The pretty village of Jish is situated on a picturesque hillside in the Upper Galilee. However, unlike most others in the Arab sector, its skyline is not dominated by the ubiquitous minaret of the village mosque; instead, the cross stands proud, for Jish is home to 10,000 Maronite Christians who constitute 65% of the village’s population.
In the afternoon of the 24th December, I was one of a group that was graciously hosted at the family home of Shadi Khaloul, a leading member of the Maronite community. In his 40’s, affable, articulate and outspoken, Shadi filled us in on its history, its contemporary status and regaled us with his own story.
The Maronite Catholic Church, although having formal communion with Rome, maintains its own rites and canon law is unique in having its own liturgical language: Aramaic, spoken in Israel in the time of Jesus and shared with Judaism. The church was founded by Saint Maron, whose followers moved from Syria to Lebanon where many of them live today while the rest are dispersed around the globe.
Whilst being Arabic speaking, they see themselves as Aramean Maronite Christians with their own distinct identity and in 2014 they officially gained the status of a national minority. They are not required to do military service but most of them prefer to serve. Shadi is no exception, having done his stint as an officer in the paratroopers.
After completing his army service, Shadi, like so many other post-service young people decided to see the world and seek his fortune. He worked for some years in Las Vegas and with the passing of time found his true ‘pot of gold’. “I was studying at a comparative religion course where I discovered that the lecturer and students were completely ignorant of my religion and its vernacular, so I was asked to prepare a presentation. I then felt that more important to me than material wealth was to return home and devote myself to the cultivation and learning of Aramaic in my community.”
He has been true to his word and his tireless efforts have borne fruit. Aramaic studies in the Jish schools have been given an official status and the Ministry of Education approves and funds their study. While it is not compulsory, the great majority of students opt to learn it. Children who never understood the prayers now not only take delight in understanding the words but in also speaking the language!
Concerning the present situation, Shadi sees the Maronite community as an integral, contributing part of Israeli society where they have security, equality and freedom to freely worship and perpetuate their culture. “The Maronites have always felt an affinity with the Jews. After all, we have a common language. In 1948 in the War of Independence, we did not side with the Arabs.”
He does not mince his words.
“In 1860 in Lebanon under Turkish rule, we sought a measure of autonomy where we could live peacefully side by side with our neighbors. The result was a massacre of our community where approximately 20,000 were killed. Learn from our bitter experience. Here in the Middle East, the reality is that you must be the majority to ensure your safety!”
Leaving Shadi’s home, our group strolled through the village to savor the festive atmosphere. Many of the homes were gaily decorated and festooned with lights. Before leaving, we congregated next to the beautiful new church with a tall Christmas tree in its courtyard.
Our final stop was Mi’ilya, a small village north of Nahayaria whose approximately 4,000 residents are Melkhite Greek Catholics. A distinguishing feature is the King’s Castle: the ruins of a Crusader fortress upon which a church has been built. Walking up to the ruins to visit the church, we were met by the local inhabitants, many of whom were dressed in their red Santa Claus costumes. The atmosphere was festive and as Chanukkah and Christmas coincided, our greetings of Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday), as in Jish, were happily returned.
Leaving the fortress, our group visited the village community centre that was humming with activity. The village has a special pre-Christmas custom when families bring their Christmas presents to the centre for safe keeping. The Scouts then store them in separate rooms according to the neighborhoods before being fetched on Christmas Eve. We arrived as the presents, with the aid of many happy young volunteers, were being loaded on light vehicles on their way to their happy recipients!
On the way home towards Tel Aviv, there was much time for reflection. Here we were, on Christmas Eve, returning from a visit to two Christian villages whose residents, living within the Jewish state, enjoyed complete freedom of worship. I remembered the words of Shadi Khalloul and of a fellow Maronite Brigitte Gabriel of the sad plight of Christian communities in the Middle East. How distressing those basic rights that we take for granted in our country and about which much of the world remains silent, are not accorded in many of our neighboring states.
About the writer:
Stephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a master’s degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.
Israel’s burgeoning boutique beer industry is foaming at the brim.
By David E. Kaplan
Just think of it – twenty years ago in Israel, there were the two stalwarts of Maccabi Beer and Goldstar with few imports from abroad. The soft drink was king; beer the lowly pawn.
Today, it has all changed.
While ancient Israel may well have been known as “The land of milk and honey”, 21st century Israel could well be on the way to becoming “the land of hops and barley”.
In the land that gave the civilized world wine in the era of our Patriarchs – evinced by the many ancient presses found all over the country – it was only a question of time for a thriving beer industry to emerge. If the choice of beers was once limited, today it is difficult keeping up with the new labels as an ever-increasing number of enterprising brewmasters are entering the market.
The writer invites you to join him on a pub crawl and get a taste of what’s brewing in Israel.
A ‘Jem’ Of A Beer
I enter the Jem’s Beer Factory – a pub restaurant – in the heart of a courtyard in the center of Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, situated in the city’s outdoor food market which has been partially renovated and restored to a boutique food court. At night, the courtyard is buzzing, and Jem’s is packed. I meet as arranged the owner who is normally at the headquarters in Petach Tikva. There are ten Jem’s Beer Factory pubs located mostly in the center of the country.
“All our advertising is by word of mouth,” says Jeremy (“Jem”) Welfeld – or as likely – word of lips!
The name ‘Jem’ is derived from the name “my younger sister coined for me when we were kids.” That’s the simple part of a long journey that began when Jem gave up a lucrative job as an event planner at the While House, “during the Clinton and Bush administrations” for brewing beer in Israel.
Quickly discovering that his new vision would require a variety of skills “beyond drinking a lot”, Jem studied Microbiology and The Advanced Sciences of Brewing and arrived in Israel armed with a battery of diplomas and a wife and their two kids.
Many hops later, Jem’s Beer Factory churns out many thousands of litres a month. “About a third of our production goes out in bottles, the rest out on tap”, says Jeremy. The range includes an American Pale Ale, an American Indian Ale which he describes as “deep color gold like the city of Jerusalem, with more hops and of course, more date honey,” and a Midnight Stout, “black as coal with a creamy tan head, thick as the afternoon haze over Tel Aviv.”
If Jem is poetic in describing his beer, he is no less philosophical why he enjoys the business. “Beer is a catalyst to play with people.”
Puzzled, I enquired, “What do you mean?”
“Israel is a very intense country on a lot of different levels and beer is the perfect equalizer; it lets everyone calm down at the end of their day. It is perfect for the Israeli climate and with only 5% alcohol, it is the beverage of friendship.”
Rich In History
“Our goal”, says brewmaster David Cohen, an immigrant from the USA and founder of Dancing Camel brewery, “is to brew an exciting beer that makes people think and smile. Sure, we make traditional styles, but they are nuanced in a way that is distinctly Israeli. This country is rich in herbs, fruits and spices that belong in beer but have never been tried before. I want to help define what Israeli beer means. You know when I’ll be satisfied? When I hear people in London, Brussels and Seattle talking about how exciting Israeli beers are.”
The market may be competitive but what this writer found most refreshing – apart from tasting the various chilled beers – was the camaraderie amongst the various brewmasters. This is evident at the annual Beer Festivals in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where the various brewmasters have little hesitation praising their competitors and their beers. “We are a rare club,” continues Cohen whose passion for beer began in 1987, “at a time when the American microbrewery scene was first hitting the East Coast,” and decided to brew his own. “It was the thrill of tapping into a craft that’s as old as time itself and for most, as mysterious. Suddenly, I was connected to the Babylonians of 4,000 years ago, the Trappist Monks of Belgium, the pilgrims that landed on Plymouth Rock, the brewers of medieval London. I began to study different beer styles and flavors – to learn what ingredients and processes impact flavors and how. What I discovered was how complex beer really is and how much each reflects the unique cultures, climates and tastes of different civilizations.”
