Our Daily Bread

     By David E. Kaplan

If you had to let your nose lead you during an early morning walk in Jerusalem you would likely end up at the nearest bakery. The smell of freshly baked bread can drive one crazy diverting one’s senses in this most alluring city from the visual to the culinary.

Walk down Old Jaffa Street or many of the city’s side streets and you cannot escape the all-too-familiar aroma. Nor would you care to, and with the variety of breads today – particularly the health brands – there is little reason to resist temptation.

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Taste Of Israel. You smell this long before you see it.

Such a treat would not have been possible until the late 19th century. There were no bakeries then in the Jewish communities of the Old Yishuv – all bread was baked at home. One of the earliest was Berman’s Bakery, established in 1875 and its history is not

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Bread & Cake. A Berman’s Bakery retail shop in Jerusalem.

only a story of a bakery but the birth of a nation. The ‘yeast’ in this story began when Reb Todrus Halevi Berman, a great Torah scholar and his wife Kreshe, and their two sons Yehoshua and Eliyahu, left Russia to make the long and arduous journey to Palestine.

 

From Dough to Doe

Times were tough and when their savings ran out, fate and foresight intervened when the family – literally – grabbed a ‘window of opportunity’. From her window in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, Kreshe observed the passing show – but what she saw more than just the daily visit of Christian Pilgrims was the potential to turn their presence into profit. Soon she was baking honey cakes and black bread and years later it was her son Yehoshua who would later move the bakery outside the walls of the Old City to Jaffa Street. He was the first Jerusalemite to open a store outside the Old City, a risky venture considering that the area from Jaffa Gate to Nachalat Shiva was still desolate.

For a bakery located well-away from the coast it may seem odd to have a ship’s anchor on its logo today – however there is a sound explanation imbedded in history. The horse or mule-drawn wagons that transported the first breads were bought from an Austrian army surplus depot and these wagons sported an anchor representing the insignia of an Austrian military unit. In time, Berman’s adopted the anchor as its own business logo.

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In‘GRAIN’ed In History. Bermans Bakery has come a long way in 144 years.

In 1886, Yehoshua built the first flourmill for Ashkenazi Jews, close to Mishkenot Shenanim, (the site of the arts and craft center today) and over 120 years later, the original two milestones remain firmly in place. Thousands of kilos of wheat were finely ground in the family mill until the eve of the War of Independence in 1948, when the area became no-man’s land.

With the increase in the local Jewish population, the Berman family moved to Meah Shearim, building a house and bakery side by side. Not only was it the largest bakery in Palestine but also in the entire Middle East. It was no wonder that it was a major tourist attraction at the time.

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Early Days. Berman’s Bakery in the 1880s when Yehoshua transported bread in Jerusalem using horses and mules and carriages bought from the Austrian army.

No loafing about

With the siege of Jerusalem in 1948, flour and gasoline rationing led to shortages and even starvation.

Due to its proximity to the Jordanian border, and since it was the main supply source for the besieged population, the bakery became the target of numerous bombing attempts. Despite this, the bakery never ceased production, and the residents of Jerusalem received a daily supply of bread.

Today Berman’s Bakery is in the growing and thriving commercial center of Gival Shaul, and when in 2001 it acquired Vadash Bakery in Ramat Hasharon and the Lechem HaAretz Bakery, a bakery specializing in health bread and special cookies, it became the second largest bakery in the country, producing 3000 fresh loaves every hour, much of which is transported across the country in over sixty trucks – a far cry from the mules and horses over 100 years ago!

Anchored’ in history, it all began with a vision from a window in the Old City!

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Lechem HaAretz

Well Bread

Modern Israelis of all religious and ethnic background love bread, and eat a large variety of it. This is never more evident than on Friday mornings when Israelis, irrespective of their degree in religiosity, cram into bakeries selecting their different size and shape of their Sabbath bread, known as Challah. Made with eggs, this Jewish Sabbath‑and‑holiday bread is immersed in folklore and tradition and is loaded with symbolism as much as it is with ingredients. On festive occasions a blessing is said over two loaves, symbolizing the two portions of the manna that was distributed on Fridays to the children of Israel during their Exodus from Egypt. The breads are covered on the table by a decorative challah cover, representing the dew that collected on the manna in the morning. Poppy and sesame seeds sprinkled on the bread also symbolize the manna that fell from heaven.

