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‘Belgian Culinary Week’ in Tel Aviv – special guest: chef Viki Geunes

Tel Aviv’s popularity is growing in the European media, finally! In the context of the Belgian Culinary Week in Tel Aviv, we had the pleasure of having chef Viki Geunes here, accompanied by a tv-crew for ATV – Antwerp Television and a reporter from the renowned cooking magazine ‘Culinaire Ambiance‘. In the videos below you’ll see their discoveries in the city…

Part one: Chef Viki Geunes from the renowned ‘t Zilte restaurant in Antwerp discovers the city of Tel Aviv and meets Yossi Shitrit, chef from Kitchen Market, as part of the “Belgian Culinary Week” held at the new Namal Tel Aviv. Viki visits the Carmel Market and enjoys local flavors…

Part two: Viki Geunes and Yossi Shitrit share their local knowledge and host a cooking demo for the Israeli chefs and press. Then Viki meets with Marilyn Ambach and while telling her story, she takes him to her favorite spots around Rothschild Boulevard.

Part three: Viki and Marilyn wander around Jaffa and its charm…

You can watch the ATV reruns here and wait for the May edition of Culinary Ambiance…

Thank you: Willem Asaert, Viviane & Viki, Raf de Mot, Walter Schrooten

 

Baking · Israel · Judaism · Tutorial

Tutorial: How to make Challah Bread

It’s Friday again, it’s Shabbat again; let’s make Challah Bread. A lot of people discourage you from making Challah as it is a complicated process and the success of it lies it the little details. Luckily there’s Tori Avey’s website Theshiksa to help us out. It’s only when I use her tips that my Challah comes out great.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, divided
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 1/2 to 6 cups flour
  • Egg Wash Ingredients: 1 egg, 1 tbsp cold water, 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional Ingredients: Raisins, chocolate chips (1 ½ cups of either)
  • Optional Toppings: Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt

You will also need: Large mixing bowl, whisk or mixer, kitchen towel, cookie sheet, parchment paper, plastic wrap, pastry brush – Servings: 1 very large challah, 2 regular challahs, or 24 mini challah rolls – Kosher Key: Parve

Instructions:

  1. Pour ¼ cup of the lukewarm water (about 110 degrees) into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 packet of Active Dry Yeast and 1 tsp of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy. If it doesn’t, your yeast may have expired, which means your bread won’t rise—go buy some fresh yeast!
  2. Once your yeast has activated, add remaining 1 ¼ cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the egg, egg yolks, honey, canola oil and salt. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend the ingredients together. Recently Updated1
  3. Begin adding the flour to the bowl by half-cupfuls, stirring with a large spoon each time flour is added. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead.
  4. Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and not sticky. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies—only add flour until the dough feels pliable and “right.” If you plan to add raisins or chocolate chips to the challah, incorporate into the dough as you knead.Recently Updated2
  5. Place a saucepan full of water on the stove to boil.
  6. Meanwhile, remove the dough from your mixing bowl and wash out the bowl. Grease the bowl with canola oil. Push the dough back into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so that both sides are slightly moistened by the oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Place the bowl of dough on the middle rack of your oven. Take the saucepan full of boiling water and place it below the rack where your dough sits. Close the oven, but do not turn it on. The pan of hot water will create a warm, moist environment for your dough to rise. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
  8. Take the dough bowl out and punch it down several times to remove air pockets. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour longer.
  9. Take the dough out of the oven. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky.
  10. Now your dough is ready to braid. If you plan to separate and bless the challah, do it prior to braiding. Click here to learn how to braid challah.Recently Updated3
  11. After you’ve braided your challah, place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (this will catch any spills from your egg wash and keep your challah from sticking to the cookie sheet).
  12. Note: you can put a single challah braid on a cookie sheet, since they tend to expand a lot when baking.
  13. Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg, salt and water till smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the mixture onto the visible surface of your challah. Reserve the leftover egg wash.2013-10-111
  14. Let the braid rise 30 to 45 minutes longer. You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when you press your finger into the dough and the indentation stays, rather than bouncing back.
  15. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. The challah needs to bake for about 40 minutes total, but to get the best result the baking should be done in stages. First, set your timer to 20 minutes and put your challah in the oven.
  16. After 20 minutes, take the challah out of the oven and coat the center of the braid with another thin layer of egg wash. This area tends to expand during baking, exposing areas that will turn white unless they are coated with egg wash.
  17. Turn the tray around, so the opposite side is facing front, and put the tray back into the oven. Turning the tray helps your challah brown evenly—the back of the oven is usually hotter than the front.
  18. The challah will need to bake for about 20 minutes longer. For this last part of the baking process, keep an eye on your challah—it may be browning faster than it’s baking. Once the challah is browned to your liking, take the tray out and tent it with foil, then place it back in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 2 minutes of baking time.2013-10-112
  19. Take the challah out of the oven. At this point your house should smell delicious. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf—if it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Let challah cool on the baking sheet or a wire cooling rack before serving.
  20. This recipe will make 1 very large challah, 2 regular challahs, or 24 mini challah rolls. I usually divide the dough in half to make 2 medium challahs, which are more manageable and easier to braid than a large one. Choose what works best for you. 2013-10-113Shabat Shalom
History · Judaism · Uncategorized