Once the hobby got under Cohen’s skin, there was no turning back, nor to bringing to ‘fruition’ his other passion – Aliyah (Immigrating to Israel).
The combination of these two passions is Dancing Camels and as to the derivation of the name, “that’s a long story that goes back 500 years.” In the meantime, Cohen’s customers are ‘dancing’ the nights away downing his beer.
Alexander the Great
Back at the 2013 European Beer Star competition in Munich, judges swigged 1,512 beers from 40 countries to find the best beer. Israeli boutique brewery Alexander located in the Hefer Valley won the gold medal in the English Style Porter category.
Alexander’s ecstatic CEO, Ori Sagy, a former pilot who plotted the course for his brewery’s trajectory, told local media, “Our vision is to make Alexander Israeli beer fresh, excellent and as good as the best breweries in Europe and the USA. After a series of blind tastings, the jury, composed of professionals in the field of breweries from across Europe, selected our beer as the best English Porter Beer. We therefore received recognition in the beer capital of the world that ours is indeed up to par with the best breweries in Europe and the USA. For us, this is a great joy and honour.”
This was followed in 2014 by another gold medal at the prestigious World Beer Cup in Denver, Colorado.
Established in 2008 the brewery takes the name of the nearby Alexander River. However, in case one is confused over “Which Alexander?” – particularly after a few pints – the river is named not after the conquering Macedonian but after Alexander Yannai, once king of Judea. “This beer is historically kosher,” assures an employee with a wide grin.
With the Alexander River home to the country’s largest habitation of soft-shelled turtles it was only ‘natural’ that the turtle featured on the brewery’s logo. The added inclusion of wings on the turtle’s shell is a nod to Sagy’s previous career as a pilot.
Beer and humour go hand in hand, so it was quite fitting to see written high on the wall in the brewery bar the quote from the legendary rock musician Frank Zappa:
“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline”.
This brewery with a pilot in the cockpit is flying high.
In Israel’s dry desert sits Negev Brewery, “ready to quench the thirst of any passerby who steps inside,” as the invitation to the public reads. With a backyard bar, Israel’s sole southern brewery is a popular ‘waterhole’. With a relaxed southern desert vibe, visitors come to sample the boutique beer that now distributes to 450 clients throughout Israel.
Negev Brewery started out as a home-brewing project dreamed up by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev graduate Yochai Kudler. Returning home to Kibbutz Orim in the Negev Desert, he continued brewing but mostly for friends. Wanting to expand and build a modern facility, Yochai found an empty building in the industrial zone of Kiryat Gat where he opened Negev Breweries in 2010. In the summer of 2011, Norman Premium, an Israeli importer and distributor of premium beers purchased Negev Brewery.
Today Negev Brewery is run by CEO Sagiv Karlboim, Gilad Dror and Tomer Ronen.
Like the purity of the desert, there is a purity in the philosophy behind Negev Brewery. The desert brewery is environmentally conscious with the wastewater collected used to irrigate the garden which is being developed to host tastings of their array of beers namely: Amber Ale, Porter Alon and Passion Fruit. Like most microbreweries, Negev Brewery does not filter their beers or add preservatives. This means that the beer is best when fresh and as they say, “don’t think that sediment in the bottom of your glass is anything but a positive indication of unfiltered beer.”
Says Tomer, “the company is very particular about the ingredients that go into its beers,” and refutes that beer is fattening. Setting the record straight, “It’s the peanuts you eat with your beer that make you fat!”
The Booze Brothers
The story of Shapiro Beer begins with two brothers Itzik and Danny Shapiro in their parents’ basement in the German Colony neighborhood in Jerusalem with plastic bowls and improvised tubes. Toying with flavours and recipes, they soon had a following for their brews, but it wasn’t until Itzik spent a summer working at a microbrewery in Colorado that they began giving some serious thought to turning their hobby into a business.
What a difference a few years makes!
Today, their state-of-the-art brewery is in Beit Shemesh, however “it’s a Jerusalem beer,” asserts Itzik.
Known as Shapira in Hebrew and Shabeera in Arabic it is most popular in the nation’s capital.
Offering eight beers, there first – Pale Ale – remains there most popular beer. Based on their first home brew recipe, it is a classic golden coloured, American style pale ale, dry hopped with Cascade giving aromas of citrus and grapefruit.
Their label is the Lion of Judea swigging down ale. At the annual Jerusalem Beer Festival, the local brew customarily receives a ROAR of approval from the crowd.
“The cool thing about a microbrewery is that it’s flexible,” said Dani. “You can make a test batch and if it’s good, you sell it. If it’s not good, you drink it!”
Clearly no downside!
“In our family, we always spoke about ambition and reaching your dreams through hard work,” said Denny Neilson the founder of Buster’s Cider Factory located in Beit Shemesh.
Denny is another fascinating personality blending into the environment like the ingredients in his beer. Formally in the telecommunication business for 30 years before immigrating with his family to Israel in 2003 from Tennessee in the USA, Californian native Denny says, “I started making wine and brewing beer at home. We are kind of “do-it-yourselfers” and when the local folk expressed how much they liked it, we opened up a store, called Winemaker.” Soon afterwards, he had an award-winning beer under his belt called Isra-Ale. Thereafter, he began making alcoholic apple cider, and once the recipe was perfected, he introduced it to the Israeli market as Buster’s Cider. It became so popular that mass production followed, and in the summer of 2014, he introduced Israel’s first alcoholic lemonade named Buster’s Hard Lemonade. Today the Buster brand of alcoholic beverages is available at retail outlets throughout the country.
To the question I put to Denny a few years ago as to how he came up with the name ‘Buster’, Denny replied,
“Well, you can probably hear him barking. Buster is our family dog, a Golden Retriever we love so much that we decided to name our beers after him. So when people ask about the recipes for our drinks, we always joke only Buster knows – and he’s not talk’in.”
Sadly, today Buster has passed on but not his legacy that lives on with satisfied beer drinkers across the country.
Denny’s wife Pamela runs the Visitor’s Center while Matt their son is, “the main man today,” says his proud Dad.
“I’m the science guy,” asserts Matt with his hand on the tap.
We were a large group that sat, danced on the pub’s patio and listened to Pamela present the history of the brewery ‘From Tennessee to Beit Shemesh’, all the while sampling the frothy fruitful delights of the warm Neilson family.
Beit Shemesh is first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Joshua. After Moses, it was Joshua who gave direction to the Jewish People. Many Busters later, I reflected on this “direction” and was thankful I was not driving home!
Having ‘done the rounds’, I was indebted to the brewer from Negev Breweries’, Tomer Ronen, who assured: “You won’t put on weight from beer; it’s the peanuts that is fattening.”
Staying clear of the peanuts and having ‘weighed’ all aspects of these boutique beers across much of the country, the only thing left to say is:
He had plenty of positive things to say about the Holy Land but concluded with one negative – its cuisine. “OMG where am I to go for dinner after this lecture. Your country may have plenty to offer, but good food is not one them!”
The audience laughed.
A quarter of a century ago, Archer was dead right.
Today he would be dead wrong!
