by Hanna Szekeres – NoCamels
In Tel Aviv’s Jaffa port, there is an old warehouse overlooking the Mediterranean. There you can find the “Nalaga’at” Center, the world’s only professional deaf-blind acting ensemble. The theatre is composed of 11 actors, most of them suffering from genetic disorder called Usher syndrome, which results in acute deafness at birth, followed by gradual loss of vision.
Nalaga’at means “Do Touch” in Hebrew. “Because the actors of our show are blind and deaf, the way we communicate with them is by touch. We ask people who come to our center to communicate, to touch,” says Jonathan Tomkins, Development Manager.
“Nalaga’at,” a nonprofit organization, was founded in order to integrate deaf-blind people into the community, giving them an opportunity to express themselves in a creative way and give their audience a meaningful experience. Besides its theatrical ensemble, the center also boasts two cafes; Café Kapish – run completely by deaf waiters and the popular BlackOut, a pitch-black restaurant with blind waiters, where patrons are shown the menu in advance and call upon their waiters with the use of a bell.
A Difficult Start
Nalaga’at was founded in 2002, when a social club for deaf-blind people approached the actress and director, Adina Tal and asked her to set a drama class for its members. “Although I had no previous experience with the subject nor had ever closely known any deaf or blind person, not to mention any deaf-blind, I decided nonetheless to accept the challenge. The general expectation was merely to teach a drama course for several months. Little would I know that this interaction would change my life, ”says Tal, who is now president of Nalaga’at.
Tal recalls her first day with the group, “Nobody could see me or hear me. They gave me a coffee and I put it down and somebody stood on it. I couldn’t imagine how we might begin to work together. So we sat in a circle and squeezed hands and tapped knees and tried to find a way of communicating. At every meeting I learned something new, but it was frustrating.”
The beginning wasn’t only hard on Tal. One of the actors, Yuri Oshorov, gave Tal a challenge she felt could not be met. “He told me he wanted to do a play by Gorky. I said, ‘You are deaf-blind and non-verbal. How are you going to do Gorky?’ He said, ‘That’s your problem – you’re the director.’” Oshorov never got to play Gorky: “other people can do Gorky better than us,” says Tal. “But what they can’t do is what we can do. The strength of Nalaga’at is in being us. That’s what we do really well.”
Tal soon discovered that there are some advantages to working with deaf-blind actors. “Because they can’t see each other, they can’t imitate each other. So everything they do is completely unique. If you ask them to mime eating grapes, you get 11 entirely different ways of eating grapes. That wouldn’t happen with seeing actors. They can’t be like anyone else. None of them has ever seen Marlon Brando or Al Pacino act. They can’t copy. That’s why they are great.”
The Rise to Success
After a year of intense practicing and with the help of personal tactile-sign language interpreters, the first show was born: “Light is Heard in Zig Zag.” The play was performed at the Israeli Parliament, in Canada and even at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.
Following this success, the “Nalaga’at” Center opened its gates to the public in 2007. Their second, and most successful play, entitled “Not by Bread Alone” has had150,000 viewers to date.
Adina Tal describes the preparations: “All along, we looked for new methods of communication, as a group and as an ensemble of actors. In the course of the show the beat of a drum is occasionally heard on stage. This cue announces the start of a new scene. The actors on stage can neither see the hand hitting the drum nor hear the beat, however, they can feel its vibration. This capacity is the result of a long and complicated process during which the actors have learnt to feel the vibration of the beat as it travels in the air.”
“Not by Bread Alone” was performed in Israel, as well as at a London drama festival, with extremely positive critiques. In May the troupe will perform at a festival in South Korea.
Home For Equality
Nalaga’at has aimed not only to provide a workplace for the deaf-blind, but also to provide them with a place where they feel at home and can communicate daily with Israeli society.
Aside from the search for a unique “theatrical language,” Nalaga’at hopes its actions will increase awareness of deaf-blind people’s needs in Israel and the rest of the world.
“Nalaga’at” Centre hopes to serve as a national and international learning centre, and as a role model for the integration of handicapped people in society as equal citizens, said Tomkins. In the future, Nalaga’at plans to develop various types of rehabilitation programs and to open other Nalaga’at Centers around the world.
DJ Adir Ron from Tel Aviv – started djing about three years ago in local gay venues/clubs and instantly became one of hottest and biggest names in the vibrant gay scence in TLV. Adir is Currently a resident and plays at Israel’s biggest clubs such as HaOman 17, TLV, Comfort 13 and many more. Adir plays a varity of House music and is well known for his original mixes and mashups giving a personal touch to his sets.
