Category Archives: Food

Israel Roundup

The Spring 2013 edition of ARTIFAXArtifax cover magazine is available – my photo graces the cover and the lead article, Herod’s Magnificent Obsessions, is my description of the Herod exhibit at the Israel Museum, with my photographs.

Dead Sea and Mount Everest

Two pieces of stone from the area of Israel’s Dead Sea, formed into a two-foot sculpture by Israeli artist Jojo Ohayon, has been placed in the Sagarmatha National Park of Nepal, at the southern part of Mt. Everest. Israel is planning to erect a sculpture built out of rock from Mount Everest and place it near the Dead Sea next month.

A few years ago I made a similar connection with an exhibit of my photographs from the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, in Kathmandu, Nepal in the shadow of Mount Everest, the highest place on earth.  https://israeltours.wordpress.com/photography/photo-exhibit/

Petroglyphs

I just found out about an open colloquium, Mount Sinai: Mount Karkom, May 12-13, 2013 in Mizpe Ramon, honoring the pioneers of Israeli desert archeology and an off-road Jeep trip to Mount Karkom – sounds incredible. Unfortunately, when I went to register, registration was full.

I’ve posted some photos from a hike I did near Mount Arkov in the Negev where we saw a lot of petroglyphs similar to those at Mount Karkom. https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/photo-of-the-week-tumulus-negev/

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens has developed an online course, Flora of the Holy Land, that features more than 100 plants, providing information, stunning photographs, video clips, maps and more. The course tells the fascinating role played by plants in the Bible, about the environmental wisdom of the ancient texts and the contribution that plants of the area have made to human settlement and civilization. http://www.en.botanic.co.il/Pages/Show/122

Work is continuing on First Station, Jerusalem’s new meeting place for food and culture, at the original railway station built in 1892, terminus of the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway. It is scheduled to open May 14. As of today the visitors center where you can get information, book a Segway or electric bicycle tour and buy souvenirs and the Re:bar concession are open.

In a July 2012 article in Ha’aretz, Yaakov Kahlon, Senior Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem shares his vision about the future of Jerusalem.

... hot-air balloon, so you can go up and see the city from above. The Ottoman-era train station, along with a large multiplex cinema that is under construction in nearby Abu Tor, are meant to provide an entertainment nexus that will be open on Shabbat. It will include a Ferris wheel and a skate park, and from there a promenade with a bicycle lane that will connect directly to the Jerusalem Theater.

So far, all we’ve seen is First Station.  http://www.firststation.co.il/en/

Talking about ferris wheels, here is a double photo of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock with ferris wheel in the background for use with stereoscopic 3D glasses – check out other photos (mostly from the Library of Congress, American Colony Eric Matson collection) at http://www.israeldailypicture.com.

Ferris Wheel Jerusalem

In his book, God’s Sacred Tongue: Hebrew & the American Imagination, author Shalom Goldman explains:

At the 1904 World’s Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, there was a massive model of Jerusalem’s Old City. It sprawled over 10 acres of the fairgrounds and included grand models of the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  As Israeli scholar Rechav Rubin remarked: ‘the most astonishing fact about the enterprise is that several hundred people, Moslems, Jews, and Christians, were brought from Jerusalem to St. Louis.  There they lived and worked within the model, dressed in their colorful costumes… and had to entertain and guide the visitors through its streets and sites.’

 

Israel Roundup

ARTIFAX magazine and The Book & The Spade radio program have published the Top Ten Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2012. At #3 is a First Temple period cistern with a 250 cubic meter capacity that was discovered by chance during the ongoing clearing of the drainage channel near Robinson’s arch. Press release at http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=25&subj_id=240&id=1958&module_id=#as

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority/Vladimir Naykhin

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority/Vladimir Naykhin

Found while sifting material from City of David, at #4 is a fiscal bulla, a clay seal impression with three lines of script, related to the taxing of shipments at the time of King Hezekiah, the earliest mention of Bethelehem. Found while sifting material from drainage channel near Robinson’s arch, at #5 a personal seal with the name Matanyahu inscribed on it dated to the end of the First Temple period, see https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/first-temple-period-seal/

Jewish National Fund (JNF) has published a map of Israel with 110 “great old” trees marked. One example, #91, a Common Oak, called the “Lone Tree” symbolizing the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem that has a height of 10 meters, trunk circumference of 3.5 meters and is estimated to be 500 years old. I do a tour that includes the moving audio-visual presentation on the history of the Gush at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, gourmet lunch at Gavna in the forest with a view all the way to the Mediterranean and a tour of the Lone Tree microbrewery.