Affirming this transformation is none other than that esteemed writer’s country’s public service broadcaster – the BBC. Its ‘Good Food’ ranked Tel Aviv in the Top 10 Destinations For Foodies In 2020. Israel’s “City that never sleeps” came in seventh following Galway in Ireland, Lyon in France, Los Cabos in Mexico, Holland, Malta and Marrakesh in Morocco. In ranking Tel Aviv so highly, the BBC’s Good Food spotlighted the city’s well-deserved moniker as “the vegan capital of the world.”
Writes BBC Good Food:
“With vegan dishes at the heart of Tel Aviv’s culinary tradition, it’s always been a great destination for lovers of plant-based food. Backed by vast agricultural land, this seaside city serves up veggies that often travel farm-to-fork in the same day. In recent years, Tel Aviv has upped its game to become the world’s self-designated vegan capital, with slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza. This young, LGBT-friendly beach buzzy city has boutique Bauhaus-style hotel hangouts with cool cocktail bars, and a burgeoning crop of cheffy restaurants, but the budget-eats steal the show. For stellar street food, there’s nothing like Tel Aviv’s hummus, falafel and shakshuka, served at hole-in-the-wall joints, street stands, and stalls lining local markets such as the sprawling Shuk Hacarmel. Just four-five hours’ flight from the UK, this is an exotic break that doesn’t require a long-haul schlep.”
BBC’s Good Food picked up on Israel being in the vanguard of healthy eating, focusing on what grows in the field rather than what dwells on it. For one Israeli company, Aleph Farms, its philosophy is that man’s eating experience should not be at the expense of the life of an animal. In October, Lay Of The Land published an article “Israel leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World” revealing this company served the world’s first lab-grown steak.
However, not only is Israel looking to ‘cultivate’ meat involving no slaughtering of animals but is catering to the ever-increasing appetite of VEGANS which was glowingly acknowledged by BBC Good Food. It highlighted that the country has in recent years “upped its game,” offering “slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza.”
Tel Aviv is home to at least 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens and hosts annual vegan festivals.
Viva La Vegan
So, with 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens serving most of Israel’s 200,000 vegans, going meat-free isn’t only easy, it’s a chance to chew on the best chow in town.
As one food critic noted:
“Thanks to the sun-kissed climate, high quality fruit and veg is never too far – you can see it in the colour, taste it in the flavour and smell it in the aroma of what’s on your plate.”
In Tel Aviv, “there is a real emphasis on freshness of produce,” says vegan restaurant owner Merav Barzilay. Though he founded Meshek Barzilay on an organic farm 15 years ago, he says it was an easy move to the city. Tel Aviv’s proximity to fresh vegetables “means a customer can eat a tomato the same day it was picked in the field”.
For Tel Aviv’s green chefs, preparation for the day ahead, starts with a stroll through the kaleidoscope of colour and chaos of its “shuks” (markets) selecting fresh produce.
“That’s the beauty of the marketplace – everyone is feeding each other,” says Cafe Kaymak’sJo Cohen, one of the first vegetarian coffee shop owners in Tel Aviv. Sourcing for his multicultural kitchen from the nearby Carmel Market, “We draw from many different wells,” he says, “Turkey and Greece as well as Japan, Morocco, Tunisia and, of course, the Middle East.” His signature vegan dish, galean mjadra, is a spicy hot-pot of lentils, paprika, almonds and berries cooked and presented on a bed of bulgur wheat and topped with salsa and tahini.
In the past seven years, the explosion of plant-based restaurants has transformed Israel’s population of just eight million into the largest vegan nation, per capita, in the world. Israel’s Tourism Ministry now promotes the country as a “vegan nation” – and Tel Aviv is at the heart of this culinary movement.
Nothing surprising in this phenomenon, explains Sharon Berger in the Forward:
“Unless you have been living under a rock you will probably already know that Israel has become the leading vegan country in the world, with 5.2% of the population eschewing all animal goods in their daily diet. This number has more than doubled since only 2010 when 2.6% of the population was vegan or vegetarian.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Israeli staples naturally includes a large amount of vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes already, including hummus and falafel, the country’s best-known dishes.
“The fresh produce is top quality and the Mediterranean diet has lots of flavours in its naturally vegan dishes,” says Ruthie Rousso, a Tel Aviv-based food historian and critic. “The Israeli diet is based on the meze (the little salads you eat before the meal). So giving up on meat is not the biggest sacrifice.”
Inbal Baum, a former attorney and founder of Delicious Israel, a company that offers culinary tours, sees veganism’s popularity as a natural evolution of Israelis’ relationship with the land.
“Veganism makes so much sense historically in the Israeli diet because eating from the land has always been significant,” she explains. “Eating vegetables was a way of survival. We don’t call it ‘farm to table’ here, but this style of local-produce-based eating is how my grandfather was able to live when he arrived at the kibbutz back in the 1930s – they ate what they grew.”
Times They Are A-Changin’
You must know that change is about when even ‘the one and only’ shawarma – that Middle Eastern sliced-meat sandwich beloved by all the world over – is being popularised in its vegan form – most notably at Sultana, a completely vegan eatery in Tel Aviv.
Sultana uses ‘forest mushrooms that have a texture reminiscent of chicken’ and promises to be ‘the original shawarma experience, only 100 percent vegan. Chef Harel Zakaim is bent on changing the rules of the game regarding everything we knew about vegetarian-vegan shawarmas.
Weighing in on why veganism is so increasingly popular in Israel,
Israeli-based international promoter of vegan culture, Ori Shavit, believes there are a number of unique reasons why Israelis are leading this global trend. Over and above the sensitivity to animals, she adds “the country is very young and still evolving so people here are less attached to traditional eating and are used to trying new things, love innovations and not scared to making changes in their diet.”
Shavit points out that when in 2013 Domino’s Pizza launched its first vegan pizza with non-dairy cheese, it was ‘pioneering’ and “only now just becoming available in other countries.” Israel is also the first country outside of the USA to offer Ben and Jerry’s VEGEN ice cream flavours. “As Israel has a relatively small population,” writes Shavit, “it’s interesting that these two major international chains both chose to launch their dairy-free products in the holy land.”
Interesting but not surprising.
With Israel in the vanguard of the global vegan trend, it was little wonder that the Holy Land came in the BBC’s Good Food Top 10.
It’s indicative of who we are and how we would want to live.
“No matter where you live,” says Shavit, “the greatest effect an individual can have on the world starts on his or her plate — so no wonder that people who understand that will try to make a better choice for their food.”
*Feature Picture:From The Field To The Fork. Each day, Tel Aviv’s top vegan chefs shop for fresh produce at the ‘shuks’ like the famous Carmel Market
Arriving in the Holy land from South Africa in early April of 2019 was surreal – my long awaited dream come true. We were floating somewhere between holiday vibes, newbies and tourists for a while until the dust settled and slowly, we began the descend back down to earth.
To go into detail about the emotional rollercoaster from our arrival to this point is another article in itself – entitled “the all you could feel Aliya buffet”. There is great learning and hardship, to say the least and potential is forever being reached and stretched. The struggle, as they say, is real. But for some, myself included, humour is the metaphorical sugar to help the medicine go down. A policy to live by is when all else fails – laugh! On that note, I would like to share with you some key observations I have about my new life in the holy land.
Every Israeli owns a cat. Not every Israeli is aware of such ownership, in fact, the likelihood of the situation is that every cat owns an Israeli. These cats are so well fed by the begrudging Jewish mama (who complains all the way to put the bowl of leftovers out) that the odd mouse or rat strolls around on its back feet, chest out and inspects the would-be left over’s from the cats!