I specialize in a variety of House Music with a strong affiliation for the New York genre mixed with oriental and middle eastern sounds. I have a special soft spot for emotional vocals and strongly believe that the dance floor is the best place to lose yourself inside the lyrics & beats.Who are some of the artists/DJs that have influenced your music ?
I think Israel’s DJ’s and producers are the best in the world. I’m proud to be influenced by the Tel Aviv scene especially artists like Offer Nissim and Yinon Yahel. In regards to international artist, my music has been influenced by Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta and the Freemasons.
Where is your favourite place to play ?
Although I have played at the biggest clubs in Israel (such as Oman 17 and Opera), my favorite place would definitely be the TLV club. This is first club I’ve ever been to for a gay party and it changed my life in so many ways. When I play there, I see myself in the crowd and feel a great sense of connection with the audience.
Does being Israeli influence the type of music you produce ? how so ?
I think being Israeli has had a great deal of influence on my musical style. Tel Aviv is a mix between a very modern and vibrate gay scene and an old fashioned and middle eastern place. As a producer and a DJ this mixture helps me create a unique sound.
How are you received internationally ?
Over the years, I’ve focused my career in Tel Aviv and the local gay scene that I love very much. This year, I started working with an International agent which resulted in booking gigs in clubs across North America and Europe. The weirdest place I’ve ever played in was in Ivory Coast while travelling in Africa, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Would you consider Tel Aviv to be a top LGBTQ destination ?
HELL YES!!! If you’re gay and you’ve never been here: this is a must. The music is amazing, the guys are hot, the beach is beautiful and the sin is everywhere – I say, what more do you need?!
And of course, Does size matter ? (…in regards to Israel of course)
Size definitely matters. However, what Israel lacks in kilometers of land we compensate for elsewhere…
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The Jerusalem Development Authority and the Jerusalem municipality invited the public to partake of an unprecedented culinary tourism event with the Old City Flavors Festival. For the first time ever, the gates of the four quarters of the Old City were opened in the evening and at night to reveal a wealth of unique, authentic restaurants along with music events, ethnic food markets, and arts and crafts fairs and workshops. The festival began on Sunday, March 27 and runs through Thursday, March 31, every evening between 18:00 and 23:00.
According to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the festival is a celebration of the city’s diversity and cultural richness and the latest in a long line of events that have been furthering Jerusalem’s status as an international tourist attraction in recent years.
“Jerusalem is a breathtaking mosaic of cultures that came into being thanks to the singular, wonderful human variety that characterizes the city’s population,” Barkat said in a statement. “Jerusalem gives voice to many historical epochs, traditions, customs and art from many grand sources. This culinary festival is another step in the development of Jerusalem as a national and international tourist attraction.”
Moty Hazan, the CEO of the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA), said that the festival was another initiative of the JDA aimed at “enriching the experience of tourists to the Old City and encouraging Israeli tourists to connect to the wonders of Jerusalem.” Hazan added that the JDA promoted many events in the Old City throughout the year, “revitalizing the nightlife scene and increasing activity hours for the benefit of all.”
Indeed, the Old City Flavors Festival offers a remarkable opportunity to discover the secret flavors and aromas of the Old City and the unique, delicate fabric of life in the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian quarters in the nighttime hours.
Throughout every evening, seven activity centers – Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate, Muristan Square, the Hurva Square, the Davidson Center, the Cardo, and the Armenian Quarter Courtyard – will host food and arts and crafts markets and various workshops. At the same time, special meals will be hosted in the restaurants of the Old City. The man behind the choices of participating restaurants is Chef Assaf Granit, who has become something of a Jerusalem institution himself with such eateries as Adom, Lavan and Colony serving up some of the best food in the city from under his meticulous hands.
Cooking classes, given by the staff of the Teamim School of culinary arts, will be held in the Cardo, while wine workshops will be held in the nearby Jerusalem wine shop. These will be given by Yoram Cohen, the owner and winemaker at the critically acclaimed Tanya winery as well as one of the contestants on the latest Israeli season of ‘Big Brother.’ In order to round out the experience of festival-goers, jazz concerts will be given on the walls of the Old City, and tours winding between the various quarters, markets and restaurants will be held every evening, including some in English.
Some of the activities are free. It should be noted that the restaurants in the Armenian, Christian and Muslim quarters are not kosher.
The Israeli Flying Aid is a non-profit, non governmental organization based in Israel and founded by Gal Lousky. over a thousand volunteer of the IFA risk their lives by going to provide life saving aid to populations who suffered natural disasters or human conflicts, in countries that have no diplomatic relations and are considered enemies of Israel.
