Saturday, May 12, 2018

Middle Eastern Sesame Cookies

Middle Eastern Sesame Cookies

Having a decent cookie to dip in your cup of coffee or tea has always been part of my childhood. And now I am the one that has to fill the cookie tins.... :)

The taste of my cookies is usually influenced by my Western upbringing but I have been living in Israel for a while now, so I have decided to experiment with honey and sesame seeds. These two ingredients are as Middle Eastern (and Mediterranean!) as it gets and are often found in sweet treats.

You can find the entire recipe here: Middle Estern Sesame Cookies

I encourage you to try the recipe. It is quite easy, the ingredients are not difficult to get hold of AND it is really delicious!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Yaron's remember garden

We had just experienced another tense and emotional period here in Israel. 

Once again we commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day and remembered the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. And then the sorrow slowly turned into joy as we celebrated 70 years of independence. 

Holocaust Memorial Day reminded us why the Jews need to return to their own homeland. 
Remembrance Day reminds us of the price the Jews have paid and still pay for their homeland and during 
Independence Day we celebrate the long journey and accomplishments of some truly amazing Israelis. 

The names of 71 soldiers were added this year to the list of the 23,646 soldiers who died defending Israel. Twelve new names were added to the group of people who died in terror attacks, making their total number 3,134.

We read their names and watch their stories on television but there are too many, really just too many fallen soldiers to remember them as we should. 

So in this blog post, I am going to tell you about only one soldier. 

A soldier named Yaron Amitai
Yaron died on the 13th of August, 2016 during the second Lebanon war just a few hours before the ceasefire was called that ended the war. He was 45 year old when he died, the oldest soldier to fall in the second Lebanon war.

In Israel, after their three years of mandatory service, soldiers still have to report for reserve duty every year. These reserve duties usually stop when soldiers reach the age of 40, except when there is a war and your country needs you. Yaron was already exempt from reserve duties because of his age but he volunteered to be the combat medic with a group of paratroopers. 

He and another soldier was inside a house that was used as a triage center for wounded troops. The house was accidentally shelled by an IDF tank in a friendly-fire incident. Both soldiers were killed.

Yaron left his wife Meirav and three children behind.

Why write about a person I have never met?
The reason why I chose to write about Yaron is because there is a wonderful memorial garden named after him just a few hundred metres away from where I live. Here in Israel there are many public parks, picnic spots, trails and memorial gardens created to commemorate fallen soldiers.

I live near the edge of Zichron Yaakov and in the evenings we often hear the jackals screech to each other in the wild area next to our neighbourhood. During the day, especially on weekends, people hike, jog, cycle and take their dogs for walks here. I often hike there or photograph the wildflowers in the area. 

Sometimes a person just needs some nature time

Yaron’s garden, though a bit hidden, has become a focal point for this small strip of nature. I often see people celebrating birthdays there, or having a picnic, playing with the games or just stopping for a second to wash their faces and fill their water bottles.

I have never met Yarom Amatai or any of his family members but only ‘know’ him through the memorial garden built for thim. When I did the research for this post these words of his son struck a chord...

“...He was the funniest person ever, full of humor. We did a lot of trips – especially in the South – and if we went to a park he was always the first one to jump around on the playground equipment. He was like a child clowning around”  - Gal Amitai

A secret garden full of games
Yaron’s garden is not just a hidden picnic area but it is filled with amazing playground equipment made from rocks and other natural materials. These ‘games’ are scattered throughout the garden and it is fun to discover them and try and figure about how to play with them. Though some instructions are carved out on a nearby rock.

The garden is 'hidden' under trees that create a secret place to play in peace.

I have not yet figured out this game.

Instructions for the spiral game

The spiral game

The kicking game

The sliding rocks and stuff through the holes game

The garden is covered with wildflowers in the spring.

A game, instructions and even a seat.

Mankala, all the way from Africa, is very popular in Israel.

A notice, also carved out in a rock, says that rocks, stones and sticks are found in abundance in nature and can easily be turned into games. People have always loved to play and have used natural materials to entertain themselves. Quite a large number of these games are known even though some of them have came from far away, for example mankala.

