo (Solomon’s daughter, named for the niece of Baron Rothschild) lies just south of the Carmel Mountain Ridge, about fifteen minutes from our beloved town of Zikron Yaacov. We pass the exit on the freeway all the time, but as often is the case when you live somewhere, we had never taken that detour to explore – until now. What a treasure the place is! What a history! What a view! And what cheeses! Some of the best in Israel so far….

Situated on a hilltop, overlooking vineyards, olive groves, and wheat fields, we were greeted at the little hamlet by a farmer on a tractor. He welcomed us by telling us the history of Bat Shlomo and proudly explaining how everything eaten at the restaurant is grown on the property.

Moshav Bat Shlomo was founded by a small group of European immigrants in 1889, under the patronage of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The leaders of this village were the newly married Transylvanian couple, Zelig and Chasida Schwartzman, along with and 64 other pioneers. Theirs was a tough plight as they struggled to build homes and farm amid the roving Arab and Bedouin bands. Regularly, their animals would be stolen, their houses and fields burned during nighttime raids. A watchtower was erected outside the property to insure 24 hour surveillance. The local Ottoman police were sometimes helpful in chasing off and, at times, killing the bandits.


Zelig & Chasida Schwartzman

The Jewish Effendi – a wealthy Arab (Yemenite) in those days, and friend of the pioneers, Mahmoud Sa’id, helped Zelig Schwartzman legally buy formally undeeded Arab lands – at exorbitant prices. He also gathered together a group of Arabic speaking men to help guard the settlement and settle any disputes between the pioneers and the  nomadic desert tribes. Pillaging and looting were the legacy of these Arabs from ancient times. They would stop just short of murder for fear of blood revenge. So it was with great daring, chutzpah, and steadfastness that these Yiddish-speaking young Zionists worked the land and raised their families. Over a period of many years of backbreaking work, they planted mulberry trees (they had hoped to raise silkworms); they planted vineyards; they cleared the rocky land; dug wells; raised livestock (and kept fresh fish in the stocked fish pool); built stucco homes with red tiled roofs; and created livelihoods.

According to a 1922 census by the British Mandate, Bat Shlomo had a population of 66: 53 Jews and 13 Muslims living together. Today, the original street still exists, with all of the original 14 homes preserved and modernized, or in a state of renovation. Surrounding each home, are lush, verdant landscaped gardens. The crown jewel is the old synagogue, still in use today after over a century. It is a beautiful little village, with many of the residents direct descendent of the original pioneers.

In the center of the main avenue, is Schwartzman Dairy and Restaurant. Going here is an authentically Israeli experience, and a favorite hang-out of locals. Off the beaten path, known by word of mouth. Max and I made the cheese and gift shop our first stop. It was the most eclectic place, literally filled to the rafters with historical memorabilia, photos, and products made on the moshav for sale. Because sheep, goats, and cows are still housed out in the back sheds, there was a plethora of products from salves and soaps to woolens. Also available were a variety of honeys and honey products from local hives; date and carob syrups; different types of olives and made-on-site olive oils. We were able to sample their local reserve and estate wines: Cabernet Francs; Cabernet Sauvignons, all very expensive. There were spices. There were herbal teas, natural remedies, sauces, jellies, tapenade, nut butters and oils, dried fruits and all kinds of jarred relished and pickles – all made on the farm. Add to this an odd assortment of antiques, scales, photographs and other ephemera. It was so crowded with products and visitors that it was a bit claustrophobic, but totally worth it. Would I spy Jason crouching behind the counter or munching on cheese at one of the small tables?


The main attraction of the Schwartzman Dairy Store was the cheeses! Oh my goodness!!!! That’s all I can say! Cheese heaven!!!! The two gentlemen behind the counter were none other than the grandsons of Zelig Schwartzman. They sliced up generous samples of sheep milk cheddar, goat toms, parmesan, feta, ricottas, and various other dairy delights. After sampling and purchasing several varieties, some herb-laced, others with nuts and other savories (warning: very expensive! but worth every shekel), we decided to have lunch in their restaurant.

Adjacent to the shop, in the garden patio, covered with a varied assortment of tarps for shade, was the dining area. Crowded with locals, and totally mismatched eclectic, Max commented that this was “so typically Israeli. As far as ambiance, it can’t decide what it wants to be,” which for me, adds to the charm of the place. The tables are an odd assortment of picnic tables, long farmhouse tables and benches, metal fold-outs and cafe bistro tables and chairs. Persian and Arabic carpets as well as Indian fabric, Mexican rugs and vintage American cloths cover the floors and serve as tablecloths. There was a large aviary inhabited by an odd assortment of finches, cockatiels, lovebirds and doves in the center of the restaurant. Old farm equipment and tiki torches mix with totem poles, Israeli flags, old army paraphernalia  and twinkle lights which hang from the trees. There are old Purim and Sukkot decorations hanging, leftover from bygone holiday celebrations. The walls are crowded with fabulous old pictures from the early days of the moshav and vintage 1960 Israeli travel posters. An accordion player and violinist serenaded the guests with Broadway show tunes, Israeli folksongs, Yiddish melodies, and popular American hits from the 1950s-1970s as well as cowboy music and a couple random Tschaikovsky melodies. Strange, but fun. And no local Israeli restaurant would be complete without an assortment of dogs, chickens (and a goat!!!!) strolling through the premises! I searched in vain for a glimpse of Jason enjoying the local delicacies behind the large fern…. nope, just a mannikin clothed as a pirate. How random!!!

Max and I decided to split a Druze-style roll up: we had had others through the years, but this was the absolute best we’d ever tasted. A soft warm, herb-studded dough with fresh melty sheep cheeses, labaneh (the closest way to describe it is a salty thick sour cream), and zataar served with a side of olives and a chopped Israeli salad. For dessert, we tried my two favorite sweets in Israel: knaffe and malabi. Totally decadent and fattening beyond words. Total taste sensation. Sheer melt-in-your-mouth goodness. This did not disappoint. The knaffe was made with homemade halvah on the bottom, rich, salty, melted goat cheese in the middle, and crunchy strawlike phyllo dough threads on top. As if this is not enough, it is then saturated with a sweet syrup. Aaaahhh!!!!! The malabi is best described as a light panna cotta, like a sweet dairy jello. It is usually topped with rose syrup and crushed coconut and peanuts. This version was entirely different. The custard base was much richer, and the toppings included carob syrup and crushed pistachios. I can’t wait to go back for more – after I lose 10 pounds.

We had to take a stroll through the village outskirts to walk off all those calories. Amazing views, almost like Tuscan hills. The farmers were still working to bring in the wheat harvest, bundling up the golden bales in the fields. Peacocks strutted freely along the grounds, and the peals of children’s laughter could be heard in the distance. From the hilltop, the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean sparkled in the distance. It was the most peaceful, beautiful place. I can’t wait to go back. Maybe next time I WILL find Jason-