Challah is made in various sizes and shapes, all of which have a meaning. Braided ones, which may have three, four, or six strands, are the most common, and because they look like arms intertwined, symbolize love. Three braids symbolize truth, peace, and justice. Twelve humps from two small or one large braided bread, recalls the miracle of the twelve loaves for the twelve tribes of Israel. Round loaves, “where there is no beginning and no end,” are baked for Rosh Hashanah to symbolize continuity, while ladder shaped ones served at the meal before the fast of Yom Kippur, reminds Jews that God decides who will ascend and descend the ladder of life. Sweet challahs with honey or raisins are baked during the festive season to bring joy and happiness.

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Get a Loaf of This. The special Jewish bread known as ‘Challah’ is braided and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Sabbath and major Jewish holidays.

The Sabbath and festival breads of the Yemenite Jews have become popular in Israel and can be bought frozen in supermarkets. Jachnun is thinly rolled dough, brushed with oil and baked overnight at a low heat. It is traditionally served with a crushed tomato dip, hard boiled eggs and skhug (Middle East hot sauce).

Malawach is a thin circle of dough toasted in a frying pan, while Kubaneh is a yeast dough baked overnight and traditionally served on Shabbat mornings. Lahoh is spongy, pancake-like bread made of fermented flour and water and fried in a pan. Jews from Ethiopia make a similar yeast-risen flatbread called Injera from millet flour.

And of course, the most common bread is Pita, created by steam, which puffs up the dough. In both Israeli and Palestinian cuisine, it is the custom to eat almost anything with pita, from falafel, lamb, turkey or chicken shwarma, kebab, omelets, shakshouka (dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoeschili peppers, and onions) and most common, hummus and salads.

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Daily Diet. The biggest problem of visitors to Israel is finding pita bread when they return home. A local staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, this round flatbread with a pocket is traditionally eaten with falafel or shawarma with hummus, techina , Israeli salad and hot relish.

The South African ‘Ingredient’

Away from the giants of bread manufactures in Israel, are several boutique bakeries who pride themselves in baking mainly health breads. One such is Saidels Bakery – name recently changed to Saidel’s Artisan Baking Institute –  located in the village of Ginot Shomron. Nestled in the shade of weeping willows, with the tranquil trickle of a babbling brook to delight the senses, this family bakery is run by husband and wife team, Les and Sheryl Saidel, immigrants from Johannesburg, South Africa. Modeled on the time-honored family “village bakery”, Saidels is a far cry from the high volume, industrialized operations of modern bakeries.

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Les, a student of world renowned pastry chef Michel Suas (San Francisco Baking Institute) and “an artisan bread baker” with over 30 years of baking experience, laments that “our global health is declining and the food we put in our mouths has a lot to do with it.” He refers back to an age where there “were no major bakery chains and no E-something chemical list. Bread was baked in a local village by the baker from scratch.” Furthermore, he continues, “The mills of those early days could not grind the flour too fine so it retained all the components of the wheat grain, including the wheat germ. This was real bread.”

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Bit of a Grind. Boutique bakery owner, former South African Les Saidel, scooping out organic whole wheat grains to drop into a wheat grinder.

All this Saidels proudly emulates.

“We mill the whole wheat flour ourselves and use it immediately in the bread dough so no refrigeration of wheat germ is necessary and the wheat germ has no time to go rancid.” As Saidels bake their bread and sell it fresh out of the oven, there is no need for “stabilizers, preservatives and dough enhancers. We are artisan bakers and when we say 100% whole wheat that is exactly what it is – direct from nature, organically grown and no tampering.”

Their masonry oven was built by Les himself according to strict guidelines and is one of only two such ovens in the entire Middle East. Constructed with century old bricks imported from Belgium and with its Tudor-like facade, “our oven is not only the tool of our trade, it is a wonder to behold and attracts tourists and baking enthusiasts from all over the country.”

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Sweet Revenge. Les Saidel preparing his special recipe ‘Hamantaschen’ for the festival of Purim.  This unique pastry is named after ‘Haman’,  the villain in the biblical Book of Ester, who planned to kill all the Jews in ancient Persia but instead was executed by the king and so  contributed to Jewish confectionary.

Les says he finds it enriching watching “the flames lick the brick interior of our oven, in the knowledge that our ancestors baked this way and that we are continuing their fine tradition”

Les says, “we have shifted our focus and allocate 70% of our time to running workshops across the country instructing in challah, artisan, healthy, French, Italian, Donut and flatbread baking. Once we even did a workshop on a large boat on the Sea of Galilee.”