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement

Today is Yom Kippur 5774. On Rosh Hashana God inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book called the Book of Life and waits until ten days later, at Yom Kippur, to “seal” the verdict. During those Days of Awe, a Jewish person tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. “Yom Kippur is the 10th Day of Repentance and can’t mask over the fact that we have looked deeply into our soul over these last few days, we have exposed our weaknesses and shortcomings, and that causes us to weep with anxiety and dread lest I be found wanting on the Day of Judgment. But Yom Kippur is also the Day of Atonement, when all sincere penitents are guaranteed a second chance.” At synagogue the service includes the Kol Nidre prayer (meaning all vows) reaching deep in to our souls. Kol Nidre symbolizes the opportunity to free ourselves from the past and is about letting the inner light shine out.  As we’re about to fast for over 24 hours, we first have a big family meal. Yom Kippur ends around sunset the next day with the blow of the Shofar (the ram’s horn) at Synagogue.  On Shabat and on every Jewish Holiday we eat Challah – that is jewish special braided bread. I’ve been trying to make it many times and mostly not sharing as it has not been a success. But today, with a little help from Tori Avey’s website “The Shiksa in the Kitchen”, we have a beautiful and tasty Challah bread with photos as proof. Here’s a great recipe if you’d like to try your own including instructions and variations for braiding. I’ve made a 4-stranded challah, a round one (mostly what we use on high Holidays) and a Unified Heart one (Leonard Cohen fans should know what it its). And talking about Leonard Cohen, even though I shared it last year, I dare to share again. His song “Who by fire” is inspired by this prayer from the liturgy of the Day of Atonement. Here’s an amazing live version from the show in Helsinki in 2012 – yes Javier Mas plays an almost 4-minute-intro.

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed
How many shall die and how many shall be born
Who shall live and who shall die
Who at the measure of days and who before
Who by fire and who by water
Who by the sword and who by wild beasts
Who by hunger and who by thirst
Who by earthquake and who by plague
Who by strangling and who by stoning
Who shall have rest and who shall go wandering
Who will be tranquil and who shall be harassed
Who shall be at ease and who shall be afflicted
Who shall become poor and who shall become rich
Who shall be brought low and who shall be raised high.

Tsom Kal & Gmar Hatima Tova צום קל וגמר חתימה טובה

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And to end it on a lighter note with Ari Gold from Entourage and his way of celebrating Yom Kippur: http://youtu.be/3iqZIm-d7bk

Entertainment · Judaism

Dating a Jew or two.

When you write a blog between Tel Aviv and Antwerp, it was bound to happen someday. Yes it’s time for a personal statement that I know isn’t shocking anybody who knows me: I have a thing for Jewish men.