Not all Israelis working at kupot (check-out counters) are limited to only the Hebrew language. Some of them do speak English but will only let you in on that bit of information after you’ve said something untoward whilst believing you’re safely hidden behind a language barrier.
The Mazgan (Air conditioner) becomes a sacred part of your structure. The reason for this is that when the moment of its inevitable hum begins, all people (including children) thank the good Lord above, perhaps likened to an informal prayer of techiat hametim (resurrection of the dead).
All roads, when traveling on foot are uphill. This is a phenomenon which, I recon, affects olim chadashim (new immigrants) in particular and can be taken metaphorically as well as literally. Meaning that if you walk uphill to a store, enter the store and then leave again, the very same store which was once at the top of the hill is now magically at the bottom of the hill and the walk home with all your purchased items is now uphill again. You have to live here to believe it.
Your level of emuna (faith) is at its peak when traveling by bus. The very fact that we get on another bus, or a connecting bus after just having survived countless near death experiences is the testimonial of truth to my statement.
The Hebrew language is one big exception to the rule. Every time I think I finally have an idea of how all the tenses are used, out pops the exception to the rule. It is this very inhibiting reality which makes me think they keep changing it to keep me on my toes!
The last thing is something that is not easy to explain but I’ll try my best.
Nothing is urgent but everything is urgent to Israelis. Meaning that there is casual approach to getting things done in Israel – everything takes time. Registering processes that could take one or two days drag on for two weeks. Everyone seems to be okay with this for the most part. But on the other hand, G-d help anyone who is slightly obstructed on the road which affects traffic flow – the line of cars instantly becomes a symphony of impatience as if every driver is racing against the clock to save the world.
I would like to add one more lesson which I think is the most valuable to any potential oleh. I have learnt to embrace whatever it is that comes your way and understanding the following:
We haven’t ‘made Aliyah’ – we make Aliyah. It is not something we did, it is something we do every day in all the challenges we face. But as long as we don’t mind walking up the hill all the time, we are good to go and G-d willing everything will be alright.
Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations aswell as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.
No matter the opposing odds and tough terrain, Aussies charge ahead. They did it over a 100 years ago in 1917 in Beersheba in helping to boot the Ottoman Turks out of Palestine and they will be doing it again in July 2020 when Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave and his band, The Bad Seeds, will be returning to Tel Aviv.
“Bad Seeds” is a misnomer if ever there was one. We need more of these ‘seeds’!
And may they flourish.
The show will take place at Bloomfield Stadium, as part of a world tour promoting Cave’s album Ghosteen, which deals in part with the tragic death of his 15-year-old son in 2015; after a fall from a cliff.
When he takes to the stage in Tel Aviv – he will again be giving the finger to BDS.
When last appearing in Israel to a packed Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv in 2017, Cave defied pressure from the BDS movement and said he came to Israel “not despite of” but “because of BDS.”
What did he mean?
Calling a press conference, the rocker said “After a lot of thought and consideration, I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing a European tour and Israel.’ Because it suddenly became very important to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians; to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians.”
He went on to say that he “loves Israel,” and that he wanted to take “a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians.” He concluded by inferring the BDS Movement’s strategy is backfiring.
“So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”
On his website last year, Cave slammed ongoing efforts to impose a boycott on Israel, calling them “cowardly and shameful.”
And this is not to say that he is a supporter of the government of Israel. He is clearly not.
“I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation.”
This kind of balanced understanding is a far cry from the venomous position of Roger Waters the most visibly public advocate and roving ambassador of BDS that openly promotes – not the “Two State Solution” – but the dissolution of the state of Israel. Cave would have none of it from the Pink Floyd cofounder with his giant-size inflated pig-shaped balloons emblazoned with a Star of David alongside fascist symbols customarily released during concerts.
If his ancestors took on the Ottoman Turks over a 100 years earlier, Roger Waters and hid BDS cohorts prove they are no match for this principled rocker.
Prior to his 2017 concert, Cave had previously performed in Israel ’93, ’95 and ’98 and enjoys reflecting that when “we came to Israel 20 years ago or so, did a couple tours of Israel, I felt a huge connection. Not just ‘people-talk’ of loving a country, but I just felt on some sort of level, a connection that I can’t actually really describe.”
“At the end of the day,” explained Cave in Tel Aviv in 2017, ‘there are two reasons why I’m here: one is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people, and two is to make a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians. So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”
Waters can remain at the ‘Dark Side of his Moon’ as there has been no letup of artists touring Israel from pop queen Jennifer Lopez, to the 2019 Eurovision Song Competition held in Tel Aviv.
In keeping with the lyrics of Rhianna who has performed numerous times in Israel:’:
“Don’t Stop The Music”
*Feature picture: Australian musician and writer Nick Cave has elaborated on his stance regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict.https://www.irishtimes.com/ (Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images).
I saw him from across the road, his eyes darting towards the entrance to the Aden Jewish heritage museum in Tel-Aviv . I could tell he was thinking about coming in for a visit even before he stubbed out the cigarette he was smoking; and crossed the street.
From his unhurried gait he didn’t appear like a tourist, but neither did he look like a local. He greeted me in accented English – Australian, as it turned out to be. He told me that he is posted here for a year, working for an international organization. But I could tell his origins weren’t from Australia, as he confirmed, while I answered his questions about the history of the Jewish community in the region of Aden and Yemen; and he told me his family was from around that region.
“From Yemen?”, I asked.
“Nearby. My father is from Sudan and my mother from Egypt.”, he replied.
He grew up in Australia. One foot in the west, the other in the east – retaining something of the heritage and Islamic faith of his family, and speaking both English and Arabic. But he also surprised me with a few sentences in Hebrew which he’d learnt at university in Melbourne.
I took him around the museum, telling him about the exhibits. And I pointed out a couple of pictures that I thought would be of particular interest.
“That was the synagogue in Port Said, Egypt. There was once a large community there, many of whom came originally from Aden.”
‘What happened to them, did they eventually integrate into the rest of the population?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I whispered. ‘They were all forced to leave in 1956 – along with most of the Jews living in Egypt.’
The shock was evident on his face. And so he came to learn something of the history of the vanished communities all around the Middle East.
As we continued, he asked if he, as a Muslim, was allowed to visit a shul (synagogue). In all his time in Israel, he hasn’t yet done so. I told him of course he could and took him up to visit ours. He donned a kippa, and he gazed around in wonder, admiring everything. I explained the various features to him. For example, that the person who leads the services faces the same direction as the community.
‘Just like in a mosque,’ he replied.
The reason why you won’t find any depictions of our prophets or pictures of Rabbis there.
‘Just like in a mosque,’ he said.
We talked about how the problem isn’t all the different religions, but those who come and turn it to their advantage – and as something to use against others. There was no dispute, just agreement.
I pointed out the Aron Kodesh (the ark in a synagogue that contains the Torah scrolls) and explained to him, ‘Every synagogue around the whole world faces in the direction of Jerusalem. Just like every mosque faces Mecca.’
‘I never knew that,’ he replied.
He gazed up at the stained glass windows and to my surprise he then said a Hebrew phrase about God. Contemplating, we stood in silence for a few moments. Two people from different worlds, backgrounds, religions but who pray to the same God.
We stood there, facing Jerusalem.
Sarah Ansbacher is a writer and storyteller. She also works at the Aden Jewish Heritage Museum in Tel Aviv.
*Feature picture: Two faiths, one prayer: Muslims and Jews come together to pray. (Photo:Jewish Journal)
Looking at the best cities for travelers who love street food, the data for its Street Food Index 2019 drew from a survey conducted over three months – mid-July to mid-September – of 92,000 business travelers and 1,400 corporate travel agents in 86 countries.
Preceding Tel Aviv’s 7th’s lot was Singapore which took the top spot, followed by Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai and Rome.
The familiar proverb “When in Rome…” apples as much to Tel Aviv, so when in the coastal town ranked by Time Out as the N0. 1 city in the Middle East with “a notorious reputation as a wild non-stop city with a great nightlife and music scene”, tuck into its unique street cuisine.
Despite the availability today in Tel Aviv-Jaffa of cuisine from all over the world, what remains most popular is its signature ‘street food” that is definitively local and an ‘appetizing’ introduction into Israeli culture.
After exploring antiquities to art galleries and still have an ‘appetite’ for more, where better to sink your teeth deeper into Israeli culture, then trying its cuisine, and where better to take your first bite than on Tel Aviv’s bustling, pulsating streets.
Blaming the weather for all manner of things is fashionable the world over. Less so in Israel!
It may be that our tasty, popular street food is indebted to Israel’s perennial sunny and warm weather. The fact that one can walk outside and eat outdoors, has created an easy laidback cuisine that gels with the Israel temperament – open, candid and ‘catering’ for loud and boisterous conversation.
Most countries have some indigenous street food, so what’s Israel’s most popular and where best to look?
Some Like It Hot!
The one indisputable street food that has developed into a national dish is falafel. These are balls made of hummus and spices and fried in deep oil.
It is usually served in a fresh pita (round pocket bread) with a variety of salads, tahina (paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds) and pickles, and if you enjoy fiery hot sauce then you must add skhug (a hot green or red Yemenite chili sauce). Folk with more sensitive palates might dismiss this relish more suitable for gas tanks than gullets, but for most seasoned falafel eaters, it’s a vital component.
“You don’t eat a hot dog without mustard. Same as falafel – you add skhug,” says Avi from Ramat Gan, who the writer met tucking into his falafel in pita at Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa. “This is one of my favorite places for falafel and Shawarma,” says Avi. His wife Ruti was tucking into a shawarma, but without the skhug. “Not for me,” she says, with Avi adding, “she’s hot enough already!”
If in the typically Israeli family of street-food, falafel is the favourite son, then its favourite daughter is shawarma. It comprises cuts of meat (usually turkey, but originally shawarma was made of mutton) which is packed into a pita or laffa (a large Iraqi pitta, which one fills and rolls like a huge taco), with salads and French fries. And if you are wondering why the French fries, it’s a case of mid-east meets west.
One of the most popular ethnic eateries in Jaffa, Dr. Shakshuka takes its name from the dish Shakshuka, which is a pan-fried casserole of poached eggs and spicy tomato sauce, the restaurant’s most popular dish. Dr. Shakshuka’s many versions of this dish emanate from Libya and have solidly cemented a reputation in Jaffa over three family generations in the business.
Believing they are “specialists” in this cuisine, explains the “Dr” in the restaurant’s name. But there’s much more here to enjoy: Tripoli-style couscous with mafrum (potato stuffed with ground meat, served with stewed beef and vegetable soup); stuffed vegetables; kishke (North African-style intestine stuffed with meat and rice); grilled lamb patties; and fresh grilled or fried fish. Main courses come with a spread of fresh pita and eight Middle Eastern salads.
Best Kept Secret
While hummus, falafel, and even shawarma, are well-known outside the Middle East, sabich – described by one food critic as “the ultimate Israeli street food” – remains one of the country’s best-kept secrets.
Sabich is a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, tahina, and vegetable salad, while some versions contain boiled-potatoes as well. Pickled cucumbers, chopped parsley, and onions seasoned with purple sumac are usually added, as well as the sauces skhug oramba.
While making sabich may seem simple enough, true lovers of it say that preparing it “just right” is an art form that few truly master. One, who according to Tel Aviv folklore has earned this title of ‘master’, is Oved Daniel, referred to as the “Diego Maradona of Sabich”. Like the revered Argentinean who dominated football in his day, Oved, has been dominating Israel’s sabich scene from his little corner on Sirkin Street in Givatayim, adjacent to Tel Aviv, for nearly three decades. Customers are reputed to flock there from all over the country. Tel Avivians now no longer have to make the trek as Oved subsequently opened a branch in Tel Aviv on Karlebach Street.
Oved reveals that “People eat here from all over the world, and many ask about opening branches in the States. I tell ’em, “Forget it, it can’t be done!” They won’t be able to find the right ingredients and importing them will impair the quality.”
Oved offers a sound solution to their problem – “Visit Israel often
While some might assert that hummus and falafel are essentially Arab dishes ‘adopted’ by Israelis, sabich is unarguably a local Israeli concoction. The core ingredients can be found in the traditional Shabbat-breakfast of Iraqi Jews, but the idea of putting them into a pita and eating them as a sandwich is purely Israeli. Apparently, the credit for this culinary achievement rests with one Sabich Halabi, an Iraqi immigrant who opened what is believed to be the first sabich stand in Ramat Gan in 1961.
One central quality sabich eatery is on the corner of Dizengoff Street and Frieshman Street simply called – Sabich Frishman. It is reputed to be the first place that locals recommend, and as one food critic wrote:
“If lines and smell give any hint of quality, it’s hardly a surprise why.”
While many of these street food eateries are referred as “hole-in-the wall” establishments, one must not be put off – this is part of their charm, and often the less attractive on the outside, might be a cover-up for the best food in town. This is typical of Tel Aviv cuisine deception.
Another top Sabich establishment that comes highly recommended is Sabich Tchernichovsky whose food one food critic described, “rivals my grandmother’s.”
Could you ask for a better endorsement?
“From the moment you walk in, you know you’re in good hands. Despite the ever-existent line, the employees take their time constructing each and every sabich. Each ingredient is layered artfully in the perfect pita, providing the ideal combination of flavours in every bite. The delicious eggplant is thin and crispy, packing a flavourful kick with its unique and unidentifiable seasoning. It combines well with the soft creaminess of the boiled egg and pickled flavor of the amba.” There is also the option of ordering your sabich with a cheese that “is both gentle and tart, balancing the smoky eggplant and flavourful egg yolk.”
Yemen On The Yarkon
Included in the long list of tantalizing Israeli delights, dishes necessitating salivating overseas visitors to board a plane is Jachnun, described as “heavenly Yemen pastry.”
While Jachnun is available at eateries across Tel Aviv, you may want to enjoy it in an absolutely authentic setting – its Yemenite Quarter.
A charming, twisting enclave of cobblestone streets, low-slung buildings and some of the best home cooking, Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter – also known as “Kerem HaTeimanim” or as locals call it “The Kerem” – is one of the world’s last thriving communities of Yemenite Jews.
Described poignantly; as well as poetically by Debra Kamin in Fodor’sTravel as “a community with a stopped clock…. where stout grandmothers stir rich, cartilage-thick soups and gossiping neighbors gather in courtyards under the hush of flowering pink mulberry trees,” where better that to savor Yemenite cuisine and in particular Jachnun.
Left in a slow oven overnight, Jachnun is prepared from dough which is rolled out thinly, brushed with shortening (traditionally, clarified butter or samneh), and rolled up, similar to puff pastry. turns a dark amber colour and has a slightly sweet taste. It is traditionally served with a crushed/grated tomato dip, hard boiled eggs, and the traditional hot sauce Zhug. The dough used for Jachnun is the same as that used for the Yemini flatbread – malawach.
Another delight, malawach resembles a thick pancake consisting of thin layers of puff pastry brushed with oil and cooked flat in a frying pan. It is traditionally served with hard-boiled eggs, Zhug – of course – and a crushed or grated tomato dip. For those who prefer a sweet taste, it is frequently served with honey.
A staple of Yemenite Jews in Israel, it has become a favourite “Street Food” for all Israelis irrespective of background or ethnic origin.
Best GPS – Your Nose!
No serious ‘explorer’ of Israeli street food can avoid a visit to Abulafia in Jaffa. It’s almost ‘universal’ popularity is best expressed by an overseas patron sounding more like a frequent ‘pilgrim’:
“Here are your directions. (1) Board plane for Tel Aviv, (2) Clear immigration and customs, (3) Ask taxi driver to take you to Abulafia. You could tell him that it is in Jaffa, but he already knows.”
Open 24-hours a day, this street-side bakery has been located at the same corner in Jaffa just south of the Jaffa clock tower since 1879, and there are always crowds ordering at the counter. It’s hard to walk past without stopping to order, the smells draw you in, and “once hooked, you’re an addict,” said one customer from Holon who was buying to take home a huge supply of fresh and flavored pitot, bagels, sambusak (stuffed pastry with mushrooms, egg and different cheeses), and a variety of sweet confectionary. “Was it for a party?” I curiously inquire.
“Nope, I have a big family with healthy appetites.”
And while in Jaffa, one must try the local bourekas, a puffed pastry introduced mainly by Jewish Bulgarian immigrants. Its filling is either white cheese, potato or mushrooms. While it’s as easy to find bourekas in Israel as it is to track down falafel, however, just like snowflakes, no two are alike. And like the quest for the best falafel, shwarma or sabich, bourekas-makers have their “to-die-for” customers.
‘Bourikas Leon’ on Oleh Zion Street is the oldest Bulgarian bakery in Jaffa. The owner Avi Cohen is a third-generation Bulgarian in Israel and the bakery, named after his father, was started by his ‘Grandma Julie’ who arrived in 1948 “and was the first to make the phyllo pastry that people would come from all over Israel to buy. This was even before she went into the bourekas business.”
Is bourekas still such a popular food today?
“Absolutely,” answers Avi. “Each year we have more and more new customers while still keeping our local, loyal customer base. It’s funny,” he says, “many of the young people who come today for a bourekas are the children of my father’s customers and the grandchildren of customers ‘Grandma Julie’ served.”
While street food is generally labeled ‘fast food’, and assumed unhealthy, this is not necessarily the case in Israel, where Israelis tend to eat more turkey than red meat, and always accompanied by mounds of fresh salad. It’s practically unheard of to have a meal in Israel – whether at a restaurant or a sidewalk eatery – without lots of salad.
This is why cities like Tel Aviv are vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Most people might not know but Tel Aviv is considered to be the world’s VEGAN capital! There are over 400 vegan-friendly places in Tel Aviv and new ones popping up every week or so that “vegan-friendly” means at least 25% of menu items are plant-based.
While the Tel Aviv’s ‘Street Food’ scene, cannot escape the big-name international chains such as the hamburger behemoths, they however, do not dominate the market. They may allure their customers by illuminating their presence with big, bright colorful lights; still, they are no match still for the small, unassuming sidewalk eateries attracting their loyal customers by offering quality, wholesome Israeli street cuisine.
People in Tel Aviv certainly love their side-walk food.
The rhythms of life on the Israeli side of Gaza border
By David E. Kaplan
A planned dance performance on the Gazan border reminds me of the Gulf War of 1991 when Iraq were raining Scud missiles down on Israel and maestro Zubin Mehta raced back from New York to conduct concerts. “I had many obligations in New York that should have prevented me from coming, but I couldn’t imagine not being here,” he said at the time, while he was director of the New York Philharmonic. He conducted full-house concerts keeping his gas mask nearly as close to him as his baton, “just in case!”
“Can you imagine,” he told this writer in an exclusive interview on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 2016 in Tel Aviv, “Scuds where dropping out of the sky, possibly with chemicals but this did not deter Israelis from wanting to hear classical music.”
It sent a powerful and poignant message not to the likes of Saddam Hussein – a waste of time – but to the people of Israel who were asserting, despite the dire situation, their grit and love of culture.
Fast forward to the present and again that characteristic is being expressed by Liat Dror‘s Sderot-based dance company which is staging a performance on the Gazan border to express “our humanity” in the face of living under constant attack. “It’s my responsibility to put on a show even under rocket fire,” says a proud and defiant Liat, artistic director at the Sderot Adama Dance Company.
So, what is daily life like, living “Under Fire”?
Senior social work supervisor at Ben Gurion University in the Negev (BGU), Yehudit Spanglet is a post-trauma specialist who established the Connections and Links Trauma Center, a mobile unit that frequently brings her to Sderot – a city under fire.
“Without question there are hundreds of people in Sderot and southern Israel who live in a state of continuous trauma. Not only from the rockets which fall, but also from the booms of the Iron Dome defense system; which thankfully intercepts most of the incoming rockets. The blasts which resound in the sky can continue to echo in a person’s ears long after the attack. Many victims of trauma live in fear, even during extended periods of ceasefire. Every time the siren wails and people have to run for cover, the trauma damage from previous attacks is reinforced.”
She cites a visit to Sderot when the city came under attack, and outside on a street, “a woman stood paralyzed, staring up at the sky. Her neck had frozen in fright when the warning siren sounded. Before she could reach a bomb shelter, the missiles of the Iron Dome exploded, seemingly over her head. Her husband didn’t want to take her to the hospital in Ashkelon, so we slowly walked her home with her head still gazing up toward heaven. When she was back in her house, after speaking with her for half an hour, her neck muscles loosened and finally her body relaxed.”
Caught In Crossfire
In defiance of this situation of unrelenting danger for Israelis living near the Gaza border, a dance troupe from the Sderot Adama Dance Company will be staging a performance to emphasize what it is like to be caught in the crossfire – not only of aerial missiles but of “duty, humanity and the importance of the self.”
Liat and her partner Nir Ben Gal, say their new show titled “Love Is Strong as Death” will convey what it means to dance under rocket fire and create art under the thunderous sounds of air-raid sirens and the pounding booms of the missiles.
“Life near the Gaza Strip.” says Liat, “is constantly presenting us with difficult questions regarding the value of art when it’s not exhibited in a museum or safely appreciated in an air-conditioned theater hall.”
The dance company’s latest work balances the situation of national pride and the need to personally defend one’s people – hence the inclusion of martial music in the musical score – but also the human desire for personal space.
“This meeting between the two is very real in my everyday life in the studio,” reveals Liat. It began with her experiences serving in the IDF (Israel Defense Force) “and continued with the very difficult experience of being a parent to soldiers.”
She says the show tackles the real-life questions “of choosing love over war, of dealing with a complex reality and of accepting others – be it a spouse, a neighbour, or someone with opposing political views.”
She asserts that life in Sderot always highlights these questions and “keeps me on constant alert.”
While dance instructors anywhere else in the world might be concerned over issues of students facing personal problems or being ill, Dror is anxious:
“Will we be able to rehearse? Will we get to finish that rehearsal or will the rocket sirens go off? After all, it’s my responsibility to put on a show even under rocket fire.”