Interesting new additions to the Saidels ‘repertoire’ is Rambam Bread, named after the Middle Ages Jewish philosopher and Rabbi, Maimonides, who advocated a healthy lifestyle and of special interest to their South African customers – Biltong Bread.

Chew on This

“After many years of experimentation, carefully manipulating the sourdough process and using a secret blend of spices,” says Les, “we finally hit upon the secret formula. There is NO MEAT in this bread. The Biltong taste comes from the combination of sourdough and spices and you taste it, you will react the same way we did after the eureka moment – “OMG this actually tastes like Biltong!”

Like real Biltong, this bread is meant to be nibbled, as a snack. The flavor is very dominant and may be overpowering in a sandwich. “People buy it sliced, ready for munching, or chop it up further into sticks or croutons for use in soups and salads.

Adhering to their health philosophy, Les says, “Our Biltong Bread is organic, has 80% whole grain flour, is high in fiber, low in gluten (over 60% is rye flour), has a low glycemic index, contains no preservatives, chemicals or dough improvers. It is all natural – flour, water, salt, malt, molasses, sourdough yeast and all natural spices (no MSG – that is a swear word in our bakery). Only 55 calories a slice – one slice is very filling, you won’t need more than one.”

Finally, says Les, “It is the perfect, delicious snack to nibble on that is actually GOOD for you!

Gods Food

Eating healthily today means enjoying a hearty, healthy breakfast and this includes enjoying Israel’s hearty breads.

In the sixties, ‘bread’ was hippy slang for ‘money’. As food, the doughy stuff has long been considered “the staff of life” and in Isaiah 55:10 we read:

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater.”

As the ‘Joburg’ ladies might say:  “This bread is divine!”

“Action Stations – All aboard”

Israel’s Hi-Tech Sector Soaring Bringing Palestinians on Board

 

By David E. Kaplan

This may not be the much touted “deal of the century” but it is Israel’s deal of 2019 – “so far” – and its only March!

Based in Santa Clara California, Nvidia’s acquisition of Mellanox is the “second largest ever” in the Israeli high-tech industry after global behemoth Intel bought Mobileye – the vision-based advanced driver-assistance systems providing warnings for collision prevention and mitigation – in 2017 for $15.3 billion.

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Success Story. Mellanox headquarters in Yokneam in the lower Galilee, Israel. Yokneam is known as Israel’s “Startup Village” because its high-tech hub is surrounded by forest and small communities.

This deal augers well for sustaining Israel’s hi-tech global branding.

Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, said the company was “excited to unite Nvidia’s accelerated computing platform with Mellanox’s world-renowned accelerated networking platform under one roof to create next-generation datacenter-scale computing solutions.”

Huang said he was “particularly thrilled to work closely with the visionary leaders,” of Israel’s Mellanox “and their amazing people to invent the computers of tomorrow.”

Nvidia will continue investing in local Israeli “excellence and talent,” calling Israel “one of the world’s most important technology centers.”

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Eyeing The Future. A technician works in a Mellanox lab in Yokneam, Israel, March 4, 2019.\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The acquisition will unite two of the world’s leading companies in high performance computing (HPC). Nvidia and Mellanox will together power over 250 of the world’s TOP500 supercomputers and have as customers every major cloud service provider and computer maker.

Nvidia, will pay $6.9 billion cash to acquire Mellanox (MLNX) -twelve years after the Israeli company’s IPO on Nasdaq.

Mellanox develops and sells high-speed communications equipment using InfiniBand and Ethernet technologies.

Billion Dollar Man

Founded in 1999 by its CEO Eyal Waldman, Mellanox surpassed in sales an impressive $1 billion in 2018.

This will be Waldman’s second exit in two decades. He sold the Israeli chip company Galileo Technology Ltd – which he co-founded – to Marvell in 2000 for $2.7 billion. Marvel Technology, like Nvidia, is also based in Santa Clara California.

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California Dreaming. ‘Sailing into the future’ is the design of Nvidia’s Santa Clara headquarters in California. (Courtesy).

A kite boarder and a scuba diver, Waldman, studied electrical engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Responding why Mellanox is important in this marketplace, Waldman explains:

“So, if you look at the world today, the most important asset or resource on the planet is DATA. A long time ago it was real estate; then it moved to energy and now its data. It is the most important asset people can gather and own; the more data you have, the more powerful you become.”

