Monthly Archives: November 2010

an ancient walk [for an american]

yes, i am here safe and sound. finally getting over my jet lag and enjoying the neighborhood and vicinity to the Mediterranean Sea – great choice Karen & Roomie!! [thanks for approving, Aunt Varda!]

we haven’t done too much. we’ve been very happy with the company of one another, even while we work. we did have a very nice dinner on a veranda across from the Tel Aviv Opera House – thank you again, Aunt Varda!

today we took a stroll to Yafo, the ancient town to the south of Tel Aviv. it is thought to be about 7.5 thousand years old. it is hard to see that on our stroll today, except for the one section on the harbor with the minaret. there are some nice modern, stone buildings in Yafo, relatively speaking compared to the glass sky scrapers on the rise in Tel Aviv, that give a sense of place and uniqueness.

the best sense of uniqueness today, from my perspective, was our destination – a hummus shop in Yafo run by an old, Arab Yafo family called Abu Hassan Hummus. as you will see, it was packed. there was a horde to get in and we shared a table with a young teenage boy. and, it was loud. all we could do, as you will see, is smile and say how much we enjoyed the hummus. it is not an atmosphere to discuss the finer points and flavors of hummus. it is a place to enjoy jostling, the food, people watch and the waiters. the waiters were all men who strongly kept ‘order’. they pushed the line back out into the street. they pointed to where you would sit and if you went to the wrong empty table, they would shout and point you to the correct empty table. and then, they took your order.

with all this cacophony from the people dining and talking, the waiters would holler your order from your table to the chefs. over your head and over the din. with one order near my ear, my ear made a hasty retreat further back into my head. that man could bellow. at another point the waiter stood in the middle of the restaurant towards the counter and just started shouting at all of us. i have no idea what he said or was trying to say. i’m not sure others did either. there was no major movement or response of the diners. it was entertaining. i’d go back just for the experience. oh, the hummus was good, too.

on to the pix.

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Time flies on by…

…hard to believe, but it’s been 3 months since I arrived here in Israel.  It’s a significant amount of time for many reasons – the amount of research I’ve done, the multitude of experiences I’ve had, and of course – the duration of the first no-Neil period.

Neil arrives here in Israel tomorrow, so watch out for Israel blog posts written by him in the coming weeks.  We don’t have too much travel planned, but I imagine that the mere experience of living here for the next month will make some sort of impression on him.  We shall see!

Adventures in food: a triptych

1. Kubbe.  I accompanied my roommate one day this week to her field site, a neighborhood slightly east of where we live: Schunat HaTikva, or the “Neighborhood of Hope.” I have been hearing for weeks about this tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant where the owner has been dishing up kubbe for nearly half a century. For those of you who aren’t familiar wtih this particular dish, kubbe is a Middle Eastern version of an empanada: meat stuffed into various types of dough [semolina, rice].  The Lebanese and Syrian versions are made into torpedo shapes and fried, but this places served Iraqi-style kubbe: a semolina flour version, steamed and served with amba, a mango pickle sauce. See for yourself:

Kubbe! Amba on the right and Iraqi pita on the left...

The restaurant is known for its kubbe, but they also serve up more parts of a cow’s body than most of you would like to think about [lung, anyone?].  As a bonus of sorts, we were served stuffed intestine [filled with rice and meat].  It wasn’t bad, actually…

2. Pita.  Between interviews in Jerusalem this past Thursday, I stopped at a bakery near Machne Yehuda, the open air market, for some Iraqi pita [like the kind you see above].  I ordered my pita from the baker in Arabic, asking a [probably very funny sounding] question about how well it would keep for multiple days.  This funny sounding question led to a lengthy discussion [well over 30 minutes] with my new friend Hassan and his co-worker Zion, about people, friends, life, and politics.  Nearly all in Arabic, I should add.  And I should also add – I understood most of it.  Not bad considering how little I’ve used the language in the past few months.  But mostly it was yet more evidence of how little it takes – just a question, and a funny sounding one at that – to show people that you care enough to try.

…And just how little showing that you care enough to try translates into new friends.  Hassan, my new baker friend, took my number and called me later on to make sure I had his. [Funny but true: I was on the way back to Tel Aviv when he called, sitting next to an Arabic speaking woman.  She laughed out loud when she heard my Arabic…but complimented me on trying, at least.  Ha.].

Here’s Hassan doing what he does best:

3. Olives. And Politics.  I bought the pita for a trip I took Friday with Rabbis for Human Rights* [RHR] to accompany Palestinian farmers harvesting their olives.  The organization accompanies Palestinians 6 days a week, throughout the year – during the planting, pruning, plowing, and harvest seasons.  We’re nearing the end of the harvest season now.

Our group – about 10 of us – headed to the settlement of Tsufim:

Tsufim, a settlement in the West Bank. The broken line represents Israel's pre-1967 borders: everything East is occupied territory. And to give you a sense of how small this place is: we were only about 25 minutes from Tel Aviv!

Why to Tsufim, if we were accompanying Palestinian olive harvesters? Well, turns out that this particular family’s olive groves are within the settlement itself.  That means that in addition to having to obtain permission to cross the separation barrier, they had to get permission from the settlement to enter their land [whose land??] to pick their olives.

Olive trees on left, fence on right. Need to get through one to get to the other...

The day itself was relatively uneventful, politically-speaking.  No settlers bothered us, and in the 5 hours we were there, we managed to finish harvesting most of the olives on the trees [we worked on about 10 trees – the family has about 30 overall, and had already been to the area twice for harvesting in the week before this one].  I managed to use my Arabic some more with the family we had joined, but once the talk turned political [“what led you to join us today? Why are you here?”] I struggled to express myself and we switched to English, instead.

The day in pictures:

A gorgeous olive tree...

As the olives get picked off the tree, they fall onto these tarps...

...which then get consolidated into these buckets

...hard at work


* One of the more thoughtful gifts Neil and I received for our wedding was a donation made by my brother and sister-in-law in our name, to this organization, in order to help them plant new olive trees.  The organization plants trees to replace ones that have been cut or burnt down by Israeli settlers. Having now been out with RHR and having a better understanding of the reality of the olive trees – I now appreciate this gift all the more.  Thank you…

the South will rise again

sorry for the silence. been buried playing catch up and what not. i am on the final leg of my southern tour – NY-WV-KY-westernKY-Atlanta-MadisonGA then home!

I’m in the apt of my ‘new family’ – bro & sis-in-law in the Emory portion of Atlanta. i’ve spent some time here in the past and first drove through Atlanta in….um, what yr is this already?….1991. wow, i guess that explains some of my southern ways and fondness for the South.

i am just blown away by the apt complex here and the taqueria. had to take some pix. it has been a lovely, albeit, too short of a visit.

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