The games spread out in Gan Yaron are there to entertain and intrigue the visitors. Some of the games require strategic planning while with others the players need some luck and others again need two players. These games allow us to take some ‘time out’ from our stressful lives and to play and hang out with each other.

Chess or checkers...or maybe something else...

Just use what nature gives freely

I think that Yaron would have loved this garden.

I have found this YouTube video made about Yaron Amitai's life and death. It is quite sad to watch and could be a trigger for some. We see too many of these types of stories throughout Remembrance day here in Israel.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

“Ashes and dust” - How Israelis commemorate the Holocaust

This evening, we will start to commemorate the Holocaust here in Israel.  All the movie theatres and restaurants and other places of entertainment will be closed and only movies and documentaries about the Holocaust will be shown on the local television stations.

Tomorrow all the children will wear white and there will be ceremonies held throughout the country at schools and municipalities. The Polish survivor Zipora Nahir will speak on behalf on the Jews who have survived the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. Then survivors from six different countries will each light a torch in memory of the six million Jews who were killed. 

It is a sad and solemn and tear-filled day and emotionally draining.

And continuously throughout all the ceremonies and radio shows and candle lighting, this remembrance day will unfold against the soundtrack of the songs from the album “Ashes and Dust”. Many Israelis, old and young, know the sad words of the songs by heart.

Second generation survivors 

Ashes and Dust” was released in 1988 by the rock musicians Yehuda Poliker and Yaakov Gilad. The songs were originally written for a radio program that aired on Holocaust Memorial Day in 1986. The program was dedicated to the experiences of the Holocaust survivors’ children. 

These children are often called the second generation survivors. Even though they did not experience the Holocaust themselves, they were the constant witnesses to their parents’ memories, they had to live with their parents’ survival guilt as well as their impossible high expectations.

These children also had to be a substitute for all the relatives that were killed during the Holocaust. Many of them, also Yehuda Poliker and Yaakov Gilad, were named after lost family members. Some children were given two or even three first names. 

Yehuda Poliker , who composed the music of the album, was born in 1950. Both of his parents were originally from Thessaloniki (Greece) where they had lost their entire families in the Second World War. His music has a distinct Mediterranean flavour.

Yaakov Gilad wrote most of the lyrics of the songs. He was born in 1951 to parents who were Holocaust survivors from Poland. The creation of the “Ashes and Dust” album was supposed to be a personal project for Yehuda and Yaakov and they thought that it would only be of interested to a small group of people. Instead it became a huge success and has morphed into the music that the Holocaust is remembered by.

Personal stories

The album is filled with the individual stories of the survivors and their children. Many of the stories, in various and varying degrees, are similar to those of other survivors and their children. A second generation survivor mentioned that that the songs in the album finally gave a voice to how he felt growing up as a child.

The main message of the album is to show the point of view of the Holocaust survivors’ children, even though both the parents’ and the children’s stories are told.

The theme song of the album, also called “Ashes and Dust” is from the perspective of a son whose survivor mother returns to Poland for a visit. I found it heartbreaking how the son sounds more like the parent than the child in the relationship.


Ashes and dust

A day in spring, the smell of lilac blooms,
Between the ruins of your city.
A beautiful day to fish in the river
yet my heart is breaking inside me.

Over there once was but no more
Your childhood, little woman.
There are people that no one now knows
Not even a house that you will remember.

And if you are going, just where are you going to?
Forever is just ashes and dust.
And if you are going, just where are you going to?
Years gone by but nothing is erased..
Take a coat, you'll feel the cold,
Pocket money, sugar cubes.

If the days are hard for you,
think of me sometimes too.
Though it's just one more hopeless tour
to the shack, to the empty lot
on the rails of the ramshackle town
no one will be waiting at the stop…

Who will sweeten your nights?
Who will listen to your crying?
Who will stay with you on your path?

And if you are going, just where are you going to?
Forever is just ashes and dust.
And if you are going, just where are you going to?
Years gone by but nothing is erased..
Take a coat, you'll feel the cold.

The song "After the rain" is about a survivor who returns to his village after the war:

“. . . In the square, by the wine shop somebody suddenly shouts, ‘Gapozo is back!’ The people who are sitting in the coffee house and by the bar wave their hands at me as if nothing has ever happened. Here, the routine never stopped I leave the convoy and cry all the way back.”

