Archive for the 'Israel' Category

04
May
11

This Eve’s Radio Show


Last Wednesday, the 27th of April 2011, we featured Sara Lasry Leizerowsky. Mrs. Leizerowsky authored two cookbooks (The Dairy Gourmet and The At Home Gourmet, published by Israel Bookshop), for eight years she owned and successfully operated Tastebuds – a dairy restaurant in Lakewood, NJ. Charming and witty, if you missed our conversation when it aired, you can hear the whole conversation on BlogTalkRadio.

This evening’s guest will be Aron Ritter, founder and president of the Kosher Wine Society.

Aron Ritter started the Kosher Wine Society in 2005. KWS has, since then, risen to become synonymous with the best kosher wine workshops presenting potables from around the world, expert speakers and food and wine pairings, including at such venues as some of NYC’s most prestigious kosher restaurants.

We will talk about the development of the Israeli wine industry, from biblical times, to the beginning of modern development in the 19th century to today. Mr. Ritter will talk about some of the boutique wineries and some Israel’s international award winning wines. We will also discuss KWS‘ upcoming events.

Tune us in here. If you have any questions for Aron, or any comments, we invite you to call in at 714.333.3357.

Don’t forget, The Kosher Scene Radio Show, airs tonight from 8:00pm to 8:30pm, Eastern Time. It will be a very informative evening with a discussion of some of the best kosher wines on the market today. We hope your computers will be tuned in to us, as we look forward to hearing from you.

CS

14
Apr
11

Passover’s Relevance Today


In the Hebrew calendar year of 2448 (currently, the year is 5771) the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, exited that land under Moses’ leadership. Passover – the Festival of Freedom – has ever since been one of the highlights of the Jewish calendar. With its lengthy preparations, its rituals and the joy expressed at being free, it is unlike any other Jewish Holy Day. Jewish slavery in Egypt ended three thousand three hundred and twenty three years ago, but Jewish history is unfortunately rich in attempt after attempt by various powerful empires (who have since disappeared!) to convert or enslave those accursed, stiff necked, Jews.

In spite of every such try – right through modern times – the stubborn Jew refuses to go away, refuses to convert, refuses to die. Historians are perplexed! The Jew is a total anomaly! Forces far superior have tried their best to destroy him, in vain, only to became themselves little more than the equivalent of a few chapters in learned history tomes. Arnold Toynbee, the late British historian, in his Study of History refers to the Jew as “the fossil of history,” but he is hopelessly wrong… A fossil has been dead for thousands of years while the Jews are and will still be here long after Professor Toynbee will be forgotten, long after the learned Professor ceases to be even a footnote in some book of historical curiosities.

The message of Passover, the longing for freedom, the two thousand years of exile, the praying and crying to return home have paid off. In 1948 (63 years ago!), the State of Israel was officially established by the United Nations. Interestingly enough, Abraham (whom Jews and Arabs descend from) was born in the Hebrew year of… 1948! Was this just a mere coincidence?!?!?

The Jew’s dream of living – once again – in an independent Jewish country may have come to fruition, but the danger to Jewish survival is far from over. The same enemy that threatens to change the face and lifestyle of the West first wants to destroy the Jew, as an appetizer to his final goal of total conquest of the planet. Europe – especially – and the US, have long mislaid their will to fight for their Western values. Europe, the enlightened, has lost its spirituality and with it any reason to defend its lifestyle which has morphed into a search for instant gratification rather than for something of lasting value. Europe, at one time produced great civilizations and empires, it produced immortal works of art, literature and music. But it lost its inner qualities along the way and instead replaced them with emptiness. Its current philosophers, authors, composers do not compare with the masters of yore and – unlike the classics – are unlikely to be remembered within a few centuries from now.

America the mighty, where a strong work ethic and spirituality once propelled it to the undisputed leadership of the free world,  the America that brought to fruition the dreams and longings of everyone thirsting for freedom and a better chance for a happy life, that America, like Europe,  is also badly afflicted with horrible diseases. As a result of a mislabeled, misnamed, liberalism and its associated maladies (all aggravated by an acute case self hating anti-Americanism), that America suddenly moves around like a confused giant, faltering in its way, unfocused in the present, unsure of its future course.

Just as there were some Jews who preferred to stay in Egypt at the time of the Exodus (only 20% of the Jews actually left with Moses), just as there were those who could not imagine the Hebrew tribes would ever form their own independent kingdom, so there are today those who doubt the viability of a Jewish country on Jewish land. Not only are there self -hating “enlightened” Jews inside and outside of Israel, but there are also the doubters and fools who run its government.