Lady Gaga joining long list of international artists in talks to perform in Israel this summer
Lady Gaga, the world’s biggest pop star and one of its most provocative celebrities, is joining the long list of artists in talks to perform in Israel this summer, even though she has already performed in the country in the summer of 2009.Last week we wrote of Bob Dylan’s plans to play a concert in Israel on June 20 and earlier this month it was Shakira who flirted with the Israeli fans with a possible stop in Tel Aviv during her European tour. Now, it’s Lady Gaga’s turn, again.
If Gaga does decide to show up, it won’t be a surprise at all, as the first lady of pop is very popular amongst Israeli fans. In fact, she is so popular that a group of fans, who call themselves “the Little Monsters from Israel”, has uploaded a clip to YouTube this week dedicated to Lady Gaga and calling her to return to Israel during the upcoming “Born This Way” tour, which is based on her soon to be released album.
Gaga’s first performance in Israel was on August, 2009. While a massive celebrity at the time, her concert was still overshadowed by Madonna’s two gigs in two days at the same time.
The terms of Gaga’s return to Israel are being negotiated with the help of officials from the Jewish communities in Canada, the United States as well as Israel’s minister of tourism, who would like to see her in Israel as a part of a tourism campaign.
It’s still not clear who will produce the show and who will be the lead sponsor, but due to Gaga’s massive popularity, neither should be hard to find. But what is clear is that should the show occur, it won’t be before the end of May due to Gaga’s current tour in the US and Mexico.
Last week, Lady Gaga also became the first person with over 9 million Twitter followers. Let’s hope her next tweet is “Israel, here I come”.
Culinary vacations are a great way to travel and Israel should be high on the list of destinations. Exotic Middle Eastern tastes fuse with familiar Mediterranean cuisine to wow with every bite. After serving in the army, many young chefs travel the world and bring back flavours and techniques to integrate into their grandmothers’ recipes using the extraordinary produce, luscious olive oils, outstanding cheese and evolving wines of their native country. And of course, learning about the country, three major world religions and literally walking though the Bible are all awe-inspiring spiritual experience. I’ve just returned from leading my fourth culinary tour to Israel with Rabbi Elyse Goldstein and share some of the amazing dishes we enjoyed below.
TALI’S WILD MUSHROOM SOUP WITH COCONUT CREAM
Chef Tali Friedman takes groups on lively tours of the colourful Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. She introduces people to her favourite merchants and then hosts hands-on cooking classes in her nearby culinary studio. Coconut milk is Tali’s substitute for cream in recipes she wants to serve with meat meals.
- ½ oz dried wild mushrooms
- 1 cup hot water
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 leeks, trimmed, sliced, washed and drained
- 1 lb mixed fresh wild mushrooms or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup coconut cream (unsweetened)
- ½ cup diced roasted chestnuts
- truffle oil for drizzling
- coconut cream
- chopped chives
1. Combine dried mushrooms in a bowl with hot water. Soak 20 minutes until softened. Strain through a paper towel lined sieve reserving liquid. Rinse mushrooms and chop.
2. Meanwhile heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and leeks. Cook gently until tender. Add fresh and soaked wild mushrooms and cook until any liquid has evaporated. Add garlic and cook one minute.
3. Add stock or water and reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a boil. Add a little salt and pepper. Cook gently 25 to 30 minutes until mushrooms are very tender. Partially purée with an immersion blender so mushrooms are still a bit coarse. Add coconut cream. Taste and adjust seasoning. (Thin with water if necessary.)
4. Serve sprinkled with chestnuts and chives. Drizzle with truffle oil and coconut cream. Makes 8 to 10 servings
YOSSI’S HOUSE GRANOLA
Mizrachi’s, located in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, is famous for their homemade granola. Here is my version. (Date honey is available at Middle Eastern shops.)
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup honey or date honey
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of kosher salt
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup each whole almonds and hazelnuts
- ½ cup large flake coconut
- ½ cup cashews
- ½ cup each shelled pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup currants
1. Heat oil, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
2. In a large bowl combine rolled oats, almonds, hazelnuts, coconut, cashews and pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds.
3. Pour sugar mixture on top and stir well. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 325F (160C) oven for 20 minutes, flip, add cranberries and currants and bake 10 to 20 minutes longer or until golden brown. Makes about 8 cups/2L
SHORT RIBS WITH RAS EL HANOUT, KALE AND CHICK PEAS
Erez Kamarovsky is the voice of the new Israeli cuisine, according to Janna Gur, editor of the foremost Israeli food magazine Al Hashulchan. He brought artisanal breads to Israel, opening a chain of bread stores — Lehem Erez. He now lives in Matat near the Lebanese border in Upper Galilee, where he grows most of his own vegetables and offers outstanding culinary workshops for groups. Here is my version of the delicious braised veal cheeks with Swiss chard that he made in our class.
Ras el hanout spice blend:
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp each of ground black pepper and ground ginger
- ¼ tsp each of nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne and allspice
- 1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 bunches black kale, cut into approximately 2-inch pieces
- 6 lbs boneless shortribs or blade, cut into 2- or 3-inch chunks
- 3 onions, chopped
- 3 cups beef stock
- 2 cups cooked chick peas
1. Combine ingredients for spice mix. Pat meat dry and toss with spices. Reserve.
2. Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet. Add kale and cook about 5 minutes, turning frequently, or until just wilted. Remove from pan and reserve.
3. Return pan to heat and add beef in batches. Brown well on all sides. Remove and reserve.
4. Add onions to pan and cook gently until wilted — 5 to 8 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add beef back to pan and top with kale. Cover the meat and kale directly with a piece of parchment paper. Cover tightly with lid.
5. Cook meat in a preheated 325F (160C) oven for two hours or until meat starts to become tender. Add chick peas and continue cooking, covered, another 30 to 60 minutes until meat is fork tender. If juices are too watery, remove meat, kale and chick peas and reduce juices until they are more intense. Combine juices with meat and serve. Makes 8 to 10 servings
ROOT VEGETABLE MASH WITH GARLIC
I love this combination of root vegetables from talented chef Tali Friedman. It’s a great change from usual mashed potatoes and is delicious with the short ribs.
- 1 ½ lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 lb celeriac (celery root), peeled and cut into chunks
- ½ lb parsley root, peeled and cut into chunks
- ½ lb Jerusalem artichokes or parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 large head garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
- ½ cup cooking liquid
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or butter
- 1 tsp kosher salt or more to taste
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1. Place chunks of peeled potatoes, celeriac, parsley root, Jerusalem artichokes and garlic in a large pot of water with 1 tsp kosher salt and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until very tender — 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Drain well, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid. Return vegetables to the pot.
3. Mash vegetables coarsely with a potato masher and mash in olive oil, salt, pepper and as much liquid as you like. Season to taste. Makes 12 servings
ONE LAYER BAKLAVA
At the Mana Achrona cooking school/cookware shop in Jerusalem, we had a lesson in phyllo pastry from pastry chef Omer Zernitsky-Dromi. This baklava isn’t as sticky sweet as usual as it only has one layer. Yum.
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup honey
- 2 cups walnuts
- 1 cup pistachios
- 1 cup almonds
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 2⁄3 cup water
- 2⁄3 cup honey
- 1⁄3 cup sugar
- 8 sheets phyllo
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1. For honey butter mixture, combine butter and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and reserve.
2. For nut filling combine nuts with sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and chop until slightly pasty and just sticking together. Reserve.
3. For syrup, place water, honey and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and cook gently for 2 minutes.
4. Cut stack of 8 phyllo sheets in half across the length so that each piece is 9×12-inches. Layer 4 buttered sheets of phyllo on two baking sheets lined with parchment. Spread each with half nut mixture. Drizzle with all but 3 tbsp honey-butter mixture. Top with four more buttered sheets and brush the top with 3 tbsp remaining butter/honey mixture. Cut 3⁄4 of the way through into diamond pieces. Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven for 25 minutes or until nicely brown and crisp.
5. Reheat syrup and pour evenly over both hot baklava. Makes 20 servings
GRILLED EGGPLANT STACK
Tortuga is a new tapas bar in the recently opened indoor market in the Tel Aviv Port. This is my version of their delicious eggplant dish.
- 2 eggplants (about 1 lb/500 g) each
- 2 red onions
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced (or 12 cherry tomatoes halved)
- 12 leaves fresh basil
- ½ lb feta cheese, cubed
- 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp each of chopped fresh tarragon and oregano
- 1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Slice eggplant and onions into ½-inch (1 cm) rounds. Combine olive oil with thyme, salt and pepper. Brush over eggplant and onions slices. Grill until browned and tender, about 5 minutes per side. Or, place on a baking sheet(s) lined with parchment paper and roast in a preheated 400F (200C) oven for 30 minutes or until browned. Turn over halfway through cooking.
2. Prepare dressing by whisking lemon juice with salt and herbs. Whisk in olive oil.
3. On 6 individual salad plates or one shallow platter, arrange slices of eggplant, onions, tomatoes and basil in a stack. Dot with cheese and pine nuts. Spoon dressing on top and around the plate. Makes 6 servings
Source: National Post