I could not find the translated lyrics of the song "After the rain" but you can listen to it here

In the comment section of this video, Uri S. wrote that this song was written following the return of Poliker's father to Thessaloniki immediately after the end of World War II. At the time of his return, which was fraught with harsh feelings, he came to the barbershop he owned, where he confronted the locals who told him: "It's a pity they did not make soap out of you."

Other songs from the album are: 

"A window facing the Mediterranean" -  which is written as a survivor's letter to his relatives.

"When you grown up"
- about being an orphan.

"The small station Treblinika" 

The translated lyrics can be read in the comment section of Yaacov Lozowick's blog.

And "Because" - which deals with the tormented and difficult  relationships between survivors and their children. The music is extremely harsh and disturbing. You can find the translated lyrics here.

A new generation of memory keepers
So many of the Holocaust survivors have passed away and the handful that are still alive are now in their 70’s,80s and 90’s. So it is easy that understand that the stories of the Holocaust has shifted to the stories of the memories of the Holocaust. And the children of the Holocaust survivors have become the storytellers.

They may not have lived through the Holocaust but their entire lives were influenced by it. The heavy load and guilt of being alive and to tell the stories of those who cannot do it themselves had been placed on too small shoulders. The songs from the album “Ashes and Dust’ show the conflict between the duty of remembering and the heavy mental cost of such a burden.

Here in Israel every Jew will remember the dead tonight and tomorrow and will keep standing witness, year after year, to all the atrocities of the Holocaust. We will light the candles and we will cry and we will stand quietly when the sirens ring because the burden of remembering is everyone’s burden.

More reading:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sarah Aaronsohn - the 100 year-old heroine of Zichron Yaakov

Wikipedia Public domain
Well, actually she has been around for more than a 100 years now. Sarah was born on the fifth of January 1890 and in 1917 died from the gunshot wounds of an attempted suicide. Our common home town, Zichron Yaakov, recently held the 100-year old anniversary of her death.

In the suicide note she had left behind she wrote:
“I no longer have the strength to suffer, and it would be better for me to kill myself than to be tortured under their bloodied hands.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

After the holidays

Me and my fellow English-speaking Israelis belong to this secret Facebook group where we share crazy, awesome and weird stuff about life in Israel.

Some of the posts are really cool and heart-warming but other posts (especially from the newbie immigrants) just make me go from one face-palm to the next.

Chocolate pie with pomegranates and a chocolate sauce

Chocolate pie with pomegranates and a chocolate sauce

I often make this chocolate pie for my family for something sweet for the weekend. It is quick to prepare and I usually have the ingredients already at home. So usually no quick dash to the supermarket is needed :)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A new morning, a new day, a new year

The blue hour - early in the morning on my porch

I belong to a photo group called 52Frames. Every week we create an album based on a specific challenge. Lately I have come to realize that my creative journey with this group has slowly become much more than just about improving my photography.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Disembarking at the HaHagana train station

The HaHagana train station in Tel Aviv at night.

I recently started to commute to Tel Aviv with the train and has to get off at the last station called the Hahagana station. It means “the defense” in Hebrew and yes, I totally agree that it is a strange name for a train station.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hiking from Nachsolim beach to HaBonim beach

Although it is already nearly the end of October, the days are still very hot in here in Israel. The rains of autumn and that cool, clean feeling they bring are still just a wishful longing for the most of us.

But one gets tired of sitting in front of the perpetual-turning fan or the headache-inducing hum of the air con. No matter how hot it is going get, I promised myself, I am going on a HIKE already!!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A diary of an administrator

A clerk: Raphael Kohn, and a cop : Joseph Kuperman

Not a yet a city  but not a village anymore..

I live in Zichron Yaakov, a small medium-sized town in the northern part of Israel. We have grown from a dusty village on a hill top in the middle of nowhere to a large vibrant nearly city. 

Though we still do not have any traffic lights, I am pretty sure that the Romanian founding fathers and mothers would not recognize the place anymore. They bought their land in 1882 but had no luck growing anything in the rocky soil. Also the nearby swamps were totally invested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes causing the death of far too many people, especially children.