Lone Oak

Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey exhibit at the Israel Museum is an exceptional opportunity to encounter the material opus of Herod the Great – his architecture and aesthetics, and the work of his chief archaeologist, Professor Ehud Netzer. Evidence of Herod, the meaning, struggles, and accomplishments of his life beckon beyond the exhibit halls, to the sites where he fought, ruled, dreamed, and built – Herodium, Masada, CyprosSebasteCaesarea, Banias and Omrit

Herodium-4colourFor those who will be in Israel, I am leading in-depth full-day tours of Herodium and the Israel Museum’s Herod exhibit, for details see https://israeltours.wordpress.com/herod-the-great-tour

For those who will not be able to visit Israel, I posted a few articles with photos of the exhibit.
Here are the links to check for photos:

The Israel museum has published a 277 page hardcover catalog of the exhibit. You can order a copy by sending an email to shop at imj.org.il
ARIEL has released volume 201-200 Art and Architecture in Jerusalem and Israel in the Second Temple Period (in Hebrew) in memory of Prof. Ehud Netzer.

From the pantry at Herod’s palace-fortress at Masada, amphorae – large clay jars that held imported delicacies – attest to the luxury and sophistication of Herod’s palate: apples, honey, fine wine, and garum, a savory Roman fish sauce. One amphora bears an inscription of Herod’s name in Latin and Greek. For more about garum, https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/food-discoveries-masada-garum/

Film documentary: Volunteers with military experience, many from America, came to Israel around 1947 to help the fledgling Jewish state. Their acronym, Mahal (MH”L}, stands for מתנדבי חוץ לארץ. The 3 large Hebrew letters, מח’’לֹ, stand as a monument at Sha’ar Hagai, on the road to Jerusalem. Playmount Productions has released a sample from their upcoming documentary Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force.

Emek Habacha project: Estimated at €250 million to install 50 130 meter tall (height of the Azrielli Towers in Tel Aviv) wind turbines able to produce 120 megawatts has received approval. These will replace the 10 wind turbines that produce 6 megawatts at Tel Asania. I blogged about the old wind turbines in May 2011 at https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/wind-turbines-on-golan-trail/

Ein Karem and Barluzzi’s Church of the Visitation

When you’re in Jerusalem take some time to enjoy walking around and exploring the village of Ein Karem (Hebrew of Spring of the Vineyard), today a neighborhood of Jerusalem and when you get hungry check out one of the restaurants (see below). The spring made it possible for settlement there dating from the Middle Bronze Age. According to Christian tradition,  Mary, pregnant with Jesus, met Elizabeth, pregnant with John at the spring.

There are two churches named St. John the Baptist, one a Franciscan church built in the second half of the 19th century on the remnants of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches and an Eastern Orthodox church built in 1894 (restored in 1975), also on the remnants of an ancient church. Inside the Franciscan church are the remains of a Byzantine mosaic floor and a cave where, according to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born. Below the building a mikve or Jewish ritual bath was found dated to the Second Temple period.

The Franciscan Church of the Visitation is located across the village from St. John. The ancient sanctuary there was built against a rock slope, the site where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived and where Mary visited them. An ancient cistern from which, according to tradition, Zechariah and Elizabeth drank, can also be found in the church; the stone next to it is said to have hidden the two from Herod’s soldiers. Tradition attributes its construction to Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother.

Barluzzi Church of VisitationOn the wall of the courtyard are ceramic tiles bearing verses from the Magnificat (the Canticle of Mary from Luke 1:46-55) in forty-two different languages. On the church’s façade is a striking mosaic commemorating the Visitation.

Visitation church InteriorThe lower level of the church was built in 1862, the upper level was begun in 1938 and completed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi in 1955. The upper hall is dedicated to Mary, and its walls are decorated with many paintings in her honor. The interior has Italianate frescoes depicting the Visitation, Elizabeth hiding her son John the Baptist, and Zechariah next to the altar in the Temple and beautiful mosaic floors. In one of the frescoes, there is an image of none other than Barluzzi himself.