The leadership of a country at war, has to do everything in its power to protect its denizens in the most forceful, most efficient manner possible. World opinion be damned, they never have, nor will they ever come to the aid of us Jews at the moment of peril. Looking at Israel’s governments, over the last 20 plus years, one must wonder how pervasive is the horrible malaise that is so prevalent in Europe and other places. Israel was given to the Jewish tribes by Hakodosh Boruch Hu, as promised to Abraham. Instead of vigorously defending their patrimony, instead of vigorously and unequivocally defending the Jewish rights to their own land, today’s leaders bend to the will, to the opinion of the same Europeans who live on soil soaked with centuries of innocent Jewish blood. When in history has appeasement ever worked?!?!? Remember WWII and British PM Neville Chamberlain’s dangerous, foolish, “Peace in our Time” act of appeasement towards Hitler?

When in history has anyone in Christian Europe ever turned the other cheek? Yet that same Europe who never followed its own dogma demands that the Jew turn the other cheek, isn’t that hypocritical? Isn’t that little more than pathological hatred of that stiff necked Jew who refuses to die, who refuses to become a fossil? And yet, Israeli governments – some further than others (I admit!) – are more intent in pleasing the Europeans and liberal Americans than in defending their own people?!?!?

Food symbols of Freedom...

As long as these governments have greater fear of world opinion tha they have regard for their duties as Jews, then perhaps Israel’s hour of redemption has not yet arrived. If Israel is to be no more than a mere Western enclave in the Levant, rather than a proud nation living in its own land of thousands of years, then it may yet again (chas vesholom, sholom vechas, God forbid!!!!) be spit out of its land.

Israel was historically entrusted with a mission, the mission was to become a light unto the nations, a mission that meant fearless pursuit of our values as commanded in the Torah and explained by our Sages. Alas, what we have instead is a country run by political eunuchs with no belief, with no gumption to fulfill their Divine mission. We are about to celebrate Pessach, to commemorate the time the Almighty, Himself, liberated us from slavery and yet… over 3300 years later, in our own country, we still live emotionally enslaved to those who would gladly celebrate our demise.

Yes, we too suffer a serious malaise; we are deficient – as a nation – in our spirituality, in our belief in the Almighty and ourselves. Adapting the mores of other nations, living life in the manner of other nations never worked for the Jew – on the contrary –  it has only led to his getting ruthlessly decimated. Let’s face up to the truth and our responsibilities; we are different, we have a Divine mission! Let us hope that this Pessach we break the chains of spiritual, emotional and intellectual slavery and become truly liberated from our self imposed indenture to others’ bankrupt values. If we do, then and only then, will the West wake up from its complacency and vigorously stand up to those who would take today’s world back to the barbarism of the seventh century of the Current Era.

CS

12
Jan
11

Darkness, Jewelry, and the Brit Beyn HaBetarim


[Rafi Farber, a friend and faithful blog reader, is a director at zoara.com. In this, his third post on these pages, he continues to expound on the connection between the TaNa"CH and jewelry. CS]

There are always previously un-thought of connections to be made and the map of the Torah never ceases to reveal new patterns as one generation builds upon the preceding one. So here is the connection between the plague of darkness, Egyptian jewelry, and Hashem‘s covenant with Abraham 430 years before the Exodus took place.

The plague of darkness was rather setting the ground for the death of the firstborn and the imminent Exodus from Egypt than it was a plague in and of itself. It was one day before the darkness – the tenth of Nissan – when Moses relayed the Divine command to tie a sheep to the bedpost, in preparation for its sacrifice and the death of the Egyptian first born. The Israelites were commanded to tie up the sheep before the darkness set in, so that the Egyptians could clearly see what they were doing.

Further, our sages say that during the plague of darkness, four fifths of the Jewish people actually died – those that did not intend on leaving. They couldn’t be allowed to simply stay behind and cause a desecration of the Almighty’s name, nor could they be allowed to die in sight of the Egyptians and lead to the same. Hakadosh Baruch Hu had other plans in bringing the darkness upon Egypt – to prepare the ground and to take care of some back-issues, so to speak, with Israel.