Eyal Waldman is living testimony!

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In The ‘Genes’. When in Israel, hi-tech visionary Eyal Waldman wears jeans to his Mellanox office in Yokneam.

The Times of Israel describes Waldman as a CEO that is “perpetually in a rush, tends to eat fast food, gets joy from his success but spends as much time as possible with his family.”

Asked to describe himself, “I’m just a normal guy.”

The name “Mellanox”, Waldman reveals, comes from combining the sound of “Xerox” with “Millennium” – because the firm was founded in 1999 – and “Ella”, the name of his wife at the time.

While Nvidia redefined modern computer graphics and sparked the growth of the PC gaming market, Mellanox’s solutions include adapters, switches, software and silicon that accelerate application runtime and maximize business results for a wide range of markets including high-performance computing, enterprise data centers, Web 2.0, cloud, storage, and financial services.

Waldman said the company shares the same vision for accelerated computing – a great fit given our common performance-driven cultures. This combination will foster the creation of powerful technology and fantastic opportunities for our people.”

By ‘people’, Waldman, includes Palestinians as Mellanox is one of several companies with Palestinian employees in the West Bank and Gaza, a source of pride for the firm.

I think a lot of employees became millionaires overnight, and I’m very proud of that. In Israel and in the Palestinian territories, we have employees in Gaza, Rawabi, Nablus, Hebron who also have Mellanox shares, and I think we will all benefit from this sale,” Waldman told Israel’s Channel 12.

The word is out: Working together is “a win-win for all”.

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Six Billion Dollar Smile. Mellanox CEO Eyal Waldman (left) is beaming as he shakes on the deal with Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia.

Building Bridges

We need engineers for high-level programming and together with the Palestinians we can build a large Silicon Valley for the Middle East,” said David Slama, senior director for Palestinian Authority activities at Mellanox Technologies. “We’re missing talent that the Palestinians have on their side. Together we can build a bridge that develops great products for the whole world.”

Instead of outsourcing abroad for engineers, Slama says Israeli companies should look no further than the Palestinian Authority areas, noting that some 3,000 Palestinian information and communication technology graduates enter the market each year.

Setting an example, Mellanox and ASAL – a software and IT services outsourcing company based in Ramallah that employs some 250 technical experts around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – began cooperating at the start of the decade. Mellanox was among the first Israeli companies to outsource to Palestinian software developers in the West Bank and Gaza. Today, more than 120 Palestinian engineers and software developers work for Mellanox.

Pulsating Palestine

Addressing the elephant in the room – namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Tahboub says “it is not a social stigma” to work with Israeli companies. “On the contrary,” he asserts

“Political news is not only what the Palestinian people are all about. We want to have an export-oriented economy based on knowledge and innovation. This is our biggest vision. Innovation, technology and entrepreneurship is the way for the future,” he says. The latest Palestinian Mellanox employees are based out of the Rawabi Tech Hub, in Rawabi, the first planned city built for and by Palestinians in the West Bank, just 20 kilometers outside Jerusalem.

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Roaring Rawabi. Palestinian Mellanox employees are based out of the Rawabi Tech Hub, in Rawabi, the first planned city built for and by Palestinians in the West Bank. Over $1.4 billion has been invested in the city by developer and Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri.

Rawabi is in the middle between Tel Aviv and the Jordanian capital of Amman. “It could absolutely be a hub for innovation not just serving the Israeli and Palestinian markets, but serving the whole region,” asserts Tahboub.

Behind the high-tech “Rawabi City” – Palestine’s first planned city – is Palestinian entrepreneur, visionary, and property developer Bashar Masri who is also the founder and Chairman of the Board of Massar International.

Massar’ is an Arabic word meaning “path” and symbolizes the vision of its founder – to create a company that would successfully link the very best of local professionalism in Palestine with international standards.

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Men On The Move. Looking to plot Palestine trajectory into a prosperous future are CEO of Wataniya Palestine Mobile Telecommunication Public Shareholding Company, Dr. Durgham Maree ( left) and Bashar Al Masri (right) in the new city of Rawabi in the West Bank, June 2018. Courtesy

Says Al Masri:

 “We are relying on our historic enemy, Israel, to be our best friend in moving forward. Israel is riding high. Israel is a super-advanced country. If we piggyback on their economy, I hope they will benefit, and they will benefit, and we stand to benefit exponentially. It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”