She says the troupe uses recordings of “live music from past performances,” including “laughter from the audience, the creaking of the chairs and the sounds of breathing by those present.” To Liat, “it’s a form of correspondence, both with our past, and with its relevance to what’s going on right now in Israel, Sderot, or any place where the gaps are greater than the chance for peace.”
Music To Our Ears
When Israel was at war in Southern Lebanon in 1982, Zubin Mehta brought the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra a few kilometers across the border into a Lebanese tobacco field. “We erected a stage under a tent and played for a group of local Lebanese citizens.” After the concert, said Mehta, “the concertgoers rushed the stage to hug the musicians.”
Reflecting years later, “How I would love to see that sight again today,” said the Maestro, “of Arabs and Jews hugging each other. I’m a positive thinker. I know that day will come.”
* Featured Image: From ‘Love is strong as death’ (Photo: Gal Dor)
Israel went to the polls on Tuesday the 17th September. It was the second election in 2019 and when Israelis woke the next morning, they were uncertain what they woke up to and if they were sure, it was distasteful.
Far more palatable than the news was the breakfast, frequently voted one of the healthiest in the world.
By David E. Kaplan
“Oh, your Israeli breakfasts are the best!”
How often do we hear this praise from visitors abroad? It’s often the first notion that comes to mind when they think of Israeli cuisine. In a world today conscious of “what we eat”, the Israeli breakfast has earned the reputation of meeting the concerns of health and diet far more than its counterparts abroad, with its emphasis on seasonal fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and dairy products renowned for its tasty variety as well as low fat content.
Most top hotel chefs in Israel will tell you: “A traditional Israeli breakfast is fresh, healthy and wholesome; this is why it’s so popular with our overseas visitors who are not only looking for a substantial meal to begin the day but a healthy one.”
So before feasting your eyes on the sights, set your sights on a wholesome Israeli breakfast
Fresh from the Fields
The origin of the traditional Israeli breakfast is imbedded in this young nation’s recent past and tied to its rural landscape. To avoid much of the hot day’s sun, Israel’s pioneer farmers on the kibbutzim (collective agricultural settlements) would go out into the fields way before the crack of dawn, and then after a good few hours of toiling, return to the chadar ochel (communal dining hall) for a hearty breakfast. What awaited these hard-working laborers with raving appetites were usually fluffy omelets or boiled eggs, fresh salads made with cucumbers and sweet tomatoes, hummus, eggplant, salad, pita and other breads and homemade jams. Little did they realise at the time that with each mouthful, they were forging a nation’s cuisine!
A recent publication went so far as to refer “the Jewish state’s contribution to world cuisine” was none other than the “Israeli breakfast”.
Rich in history, the Israeli breakfast was born in poorer times. In the pre-and early days of the State, the kibbutz breakfast meant a hard roll and a scoop of leben — a liquidy and sour Mideast yogurt. But kibbutz agricultural laborers needed a heartier start to their day, so the communal village’s kitchens began putting out a spread with whatever they had on hand, such as fresh vegetables, fresh juice, eggs, bread, milk and other dairy products.
It was a simple meal but compared to what most folks living in the cities and towns ate at that time, it was a meal ‘fit for a king’.
Feeding a young nation was an arduous task.
The years between 1948 – the year of independence – and 1951, witnessed the largest immigration ever to reach the shores of modern Israel. Some 688,000 immigrants came to Israel during the country’s first three and a half years at an average of close to 200,000 a year. As approximately 650,000 Jews lived in Israel at the time of the establishment of the state, this meant in effect a doubling of the Jewish population. It also meant a lot of mouths to feed in a state saddled with security concerns and a struggling economy. The availability of produce was limited, and food was rationed. These were the days of the Tzena (Hebrew for “austerity”) and citizens received coupons for food.
Life under austerity was not easy. The Ministry of Rationing and Supply created a “basket” of basic products, such as sugar, oil, bread and margarine, which could be purchased only in authorized stores.
Coupon books allocated the type and amount of food to be consumed and people stood in line for hours to obtain with no guarantee that the produce was available.
A child of an immigrant recalls that when his parents immigrated to Israel from Poland after World War II, the family was allotted one egg a week. Half-jokingly he records that “I was a little upset when my baby brother was born, because I was no longer given that precious egg!” There was literally, a ‘new kid on the block’ and “my brother needed the egg more than me.”
And he was not egg’aggerating!
The situation was so dire that when someone from the city was invited to the kibbutz for a visit, it was considered a vacation – not only because it was a chance to escape ‘the madding crowd’ of the city, but because the offering was better and bountiful.
From ‘King’ to Kibbutznik
However, by the mid-1950s, “what was once a typical kibbutz breakfast had emerged into a traditional Israel breakfast served in hotels the length and breadth of the country,” explained former South African Arnie Freedman, a veteran member of Kibbutz Yizreel in central Israel near Afula. As Israel’s hotel industry developed, it turned to the kibbutz for inspiration for breakfast. There was good reason – If the reference to kibbutz food had once been “fit for a king”, the phrase had morphed into “fit for a kibbutznik” and the image of the kibbutz had impacted upon Israeli culture beyond its socialist ideology into the realm of cuisine.
While many kibbutzim today no longer have a communal dining room, this is not the case with Kibbutz Yizreel which remains traditional in every respect, “including our sumptuous daily breakfast,” says Arnie.
Before returning to work, the members were streaming in, taking trays and helping themselves from the buffet. There was a variety of cereals, yogurts, scrambled and boiled eggs, breads rolls, fish, a variety of cheeses, hummus, tehina and all different kinds of salads and fresh fruit, all picked from the kibbutz. An hour later, well satiated, they were well ready to return to getting back on their tractor, climbing a ladder to pick oranges or sitting at their computers at Maytronics, the kibbutz’s highly-successful manufacturer of robotic swimming-pool cleaning equipment.
Where’s the beef?
Any seasoned traveler to Israel is familiar with the major difference between an Israeli breakfast and those elsewhere in the world – No meat.
In accordance with the Jewish laws of Kashrut (keeping kosher), meat and dairy ingredients are never served together in a meal. The Israeli breakfast is thus a dairy meal, and a variety of cheeses are offered. Fish is considered pareveand so is permitted, and herring is frequently served.
Other smoked or pickled fish dishes are also common, including tuna and salmon.
Egg dishes are almost universal, which may be pre-cooked or cooked to order. The Middle Eastern egg dish shakshouka, a spicy North African concoction of eggs poached in a tomato-pepper-onion sauce is a common choice. However, Jewish food writer and historian Gil Marks told ISRAEL21c that this iconic dish “is actually a latecomer to the already laden Israeli breakfast table.” The classic must-haves, he says, “are scrambled or hardboiled eggs, a variety of chopped vegetable salads, porridge, cheeses, fresh breads, plain and flavored yogurts, fruit and granola, washed down with fresh juice and/or coffee or tea.”
Other Middle Eastern dishes may include Israeli salad, hummus, tehina, baba ghanoush and the strained yogurt called labaneh.
While Hummus – the much loved, humble chickpea dip – is a vital part of the cuisine throughout the Middle East, in Israel, it may be served at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times – it’s iconic.
No less iconic are the fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, radishes, onions, shredded carrots and a variety of olives – both black and green.
Enjoying an Israeli breakfast is one of the pleasures of a visit to Israel. Apart from the hotels, restaurants and small cafés will all offer one version or another of this famous feast.