Ancient Egyptian jewelry - rings, earrings, bracelets pendants and more

But there was one other thing the darkness was made to do, as emphasized by Rabbi S.R. Hirsch in the 19th century. During the plague of darkness, no Egyptian moved an inch. The darkness was so thick it was tangible. If a front door was open, it stayed open. If a gate was unlocked, it stayed unlocked. Everything – every Egyptian possession, treasure, valuable, was available for the taking. And yet, when the darkness cleared and the light of night began to “shine,” relatively speaking (the darkness ended at night), nothing had moved. All valuables were still there, nothing was stolen, and everything was where it should have been. The Israelites didn’t steal a single Egyptian penny.

This, more than anything else, showed the moral superiority of the Israelites. The Egyptians suddenly realized who they had been enslaving, who they had been brutally murdering for the past 210 years. A decent, moral people who wouldn’t steal even from their enemies.

At that point, God makes a request of Moses. He actually says please. “Please,” says God, “Tell the Israelites to ask their neighbors for their possessions, their riches, their jewelry, their clothing, please take it all.

No wonder the Egyptians immediately shoved everything they owned at the Jews. They didn’t take anything during the darkness, but now they were asking nicely? Take it! Take it all!

But why did God say “please?”

RaSH”I explains that Hashem said “please” because He didn’t want Abraham coming to Him accusing Him of reneging on the promise of the Brit Beyn HaBetarim – that the Jews would leave Egypt with great wealth. Therefore, He asked us to cover His back and finish the redemption process.

It’s the same with any redemption. We always have to take the last step. Otherwise nothing works. Without us completing the process, nothing even makes any sense. Ultimately, we’ll finish it, just like we did with the Paschal Lamb and the blood on the doorpost so God would pass over our houses; just like we did at the Red Sea when Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped in; just like we did with the Egyptians’ jewelry and just like we will do, eventually, in the State of Israel.

Rafi Farber

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29
Jun
10

The Three Weeks


Today is the 17th day of the month of Tammuz, in the Hebrew calendar. Today marks the start of the three weeks, which commemorate a slew of calamities in the history of the Jewish people starting with the Romans breaching the walls surrounding Jerusalem. These three weeks end on the 9th day of Av - Tisha b’Av – with the last nine days representing the final assault on the Kingdom of Judea’s capital and the burning down of the Temple. On the 9th, both the First and the Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Many other calamities throughout the lands of Europe befell the Jews during these the weeks, as well… Today, when the Jewish people are once again living in their own independent, sovereign country the lessons of Tisha b’Av still need to be learned, perhaps more so than ever before!

As long as the Jews were one – one people of one heart (am echad, belev echad) – they were invincible! When divisions, polemics and unwarranted hatred arose, when they splintered into factions, when the nation’s common goal suddenly stopped being common or even a goal… the Jews faltered. They no longer were invincible, the mightiest empires easily took them over and eventually dispersed them throughout the world. Even so, once those empires sunk in the quicksands of history, the Jews – against all odds, against all logic, against all historic precedent – did not disappear. Yes, the world repeatedly made sure their numbers were violently kept down. Many, unwilling to fight on, many tempted by the offers of the non-Jewish world, converted and became part and parcel of those who could potentially destroy or at least harass them… But…  these no-longer-Jews were  destroyed spiritually, if not yet physically.

Excavated steps on the South side of the Temple Mount

Yet a core of Jews refused to give up their values, their national aspirations, their dreams, their history. Twice the stones (of the Temples) paid the price, when there were no stones left to destroy, when there was no kingdom of Jews to capture, the world just came up with reason after reason to kill them anyway… and yet… yet… they are still here.

In this the 21st century, the challenges are still many; the battle is still an uphill one… the odds, however, are slowly turning the Jews favor… if only… if only they manage to remember, their heritage, their history, their past and future glory…

CS

12
May
10

If I Forget Thee… A Very Personal Recollection


[Three years ago, ynetnews.com published my post on Yom Yerushalayim. Today being Yom Yerushalaim I find it appropriate to repost it here on The Kosher Scene. CS]

The Holy City

I arrived in Israel on the Friday before the Six Day War, as a volunteer. For Shabbat (Parshat Bamidbar) we stayed in Savyon, a ritzy neighborhood close to the airport and not far from Tel Aviv. The view was absolutely breathtaking! On Sunday morning I was taken to Kibbutz Lavi, strategically perched atop a hill overlooking the Tiberias-Haifa road.

Within minutes of arriving, the kibbutz secretary assigned me a room overlooking the road and gave me a quick tour. The first thing we did was to climb up to the highest point of the kibbutz, the water tower. “We are one minute away from Syria by MiG’s flight,” he said. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hear that… not just yet. The rest of the tour just did not seem as important, in fact I barely remember it.

By the afternoon I was joined by 10 more volunteers from England, Ireland, France and the US. At dinner time, in the kibbutz’ dining room surrounded by people I’d never met before, somehow, it felt like a homecoming. For the first time in my life whether I lived in Montevideo (Uruguay – where I grew up), Buenos Aires, Richmond, VA, New York City or traveling through Europe, I felt that this land was mine. Every pebble, every grain of sand, everything was mine, MINE!!! It’s hard to describe the emotions running though me at the time, but believe me, I am reliving every single one of them as I write…

After a tasty meal in a darkened dining room (no electric lights were allowed anywhere, so as to make it harder for enemy planes to spot us, only candles and small flashlights could be used), when everyone except for the guards had gone to sleep, a horrible noise woke us. We looked out the window and realized it was coming from the road below. Some of us in the room wanted to go down the hill but the guards would not allow it. No one else in the kibbutz was outside . The road was swarming with tanks, on their way to Syria . We tried going back to sleep, but between the noise and the excitement, who could do that?

At early dawn they came for us and we were given suitable clothing, the famous Israeli kova tembel (a very distinctly shaped hat, to ward off the sun) turned out to be the most important item, a sand – colored shirt and matching shorts (both ill fitting, of course!) and boots. Then we were issued pickaxes and hoes, and told that we would be digging trenches. Easier said than done, on very rocky terrain! By the afternoon, when the heat made it almost impossible to work outdoors, we volunteers had realized very little progress against the rocks, but we all had blisters on our hands . By contrast, a group of teenage kibbutznik girls not far from us working on a similar type of ground astounded us by how much they had accomplished…

We, the mitnadvim, had transistor radios and we listened to the BBC (English was a lot easier to understand than Hebrew). At 7:00 am that Monday morning the BeeB reported Israeli war planes had attacked Egyptian military airfields and totally destroyed their Air Force before they could get airborne. Kol Yisrael – The Voice of Israel - not only reported no news but kept playing an hours’ long repertoire of Hebrew songs, many with biblical verses. There was no way to corroborate the truth of this BBC story. Suddenly, at 8:00 am, a young kibbutz wife reported – amidst tears and laughter – that she just received a call from her Air Force husband. Every single Israeli plane had returned safely to base!

At 10:00am The Voice of Israel broadcast, finally acknowledged we were at war but gave no further details and kept playing songs. Shortly thereafter there was a dog fight, directly above our heads, between an Israeli Mirage and a Syrian MiG, yet, the Israelis continued working seemingly without a care. We, the volunteers looked up fascinated, strangely without fear. The MiG was shot down after a few minutes, and an armed group from the kibbutz left in two Jeeps, they came back awhile later with a piece of the MiG’s tail and the Syrian pilot whom they held until members of the IDF picked him up.

At dinner time, we non-kibbutzniks could only talk about the news on the BBC while the kibbutznikim didn’t seem to show much concern. Then came Tuesday, June 7 – the 28th of Iyar – a day that would forever change history. By late afternoon the BBC reported that the Old City of Jerusalem was in Israeli hands, a few hours later Israel Radio played a sound bite by General Motta Gur, commanding officer of the crack paratroopers’ brigade that captured the Western Wall: “Har Habayit beyadenu – The Temple Mount is in our hands.” Soon there was barely a dry eye, happiness knew no bounds…

The full import of those simple words did not entirely hit me until Shavuot (the following week) when five of us found ourselves in Jerusalem. On what in the Diaspora would have been the second day of the festival, we walked to Har Tzyion – Mount Zion so we could get to the Kotel Hama’aravi – the Western Wall.

As we found our way through through the narrow, winding road filled with history, soaked with Jewish blood, I felt as if my ancestors were there walking with me, gently guiding me. Finally we spied the Kotel in the distance, not the sweeping plaza we have today, but a very narrow area surrounded by Arab houses and public latrines, The five of us, as if part of a Greek chorus in some ancient play, started crying unabashedly as little children would. Avinu sheBashamayim, mir zaynen in der heim, in der heim!!! -Father in Heaven, we are home, we are home!!!

As we walked back through the Old City, as we saw the narrow streets filled with bazaars, with butcher shops hung with huge cuts of meat and myriad flies buzzing on and around them, with the stench of public latrines we, every single one of us, understood why of all the beautiful cities around the world Hakadosh Baruch Hu – The Holy One, Blessed He, chose Yerushalayim, Ir Hakodesh, as His Holy City.

As I screamed with a broken voice amidst the tears “…in der heim!!! …we are home!!!” a line from the Partsisaner Song suddenly swelled up in my heart: “…s’vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do! …our step will beat out the message: we are here!” How apropos…

“Im eshkachech Yerushalayim, tishkach yemini! – If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, let my right arm loose its cunning!”  Though we lived in exile for two thousands years, our prayers, our hopes, our tears, our dreams, our lives, our deaths, always spoke of Jerusalem. No Holy Day ever ended without the words: “Beshana haba beYerushalayim! – The next year in Jerusalem!” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, your Jews NEVER forgot you…

CS

13
Apr
10

Israeli Food Blogs – Part 1


I constantly look at blogs from around the world for interesting recipes. Why blogs? Because not only renowned chefs can make memorable dishes. Imagination, love of food and talent in combining the right ingredients are what is important. Israel, as the melting pot of Jewish cultures from all over the planet, has many sites dedicated to ethnic food for every taste. Today I will look at three blogs, I read religiously. The writing and the photography are quite good, the recipes at times unusual, the results always delectable!

These blogs give descriptions of places, of life, of people and recipes. They reveal at least as much about the bloggers as they do about each post’s subject.

From Sarah Melamed‘s Food Bridge:

[All photos in this post are the property of Food Bridge.]

The Cook from Agrippas Street

by Sarah on April 12, 2010

agrippas street, Jerusalem

It is on this street in Jerusalem, lined with shops, alleyways and cafes, that Aviva Ben Yoseph, was born and raised in the early years of Israel.  Her cookbook is not only a wonderful compendium of her mother’s Sephardic recipes but a tribute to her and glimpse of a culture that has all but vanished with time. The author recreates the smells and flavors emanating from her mother’s tiny kitchen and the bustle and noise from the nearby Mahane Yehuda shuk, with the help of photographs depicting life years ago and of Agrippas street and the shuk as they are now.

Mahane yehuda, Jerusalem

mahane yehuda, Jerusalem

Her recipes are an amalgam of Middle Eastern and Sephardic cooking, some of them handed down from mother to daughter, other recipes perhaps influenced by neighbors and friends.  The wandering Jews of the Middle East had a propensity to travel more than their Arab compatriots often searching for a safe haven or better economical conditions. It is for this reason that many Jewish recipes reflect their travels and deviate from the standard. In Aviva’s cookbook there are kubba recipes from Iraq, Syrian style stuffed onion and cheesy Turkish bureks.

Meatballs with bulgur

Meatballs with Bulgur

This is a recipe from Aviva’s book and an easy way to incorporate bulgur into dishes besides the ubiquitous tabouleh and fried kibbeh. Although this is a Turkish influenced recipe, the addition of coriander is definitely not Turkish as it is an herb rarely seen in Turkish cuisine and very difficult to obtain there.

500 grams [1.1 lb] ground beef or lamb

1/2 cup fine bulgur

1 onion, coarsely grated

1 cup chopped parsley

1 cup chopped coriander

2 eggs

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon salt

Wash the bulgur and let stand for 10 minutes.

Combine all the ingredients and mix well.

With your hands create flat meatballs and fry in enough oil so it comes half way up the meatball. Fry on one side and then the other. Serve with fresh tomato and cucumber salad.

*Agrippas Street is named after the grandson of Herod the Great, the brutal King of the Jews who had a penchant for killing his wives and living an extravagant lifestyle (somewhat like Henry VIII of England), relics of which can be seen in his palace in Masada. His grandson Agrippas inherited his excessive spending habit and fled Rome to escape his debt, later to become the King of Judea. His image and namesake is preserved on ancient coins and two thousand years later, it is the main thoroughfare  to reach the Mahane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem, the biggest shopping area in the city. I think Agrippas would have liked that.

Not only does Mrs. Melamed’s writing and photos bring the sights, the sounds and the smells of Rechov Agrippas to life – even from a afar – but they fill the reader with a strong appetite for the particular recipe.

While living in Israel, I often walked through the alleyways of Jerusalem; I’ve been on Rechov Agrippas and the above post brought back some great memories. Good food, good memories… can anyone ask for more?

CS




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