Interior 2

Visitation church mosaic floor

Located up the hill is the Russian Orthodox Church, part of the Gorny monastery, nicknamed Moscovia by the locals, begun in 1905 and only completed in 2005, with its classic gold onions.

Take the opportunity to walk or meditate in the tranquil garden of Notre Dame De Sion monastery.

Restaurants

Pundak Ein Karem “with a garden blooming in and around its stone courtyard specializes in pan-European fusion cuisine of the decidedly unkosher variety; free WiFi.”

Karma “will have you eating like a Buddhist monk fallen off the wagon, a genre-defying culinary quality, with a traditional Middle Eastern taboon stone oven at its spiritual center.”

Café Inbal “small bake shop has a nice selection of classic light Israeli fare, kosher.”

Charlotte for those with a passion for a variety of grilled meats and delicious side dishes, kosher.

Esti and Perla “run by and in the home of two ladies by the names of Esti and Perla, who have resided in Ein Karem for over 50 years serves high-quality dairy food, specializing in Moroccan fare, kosher.”

Falafel Fast Food Israel

Probably everyone who has been to Israel has tasted one of Israel’s most popular fast foods, falafel. It’s made out of mashed chickpeas with parsley, scallions, garlic, coriander and cumin. Formed into balls or croquettes it is fried until crunchy, stuffed in a pita with an Israeli salad of finely cut tomatoes and cucumbers and drizzled with tehina.

There’s no point arguing about where to find the best falafel, everyone has their favorite. Since we live in Jerusalem, our family swears by the Levi brothers on the corner of Etz Hayyim and Tut street in Mahane Yehuda. There you can have falafel in a pita or rolled up in a lafa, a large, round flatbread.

As a guide I spend quite a lot of time in the Old City and there are two fellows I’ve gotten to know who sell falafel on El Wad street that I like to support. Amin will give you a falafel ball to taste as you go by and gives a falafel snack to quite a few of the Arab children on their way home from school. You can’t beat his price, he sells a falafel in a pita with salad for 5NIS.

A little farther along, on the opposite side of the street is a fellow selling falafel in pita from a cart; I don’t know if he’s deaf but he’s not able to speak – he’ll be happy to make you a sandwich.

When you’re touring in the Galilee check out Falafel HaNasi in Afula. A friend shared this video that captures Golan in a virtuoso falafel in pita performance.

If you have your favorite falafel stand, take a moment to tell us about it in a comment.

Meze Appetizers

While in Israel try meze (also spelled mezze), a selection of small dishes served in the Mediterranean and Middle East as appetizers, think of Spanish tapas.

The word meze was probably borrowed from the Greek mezés (μεζές), which was borrowed from Turkish meze, which was in turn borrowed from Persian maze ‘taste, flavour, snack, relish’, and is found in all the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire.

The meze served depends on the chef and the restaurant but could include some or all of the following:

  • Labne – strained yoghurt cheese
  • Babaghanoush – eggplant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with various seasonings
  • Muhammara – a hot pepper dip with ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil
  • Pastirma – seasoned, air-dried cured beef
  • Tabbouleh – bulgur, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, scallion, with lemon juice, olive oil and various seasonings

Walking along the promenade from Jaffa to Tel Aviv, you’ll find Etzel Pini BaChatzer, a restaurant that offers typical Mediterranean dining by the sea (not kosher) with a good selection of mezes. One of their specialties is chopped beef and lamb salad with Swiss chard and pine nuts.

As you walk along the promenade there is a fun wall mural on a building facing the beach that shows some famous people enjoying the restaurant/bar scene in Tel Aviv. The mural was painted by Israeli artist Anna Kogan (http://tziur-kir.co.il).

Wall mural-Anna KoganTwo of the people are from Renaissance paintings – the gentleman in the large-brimmed black hat and yellow jacket is from a painting, La Buveuse (Woman Drinking, 1658) by Pieter de Hooche and the fellow with the red outfit and hat playing the lute is from a painting, Jester with a Lute, by the Dutch Frans Hals about 1625. The two young women (in positions 2 and 10) are both named Orit and lived in a building nearby. Position 3 is based on George Harrison from this photo of the Beatles. Position 8 is based on rapper, Master P.