I’ve given “the Reason Why” a lot of thought lately. I don’t care much about God, Jesus or any other prophet. I never fully understood the concept of how something that is supposed to be a good higher power actually divides so many people. I never really made a difference between someone who read the Bible, the Koran, the Torah or just believed in karma. So my preference to date Jewish guys has nothing to do with their belief, that’s for sure. I feel however that most of the guys I go for are Jewish (or, if they’re not, they probably look Jewish). Needless to say that when it comes to their looks, Jewish men are very “interesting”: the intelligent gaze of a young Leonard Cohen, the funny Adam Samberg, my high school crush Jeff Goldblum and the ultimate stud James Franco. My grandma always told me “van een mooi bord kan je niet eten” (freely translated as: you can’t judge a book by it’s cover), so Jewish men must also have a lot of good inner qualities. They are known to be smart and treat their wives with respect. They are family oriented and most of them have a good sense of humor. What sounds better than that? Another reason that I think of a lot is that it might be a more personal challenge, since dating someone who’s not suppose to date you makes you feel all “13 years old and secretly kissed a boy at school” again (minus the teen giggles).

Ari-Gold-Yom-KippurAnyway, who cares about reasons. Leo Dicaprio didn’t have a reason not to get on that piece of driftwood with Kate Winslet when he was floating around in icy water, so I don’t need a reason to like someone. Let’s say: I just do. But I am not Jewish. I’m a Shiksa, as they say in Yiddish (after looking up that word on Wikipedia I most definitely am a Shiksa: “Shiksa refers to any non-Jewish (gentile) woman or girl who might be a temptation to Jewish men or boys, e.g., for dating, intermarriage, etc.“). And this is kind of a problem.

But who am I to burst my own bubble? Let the men do that for me! So, after some serial Jew dating I learned that – like all men – Jewish men possess qualities that make me want to run in all sorts of directions, preferably faster than Forrest Gump on energy drinks.

Of course, I don’t generalize. The experiences I write about are totally my own. I would also like to point out that this article is purely written for entertainment, I am not out to hurt anybody and surely not to make fun of someones religion. It could very well have been Belgian Boys, or Italian Stallions.

1. The “I like dating you, but we have no future together… Or maybe we do… No we definitely don’t” guy.

There’s always this moment in time that you think “where have all the heroes gone?”. At that point I mostly meet a handsome dark curly-haired Mediterranean guy and I’m like “There he is!”. We talk a while, we go out together, watch a movie, have dinner, etc. Basically we’re having a very good time and all seems like a little fairytale with a handsome prince who’s really making an effort to make me feel every inch a women (for readers who’d love a soundtrack to this, click here). Who cares that he’s Jewish? I do what every normal girl does and I already start fantasizing about big family shabbat dinners (who doesn’t like a table full of food) and romantically lighting candles together on Hanukkah. A fairytale indeed. At the moment one least expects it (probably while watching re-runs of Sex and the City to remind myself again how Charlotte handled her Jew-man) he drops the Bomb (bomb being the awkward word). “I’ve thought about it and although you’re great and I have such a good time with you… you’re not Jewish and my parents would never approve.”

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2. The “Let’s keep it casual” guy.

According to Jewish tradition, dating plays a very specific role. Dating is a serious matter and is not intended for entertainment purposes. Well, thanks for the heads up, but some Jewboys don’t seem to share that thought (they are probably the ones who invented the phrase “Shickses are for practice”). But then again, who cares? One can only appreciate honesty. And a busy girl like me doesn’t always have the time for serious dating. A little fling here and there never hurt anyone. So yes, let’s keep it casual! All seems to be going well for a few weeks, but then Drama kicks in. All of a sudden a statement like “you can see other people if you want, we’re casual” seems to be as untrue as Anna Anderson being the long-lost Russian princess Anastasia. Even if I didn’t see anyone else (why would I, when I have a gorgeous Jew man to satisfy me on daily basis), I’m being called names I’d rather not repeat. Maybe it’s the Jewish sense of entitlement, or just the mere thought of me actually living up to his self-proclaimed statement. Eitherway he turned into the Boy who cried Wolf. (I must admit though that drama in this story went both ways. I guess keeping it casual isn’t always that easy.)

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3. The “I don’t care you’re not Jewish” guy.

Ah yes, they do exist. Some of the Jewish men don’t really care if they date a non-Jewish girl. But by then, i was already so submerged into Jewish tradition due to all previous experiences, I was like: “What? You’re not a very good Jew!” This is when I found out that I actually love the Jewish traditions and the “we’re one happy family”-feeling. How could I be part of The Family if he didn’t really care about being Jewish or not? And here come the question marks. Well, at least I found another reason to add to the long list of why I like Jewish people so much.

1I must say, even though a lot of these stories ended in agonizing heartbreak (no not really), I have enjoyed every experience I had so far and the people I’ve met along the way. I would never wish for things to be different. Being the romantic naive fool I am, I’m sure that every experience made me grow and made me wiser about what I want, and how far I would go for someone who really deserves it. And I’m pretty sure we will all get where we want to be, with a wonderful person. In my case preferably Jewish. 🙂

History · Israel · Judaism

Yom HaShoah – the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day

BETWEEN ISRAEL… (by Marilyn)

On Monday, Israel observed a national memorial day: the ‘Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day’ or as we call it ‘Yom HaShoah’. It is an annual day of commemoration for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany (1939-1945).

Yom HaShoah starts at sundown. You start feeling the heavy silence weighing in. Radios play sad songs, tv stations only broadcasts World War II related films/documentaries, restaurants and bars are closed by law. There are official ceremonies like the central one in ‘Warsaw Ghetto Square’ at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Authority in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag is lowered to half mast, the President and the Prime Minister both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors and their descendants light six torches symbolizing the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis recite prayers. There are more ceremonies and services are held at schools, military bases and by other public and community organizations. 

At 10:00 am on Yom HaShoah, sirens are sounded throughout Israel for two minutes. During this time, people stop whatever it is they’re doing and stand still; vehicles stop, even on the highways, and the whole country comes to a standstill as people pay silent tribute to the dead.

Israeli police officers stand still as a two-minute siren is sounded before a ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem(c) Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu lays a wreath during a ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem

(c) Reuters

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People stand still on a street as a siren marking Holocaust Remembrance Day is sounded in Jerusalem(c) Reuters

I guess we each have our own individual way of mourning the deaths of our ancestors, family members and re-thinking the almost unbelievable stories from survivors. Most of the Jewish people around the world have grown up with the Holocaust being very present, sometimes loudly sometimes silently. It’s sad that even today people get away with denying it and that there is such a thing called neo-Nazis. Adolf Hitler had a plan he called the final solution -the endlösung- to decimate the entire Jewish people. During Yom HaShoah in Israel you realize: we are still here. The Holocaust is part of us, of our (hi)story and each time we try to imagine what it was like, we just can’t believe it nor contain it. Those black and white images of starving people, concentration camps and gas chambers. We are shocked time and time again. How could this happen? How could the world let it happen? Many have tried to understand, to explain and to analyze. In times like today when the world is plunged in hatred and anti-semitism is never far away, we must open our eyes and see what is going on. We must remember. Never again.

… AND BELGIUM (by Josephine)

As most of the European countries, Belgium also has an infamous Holocaust past. Between August 4 1942 and July 31 1944, 28 trains left the Belgian transit prison Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen. Over 25,000 Jews and Romas were deported, most of whom arrived at the extermination camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 5% survived. Today, the Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights tells their story and most of all, keeps their memory alive.

DOSSIN

A giant wall filled with about 20.000 faces of men and women, young and old alike, staring back at me. It’s an uneasy sight: people who had a life still to live, or had lived their life already. Some of them happy, some of them weary. These could be the faces of our grandparents, our children, our friends and neighbors. These are the faces of the people who were deported from the detention camp Dossin in Mechelen, Belgium. Colored pictures for those who returned, grey for those who did not. The Dossin Kazerne is first of all a place of remembrance, “a material witness to a Belgian war story” as professor and curator Herman Van Goethem describes it. On initiative of a number of Jewish survivors, among them the late Sir Nathan Ramet, the transit camp Kazerne Dossin was turned into the Jewish Museum for Deportation and Resistance, to remind us of its infamous period. Since 2012, the Kazerne Dossin houses the Documentation Centre and a memorial to those who lost their lives. The permanent historical exhibition is now housed in a brand new building, designed by architect Bob Van Reeth, opposite the Kazerne Dossin. The new building is rich in symbolism: the windows for instance, are covered with more than 25.000 bricks, representing the number of deportees.

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The permanent exhibition is divided in four parts. My guide, Patsi Ambach-Dewilde, unfolded the history and the ill fate of the Belgian Jews floor by floor. The first three floors cover photographs, documents and testimonies to illustrate the life of Jews (and gypsies) in Belgium before the war, the increasing discrimination and exclusion and the organized destruction of Jews and gypsies in the camps during the war. These 3 floors give a perspective on what the Holocaust meant to Belgians and Belgian Jews alike. The stories make you feel angry and sad, confused and even vulnerable: how can this have happened? But the Museum does not stop here. It also brings up the topic of rehabilitation, coming to terms with the past and Human Rights in general.  I learned that after the liberation, there was no place for Jewish suffering. Survivors simply did not talk about their grief, let alone discuss the things they witnessed and what had happened to them in the camps. They simply had to learn how to live with it. But the most interesting debate this Museum tries to stimulate is this of the Holocaust and Human Rights. By explicitly incorporating human rights not only in the name of the Museum, but also as a general topic, it broadens the context of the Shoah. Not only Anti-Semitism, but intolerance in general are always with us. Attempting to place the Shoah beyond itself by addressing values such as tolerance, respect and responsibility is also one of the keystones of the new Museum, which will leave its visitors with only one idea about the Holocaust: “Never again.”DSC_8465

 

Watch a video about the Museum on Holocaust and Human Rights, Kazerne Dossin by Fans of Flanders with Patsi Ambach-Dewilde here.

A very big thank you to Patsi for her beautiful tour (seriously guys, if you want a guide for this Museum: ask for her https://www.kazernedossin.eu/EN)

Dedicated to Nathan Ramet, Regina & Adolf Predinger-Wechsler, and the millions of people who lost their life due to racism, hatred, discrimination and genocide everywhere and anywhere. May they never be forgotten.

L.Cohen song The Partisan about The Resistance

History · Israel · Judaism · Uncategorized

Chag Sameach & Happy Passover

The Jewish people celebrate Pessach (Passover) to commemorate the story of the Exodus, their liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt and their birth as a nation under the leadership of Moses. According to the Bible, God helped the Children of Israel escape slavery by inflicting ten plagues upon the ancient Egyptians: the Plague of blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts*, darkness and the death of the firstborn. (*I’m not superstitious but Egypt and Israel had a big plague of locusts just last week, weird) The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb so that God knew to pass over these homes and spare them from the curses, hence the name of the holiday. It is said that when the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise (leaven). Therefore, during the eight days of Passover, no leavened bread is supposed to be eaten, only Matzah.

The rituals unique to the Passover celebrations commence with the Passover Seder. In our family tradition we celebrate the seder with never less than 25 people, gathering over a big meal and some adapted Haggadah reading and singing. In Tel Aviv the Holiday is both observed and ignored, as usual in paradoxical Tel Aviv. On a daily level this mainly means that locals are going away on vacation, tourists are taking over the city, inaugurating beach season and that way too many youngsters from out of town (B&T) come in to party. I like some of those annual traditions; the family Seder, remembering school memories and childhood traditions; where was I last year, what has changed since. It’s always a good occasion for some in(tro)spection. Passover also symbolizes the celebration of freedom. Inner freedom means personal happiness. We don’t have control on most things in life, but the part we do have in our hands, is the liberation from our own barriers, monsters, defenses, roles, patterns and expectations. Being free means being you, the true you.

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Judaism · Tel Aviv

Purim Parties

Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays of the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a clash of civilizations, a time where the Jews in the ancient Persian empire were saved from extermination. The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther (the Megillah, meaning the scroll containing the biblical narrative) in which Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasueros, planned to kill all Jews. Thanks to Esther and her step-dad Mordecai, the plans were foiled. The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to chose the date for the massacre. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.

During Purim, it is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations, to perform plays and parodies. Americans sometimes refer to Purim as the Jewish Mardi Gras. For Europe it’s Carnaval. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai,” though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. There are a few explanations to the origin of the tradition of disguise. One of them is Venahafoch Hu, meaning ‘the opposite happened’. The light atmosphere of Purim gave rise to an abundance of jokes, clowning and humor, based on the Megillah’s words Venahafoch Hu. Another explanation is God hiding his identity in the Megillah of Esther. Or it is a tribute to Mordecai dressing up as the King to save Esther. Also, since charity (Mishloach Manot) is a central feature during Purim, it allows the givers greater anonymity which preserves the dignity of the recipient. Or as Yoram Ettinger writes: “Purim is the holiday of contradictions as well as tenacity-driven-optimism: annihilation replaced by deliverance; Esther’s concealment of her Jewish identity replaced by the disclosure of her national/religious identity; Haman’s intended genocide of the Jews replaced by his own demise; Haman replaced by Mordecai as the chief adviser to the king; national and personal pessimism replaced by optimism.”

In Tel Aviv, Purim means 4 days of parties; and for everyone, including babies, pets and even statues. Here are just a few of the events of the last weekend:

“Crazy Purim Party” with YoYO deejays Mark RonsonSeb Chew, Leo G.@ HaOman17

markronsonphoto by N8n

“Superfly” party @Hangar11 Federation Hall

superflyphotos by Yaki Zimmerman

Morfium-Mendelimos-Rubi party @ Hangar11

morfiumphoto by Eyal Marilus

Purim weekend on Rothschild Street

blogrothschildblogrothschild2photos by Marilyn –  Canon EOS M

the annual Tel Aviv Purim Street Party

photobyAdiEzra2012photo by Adi Ezra 2012

Food, drinks & great vinyl – Friday afternoon @ Port Said

blogportsaidphotos by Marilyn –  Canon EOS M

History · Israel · Judaism

Jerusalem of Gold

The Italians say: “Vedi Napoli e (poi) muore” or:  when you’ve seen the magnificence of Naples you’ve seen everything, and it’s safe to die. Italians obviously have never been to the Old City of Jerusalem. Being one of the oldest cities of the world, Jerusalem is marked by religion and conflict. During its long history, it has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. Jerusalem is also a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The spiritual power of this city is omnipresent. It’s hard not to feel even the littlest emotion stir inside you when you touch the stones of the Western Wall, when you enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or when you see the sun touching the golden Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem has been on my “things i absolutely want to see in my life”-list ever since i was a kid. We entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate (inaugurated in 1538!). This gate is named after the port of Jaffa, from which the Prophet Jonah (the guy who got swallowed by a whale) embarked on his sea journey and pilgrims debarked on their trip to the Holy City. For us it was simply because Highway 1, the connection between Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Jerusalem, leads to this entrance. Our “pilgrimage by car” took about an hour an ended in a modern garage. I am very thankful to live in the 21st century and not having to do the whole Jaffa-Jerusalem road by foot, cause when you enter the Old City it’s all little cobbled roads and rocky steps. Not to forget about all the people crawling like little ants in between hundreds of food stands and small souvenir shops selling crosses, menorahs and djellabas. Obviously business is not divided by religion here. If you visit Jerusalem be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be well-rested, for it is a workout if i have ever seen one.

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(c) sien josephine DSC_3687 (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephineThe Old city is divided into 4 quarters: the Muslim, the Christian, the Armenian and the Jewish quarter. Because there is a lot to see in the Old city of Jerusalem and we only had a few hours before the start of Shabbat we concentrated on two places of visit. The Christian quarter contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (or the Church of the Resurrection). It is said that on this place Jesus was crucified (Golgotha), buried (the Sepulcher) and even resurrected. The Sepulcher can be reached through countless other little churches, all connected to one another by narrow hallways. Without our Israeli friends guiding us through the city we probably would still wander around in this maze of holy stones, scented by heavy incense.

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(c) sien josephineUp: the Stone of Anointing, which tradition claims to be the spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea.DSC_3675 (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephine

In the Jewish quarter lies the Western Wall or Kotel.  The wall is a remnant of the ancient Temple wall. The Jewish quarter has had a rich history, with a nearly continual Jewish presence since the eighth century BC. The Wall has been subject of many conflicts. According to the legend anyone who prays in the Temple in Jerusalem, “it is as if he has prayed before the throne of glory because the gate of heaven is situated there and it is open to hear prayer”. A lot of people come to the Western Wall to pray and wail (therefore the wall is also known by its other name: the Wailing Wall). There is also a practice of placing slips of paper containing written prayers to God into the cracks of the Wall. Fun fact: the Rabbi of the Western Wall receives hundreds of letters every year addressed to “God, Jerusalem“. He folds these letters and places them in the Wall. Twice a year the Rabbi collects the notes left in the Wall and buries them in the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

DSC_3577 (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephine (c) sien josephine

There’s a famous Jewish song called “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of gold”). The song was written by Naomi Shemer in 1967 and originally described the Jewish people’s 2000-year longing to return to Jerusalem. A final verse was added after the Six-Day War to celebrate Jerusalem’s re-unification, after 19 years of Jordanian occupation. I believe the saying “Jerusalem of Gold” has a wider meaning, that expands to all religions and nationalities who are touched by the presence of this historical and holy place. It’s a place of emotional, monetary and religious richness. Of gold in every meaning of the word. It’s what people have fought over for thousands of years and are still fighting for. This is a place that has conquered my heart and i hope to return to its splendor and greatness lots of times.

Food · History · Judaism · Tel Aviv

Hanukkah, a festival of lights

Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Every night, we light the candles of the Hanukiah to commemorate and celebrate the miracle of Light: the Jews only had enough oil to create light for one night, but the miracle made it last for 8 days…

 photo 2-1Jewish family spirit, Tel Aviv December 2012 – photo by Sharon Erde www.twitter.com/sharonerde

Being a secular Jew doesn’t mean I don’t honor values and follow rituals of the Jewish holidays. Families always gather around a big food table.  Family & food. Celebrating the miracle of oil also means eating fried food. While some of us yearn for Sufganyot (they’re like doughnuts and come in various shapes, colors and with many different fillings); some rather eat Latkes (Yiddish word) or Levivot (Hebrew word) which are a kind of potato pancake.  Here’s my favorite recipe for you to try at home – thank you Ameloush and thank you Doda Anny from Belgium…

Ingredients:photo 1

  • 5 potatoes (big red ones preferably)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • salt, pepper and white pepper
  • canola oil to fry in

Preparation:

1. Heat +/- 1 to 2 cm of canola oil until boiling and ready to fry
2. Meanwhile, start peeling and grating the potatoes (feel your muscles?)
3. With your hands, squeeze out all the water from the potatoes (very important!)
4. Add the shredded onion, eggs, flour, salt&pepper and mix with a spoon or  photo 2with your hands
5. Make flat round shapes with your hand/spoon and fry till golden brown 6.Before serving, make sure you use a lot of paper roll to remove as much oil as possible.
7. Bete’avon, you can eat your latkes with sugar, mustard or whatever other weird family ritual you have.

Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song, part. 1; there’s also part 2 & 3 if you want more…

Lyrics:

“Put on your Yamakkah, here comes Hanukkah… so much fun-Hakka to celebrate Hanukkah. Hanukkah is the festival of lights… instead of one day of presents, we get eight crazy nights. When you feel like the only kid in town without a Christmas tree, here’s a list of people who are Jewish, just like you and me.

David Lee Roth lights the Menorah, So do James Caan, Kirk Douglas, and the late Dinah Shore-ah. Guess who eats together at the Carnegie deli, Bowzer from Sha-na-na, and Arthur Fonzerrelli. Paul Newman’s half Jewish; Goldie Hawn’ss half too, Put them together–what a fine lookin’ Jew. You don’t need deck the halls or jingle bell rock, cause you can spin the dreidl with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock-both Jewish!

Put on your Yamakkah, it’s time for Hanukkah… The owner of the Seattle Super Sonic-ahs celebrates Hanukkah. O.j. Simpson- not a Jew… But guess who is…hall of famer Rod Carew-he converted! We got Ann Landers and her sister dear Abby, Harrison fords a quarter Jewish-not too shabby! Some people think that Ebenezer Scrooge is, Well, he’s not, but guess who is: all three Stooges.

So many Jews are in show business… Tom cruise isn’t,but I heard his agent is. Tell your friend veronica, it’s time you celebrate Hanukkah…I hope I get a harmonica, on this lovely, lovely Hanukkah. So drink your gin-and-tonic-ah, and smoke your mara-juanic-ah… If you really, really wanna-kah, have a happy, happy, happy, happy
Hanukkah! Happy Hanukkah!”

Happy Hanukkah…may the light shine… in and around you….

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