Some places serve it throughout the day, so you can even have one for lunch or even diner.
Like Israeli salad, this breakfast is not locally called an “Israeli breakfast”. In restaurants and cafés it’s sometimes named after the establishment, or it is just called “breakfast”. But if you see a breakfast on the menu offering eggs, coffee/tea, salad, cheeses and juice – rest assured, it’s an Israeli breakfast!
Mouthful of Myths
The most popular day to eat an Israeli breakfast at a restaurant is on a Friday morning but as one American tourist once quipped: “Finding a table is like trying to catch the last flight out of Saigon!”
It is common counsel that if you eat an “Israeli breakfast” you might not need to eat lunch. However, this is one bit of counsel this writer is unlikely to chew on! Breakfast is breakfast and lunch is lunch and too many active hours separate the two.
If it is one o’clock then it is time for an Israeli lunch – it is different to an Israeli breakfast but that is another story!
Paradise for some, hell for others – Tel Aviv’s electric scooter craze
ByDavid E. Kaplan
You cannot escape them!
Walk down any street in Tel Aviv, and you’re most likely to be overtaken – not to mention overrun – by electric scooters. For many pedestrians – from young parents pushing prams to seniors strolling with extra care – a common opinionated exclamation:
“They’re a menace!”
Some may animatedly add an expletive before the word: “MENACE”!
Not so, says Yair who the writer briefly interviewed at a traffic light along Tel Aviv’s famed Dizengoff Street. “It’s a pain taking the car, getting stuck in traffic and then hassling to find parking; you can waste half your day!”
Adjacent to him on her scooter was his wife, Lucy, appearing notably pregnant.
Facing the reality that soon there will be three in the family, “I suspect this might all change very soon,” said Lucy with an all-knowing maternal smile.
For the most part, residents in Tel Aviv, are embracing electric scooters and their smart-phone rental systems, using them to zip along avoiding the heavy traffic. Tourists are catching on too.
“Julie, where have I caught you,” I asked my friend visiting from abroad. “On the way to the beach on a hired electric scooter,” she replied.
A few years ago, I would have been surprised – maybe even shocked.
It’s a lot quicker and cheaper than the alternatives such as a bus or taxi. “It’s so convenient and accessible” all users agree. The app on the phone informs where the nearest available scooter is located.
“It’s so easy; I go to the beach, I stop there, I use the app and that’s all. Also, its fun.”
Tel Aviv lends itself to this trend.
Tel Aviv had already adjusted to the two-wheel trend building bike lanes all around the city. The city has approximately 70km of marked bike lanes. Some of them are on sidewalks in the city and some are outside the city center, in the neighborhoods and parks.
The sunny weather, flat landscape and constant traffic jams make the scooters an appealing option.
There are now around 7,500 electric scooters available, in addition to the thousands of bicycles and electric bikes already on the streets.
Doing It My Way
The industrial designer who started it all is Nimrod Sapir, responsible for Inokim, the lightweight, folding electric scooter brand that’s taken Tel Aviv, and much of Israel, by storm. In Japanese “Inokim” means “speed” and Sapir is a guy on the move – and in a hurry!
As he told ISRAEL21c “I’m always cycling, rollerblading, roller-skating. It’s a personal thing for me; I always want to get to places quickly.”
Turned-on by the electric scooter way back in 1999, “still with the old batteries and antiquated motors,” he became hell-bent on creating a better product, and launched his first electric scooter in 2011 under the brand name MyWay. This was before moving on to partner with Israeli entrepreneur Kfir Ben Shushan in 2014, changing the brand name to Inokim and driving up sales.
Today, the folding e-scooter is shaping the future of urban transport.
The two other main brands currently operating in Tel Aviv are US Bird and German Wind.
Bird recently announced that about 250,000 people have used its app-based, dockless e-scooter-sharing service in Tel Aviv for more than two million rides since August 2018.
Bird Israel general manager Yaniv Rivlin says, “Israel was selected by the company’s managers as one of the first targets for expansion outside the US.”
Ben Shuhan is not deterred by the many competitors in the market. “Demand is much higher than supply, and we think it will increase. This is a supplementary transportation solution that more and more people are adopting. Today, the problem is finding an available or charged e-scooter for riding, especially near the railway stations, which are the places with the highest demand. Among the competition, it’s hard to find an e-scooter fit to ride in the afternoon. There’s room for more players.”
Why have electric scooters become so popular?
Sapir emphasizes “You need no skills – it’s easy to use, easy to ride, easy to get from place to place.”
This is why, he contends that scooters are still leading over other electric mobility options such as electric bikes and hoverboards.
Furthermore, “None of them are as safe as an electric scooter, where you hold a bar in your hands. That gives you a very great feeling of comfort and safety.”
Solution Not The Problem
Asked by, Globes that with Israeli sidewalks becoming increasingly crowded, whether the trend is sustainable in the long term, Ben Shushan replied:
“We’re trying to form as many partnerships as we can with several mayors. The municipalities can also profit and realize that we’re the solution, not the problem. In any case, we’ll work strictly according to regulations, so we also reached agreements with 500 businesses, including 150 parking lots in Tel Aviv, that we can use as stations for renting if we can’t leave them spread around the public space.”
To the question whether renting detracts from marketing e-scooters for sale, Ben Shushan, replied not at all.
“Since our competitors entered the market, our sales have grown by 30%. Awareness of e-scooters has only increased. Here, too, it’s a win-win situation for us.”
“We want to be in every big city in the world, focusing on businesspeople for transportation in downtown areas. You can carry it with you on the train or bus, or you can put it in your trunk and park your car outside the city for far less.”
Designed in Israel, Inokim electric scooters, are sold in 15 countries as a smart green solution for mobility in large cities.
Sapir has won several industry awards as the first electric scooter designer to overcome the tradeoff between performance and weight: Inokim scooters are not only attractive and robust but also quick-folding and lightweight.
“That’s why we stand out,” he told ISRAEL21c.
Apart from the three obvious factors for the electric scooter’s popularity in Tel Aviv:
quick arrival at destination
Sapir adds that the electric scooter is a perfect fit with the Israeli mindset. “Israelis are lazy about walking, always in a hurry and always trying to do too many things at the same time” – the ideal
candidate. And then, when you further add to this cauldron of personality traits that “Israelis are also very fast to adopt technologies or new trends,” it goes a long way to explain why electric scooters are so prominent on the country’s urban roads.
Its impact on city life is immense, Sapir notes.
“First of all,” he says, “I’d like to think it is reducing the four-wheeled cars in the city, and I believe it has. You can imagine that all the users of these electric scooters gave up other ways of transportation.”
Secondly, he’d like to believe that some people have even given up their private cars thanks to the scooters, “which they can easily fold up and carry on the train or bus and take to the office.”
The popularity, he contends, leads to the third observation, and that is the age ranges of users.
“Before, I would say it was 30 to 45, but now there’s no limit,” he says.
“Young people use it; old people use it — there’s really no limit.”
What’s the inventors favorite scooter route in the city?
“The tayelet from Tel Aviv Port to Jaffa. I always take my visitors there,” he says, referring to the city’s seaside promenade.
“It’s very unique,” he adds. “You have the city on your left and the beach on your right.”
In The Family Way
At a beachside restaurant, the writer coincidentally bumps into again Yair and Lucy enjoying a lavish lunch. Beside their table laden with food are parked unobtrusively their two electric scooters.
Methinks in a few months’ time, when they may be back at the restaurant, adjacent to the table will be in place of the two scooters – one baby pram!