So the people from left to right are :

de Hooche painting, Orit, George Harrison,  Marx,  Freud, Golda Meir, Einstein, Master P., Ben Gurion, Orit, Herzl, Jester with a Lute, model, Golda Meir

Food Discoveries at Masada

Yigal Yadin led the archaeological excavations at Masada, an inaccessible fortress situated on the western coast of the Dead Sea between the years 1963-1965. The archaeological evidence from Masada suggests the great richness of King Herod’s stores as described by Josephus, who emphasizes that they are a greater object of admiration than the royal palace itself:

But the stores laid up within would have excited still more amazement, alike for their lavish splendour and their durability. For here had been stored a mass of corn, amply sufficient to last for years, abundance of wine and oil, besides every variety of pulse and piles of dates.

Among the finds archaeologists found some clay shards from Roman amphorae with bilingual Latin-Greek writing, garum BασιλέωϚ ‘of the king’ – referring to Herod. As well, they found shards of wine jars datable by a fragment of inscription bearing the consular name C. Sentius Saturninus to 19BCE. The inscription on the jar indicates that the Philonianum wine from the Italian producer L. Lenius was intended for the King himself.  One should probably add to Herod’s shopping list apples from Kyme, honey and olive oil. The inscriptions not only throw light on Herod’s culinary tastes but show that Herod was able to order such luxurious imports. Herod ordered only the best garum, from Spain which the Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, says was only surpassed in price by perfume and you can assume that it would have had to be kosher.

Garum was a type of fermented fish sauce that was an essential flavour and condiment in ancient Roman cooking (think of worcestershire sauce today). Although it enjoyed its greatest popularity in the Roman world, it originated with the Greeks – its name comes from the Greek words gáron (γάρον) the name of the fish whose intestines were used in the condiment’s production.

Garum was traditionally made in one of two ways. The dry-salting method involved placing layers of small whole fish or the guts of larger fish into a vat on a layer of herbs and spices (dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others) and covered with salt “two fingers high”. Repeat until the vat is full and leave for 10 days in the sun after which mix it daily for 20 days (some recipes say allow to ferment for three months). Alternatively, garum makers began with a strong salt solution (brine) into which they placed whole fish or fish intestines. The brine was heated over a fire until the liquid had reduced to an acceptable level.

If you’re interested in making up a batch of garum to taste, you can find various recipes by searching for “garum fish sauce” or check out this great Israeli food blog with a recipe for a modern version:

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/07/17/garum-roman-ketchup/

Red Canyon

Rather than driving all the way down to Eilat on highway 90 you might want to consider a detour, taking a right onto highway 13 and then a left onto 40 which follows the Israel Trail. After 38 km you’ll come to Shizaphon Junction where you’ll find an organic, vegetarian restaurant run by the folks of Kibbutz Naot Smadar, a lovely place to take a break.

At the Pundak you can also buy products from the kibbutz, artisan goat cheeses, bread, jams, fruit leather, dates and wine – everything you’d need for a picnic. I highly recommend that you try their goats yoghourt ice cream with the homemade apple cake. Mmmm, delicious.

From the junction if you continue on highway 40 you’ll come to the kibbutz itself, like a magical kingdom appearing out of the desert. Many of the kibbutznikim are artists and they’ve built a studio space and gallery that you can visit.

Afterwards retrace your steps and take highway 12. After about 3 km there will be a dirt road to your left that will take you to Shaharut where you can sleepover and go on camel trips. Afterwards retrace your steps and continue on highway 12 south for about 50 km until you see the cutoff for the Red Canyon – Wadi Shani on your left. Follow the dirt road to the parking area.

From there you follow the green trail markers and descend into the small canyon, no more than 3 meters in width with a height of up to 30 meters, created over years by water erosion of the sandstone.

Red Canyon

The dominant color of the rock is red with shades of pink and purple. It reminded me of a smaller version of the canyon at Petra. The hike is suitable for families. To return either retrace your steps through the canyon (if there aren’t a lot of people) or climb up out of the canyon where the streambed widens and take the path with a great view of the canyon below. The Red Canyon is one of the places that I recommend to people who are interested in a tour focussed on photography.

If you are continuing to Eilat there are 2 lookout spots that are worth stopping at: Har Hizqiyahu at 838 meters for a view east to the Edom Mountains in Jordan and west to Moon Valley in Egypt and Mount Yoash at 734 meters from which you can see 4 countries on a clear day: Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel.