Thanks to our guest blogger, Chutzpah in the Kitchen, here’s a brief history of Purim, and a great recipe for making the traditional Purim dessert.
Over 2,000 years ago, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish people were exiled to live in ancient Persia. During the time that the Jews lived there, the King’s adviser, Haman, convinced King Ahasuerus that they should assassinate all of the Jews because they followed their own laws and customs, instead of the laws of ancient Persia. The king, who was something of a womanizer, was preoccupied with hosting parties, getting drunk and finding a new queen, so he told Haman to do as he pleased with the Jews. When the leader of the Jewish people, Mordechai, got wind of the plot to kill the Jews, he sent his beautiful niece, Esther, to meet King Ahasuerus, in the hopes that the king would find her attractive enough to make her queen. When Esther became queen, she explained the plight of the Jews to the king (the king didn’t realize that Esther was Jewish herself), who put the kibosh on Haman’s plan to kill the Jews. In short, everyone lived happily ever after.
The holiday of Purim commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from death, and is celebrated by giving baskets of food (usually treats) to family and friends (mishloach manot), giving charity to the poor, and public recitation of the Scroll of Esther. Other customs include drinking wine, dressing up in costumes, and general partying.
It’s also customary to eat triangular shaped cookies filled with fruit and other fillings. Enter the hamantashen! Named for the villian in the story of Purim (Haman), these pastries are shaped like a triangle, which is reminiscent of the hat that Haman wore.
The dough itself is actually quite simple- the tricky part with this treat is the folding and pinching, and ensuring that when baked, they don’t open up into a giant mess! The recipe that I use is from a really old cookbook, called The Spice and Spirit of Kosher-Jewish Cooking, out of my mom’s collection. I’m sure there are many variations on this recipe available online, but I’ve been using this one since I began baking as a teenager and it has always served me well.
Check out the step-by-step instructions (with more photos!) here.
“If we could, we would stay in Tel Aviv forever. The people are wonderful, the food is outstanding, the views are splendid, the soldiers walk around with big guns and huge smiles and they are much nicer than our civil servants.”
This is the impression Israel made on bloggers from Belgrade, Serbia who returned to their country enamored with the Jewish state.
The six skillful and curious bloggers who write on an array of topics were brought to Israel on a joint Foreign Ministry-Tourism Ministry venture.
They spent time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, Akko and the Galilee. Upon their return to Serbia they wrote that they are “completely in love with Israel.”
Throughout their visit they tweeted and posted messages on their blogs on their Israel experience. Orosh Igniacivic, who runs an online tourism group tweeted: “The moment the plane flew over Tel Aviv, we felt as if we were landing in New Belgrade. We felt as if we are wandering around our own home. We met wonderful people, the food was outstanding and the views, splendid.”
Another blogger, Milan Maglov, mainly active on Facebook (with 115,000 friends) wrote on his page: “How unfortunate that only few Serbians know what Israel can offer. I feel that I am on a dreamlike expedition. Serbia, brace yourself for a boom of great stories and pictures!! Our Israelization begins now.”
Another blogger named Milan Kamponeski, who writes under the pen name “Amitz”, wrote in his blog read by 100,000 monthly readers: “I felt at home in Tel Aviv. At the Carmel Market I asked for 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of candy and the seller pushed a whole kilo (2.2 pounds) on me. I felt like I was in Belgrade.
“Israel is a land of contrasts. Soldiers who look like mere teenagers wandering around with big guns and huge smiles and they are much nicer than our civil servants.”
Israel’s Ambassador to Serbia Yossi Levy hosted the bloggers upon their return to Serbia. “It is good to hear such warm words from the mouths of such a happy, colorful and young group of Serbians, all of whom are not Jewish and who never visited Israel before. We didn’t hear one bad word, not even about the airport security checks,” said Levy
“Israel, as it is perceived through tweets and Facebook pages, is a beautiful, young, open, friendly, safe and fun country. There is no doubt that over the next few weeks, thousands of young Serbians will discover Israel from a new and especially pleasant perspective.”
According to him, “this is the most effective and best way to circumvent stereotypes and to demonstrate to young, dynamic European audiences what the real Israel is.”
Social activism, combat in Lebanon and extended stays in the Far East are only some of the highlights in the life of the French chef Thierry Marx. Marx, 51, is a pioneer of molecular cuisine; he works by deconstructing the ingredients and reconstructing them in a futuristic way, in his personal style and with the help of technology developed for him in advanced culinary laboratories.
In addition to being the chef of the two-Michelin-star restaurant Sur Mesure, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Paris, he is also a judge on a French version of the reality cooking show competition “Top Chef,” on which he is described as a “culinary alchemist.”
In France Marx is known as “the Bruce Lee of French Cuisine.” It is a nod to the black belt he holds in judo and his parallel career as a judo teacher, in some cases to people who are unaware of his culinary career.
As Marx tells it, his route toward cooking began as an attempt to deal with the horrific scenes he witnessed while serving with the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon during that country’s civil war. The young paratrooper was injured both physically and mentally, and after an initial period of recovery he began to experiment with cooking. At the time he was living at home with his parents in their home in a remote suburb of Paris.
He still finds it difficult to talk about his time as a “blue beret.”
“No one likes to talk about that. I was posted to a Christian neighborhood in Lebanon during the war. We saw a ruined and chaotic country. We were only 19, very young. After we returned from Lebanon the memories from there confused and upset us a lot. In combat I thought about nothing except my fellow soldiers. Everyone looks after the person next to him at that moment.
“There is one thing I know for sure: Perhaps there are just wars, but there are no clean wars. It’s hard for me to forget the noise that was with me during the whole period of the war, or the horrible smells. When you’re in action you can be a hero and you can be a coward – in any case everything can turn upside down in a moment. The scenes from Lebanon kept surfacing, and they are still coming back. It is very hard for me to talk about this.
“I assumed no one would believe what I would tell them, so I kept it all to myself. For 10 years I didn’t talk about it with anyone. To this day I don’t talk with my children about the war, because I prefer for them not to know. It was a very difficult experience. Every Christmas my buddies from those days sent me a postcard on which they write that Lebanon will always haunt us.”
This unique combination didn’t surprise these two female cooks: “I guess we’ve disappointed all those who were expecting action and quarrels. The good bond between us was formed because we think alike about people”.
This friendship was formed on the set of this season’s Master Chef – Israel. Among pots and pans, Salma and Elinor discovered that two women coming from opposing sides of the Israeli society, had more than a few things in common.
“On the set, I didn’t see a difference between Salma and the other female competitors” says Elinor “but on the screen, when I saw how the photographers captured Salma and I on the same shoot, I realized how big this connection was”.
“I don’t judge people by looks” says Salma “Some people radiate goodness and you fall in love with them right away. Lots of people noticed my connection to Elinor because they thought we had similar personalities”.
“When I met Salma” Elinor continues, “I saw a wonderful person. I didn’t see a flag, I saw a person and the same thing applies to my friendship with Maya, the Jewish vegan competitor who holds left-wing viewpoints and opposes the fact that I live in a settlement in Gush Etzion, in the northern Judean hills in the West Bank. Every person has strong beliefs and viewpoints that lead him/her throughout life but those beliefs don’t affect who they are as human beings”.
“I’m not representing anyone” says Salma
Elinor: “Do people in your village say anything about the fact that you have a friend who’s a settler?”
Salma: “No one said anything”
Elinor: “People gently told me “we saw you hugging Salma”
Salma: When I entered the show, I didn’t think I would become friends with the Jewish religious competitor”
Elinor: “Neither did I. There are Arabs from your village who work in our settlement so I’ve had some interactions with Arabs before but never did I have a female…Arab friend?”
Salma: “Indeed, I’m Arab, aren’t I?”
Elinor: “Or should I say “Muslim?”
Salma: “A Muslim Arab”
Elinor: “Ok, so I’ve never had such a relationship with a Muslim Arab woman”
Elinor works at the Mushroom Farm in Tekoa and Salma is a nurse and a Research Coordinator of clinical trials on Altzheimer’s.
The two young women provide the required recipe needed to bring peace and love between Jews and Arabs but their relationship also provides a glimpse into the deep conflict, the prejudice and the fear that lie between us. For example, when we wanted this interview to take place in one of their houses, it didn’t work out.
“I’m really sorry I didn’t want to come to your house” Elinor says to Salma “but I’m scared. I have this deep fear inside of me. I know Salma and I trust her completely but I don’t want to come to a place where everybody’s going to stare at me.
Salma didn’t want to go to Elinor’s house either because she was afraid of the Jewish settlers. “What am I going to do in a settlement? How will I be looked at? On the other hand, if Elinor comes to my village, I’m sure nothing bad will happen to her. People in our village respect Jews but she thinks it’s scary and I am scared of going to Tekoa”
The compromise for the meeting was a Kosher Café in Tel Aviv.
“Here, in Tel Aviv, it is more acceptable. Tel Aviv is more open to these things” Elinor says.
“I said that it would be better if we met somewhere in the middle, at this point, but it doesn’t mean I will never come to visit Elinor in Tekoa” Salma adds. “My husband knows Rabbi Froman, the Rabbi of the settlement Tekoa and loves him”
Elinor: “Salma, wouldn’t you like to live in a Palestinian country?”
Salma: “I would like to live in a country that makes me feel like I belong, that doesn’t prevent me from serving in its military because I’m Arab, but, right now, when I see what goes on in Arab countries – I don’t think I would like to live anywhere else. There’s mor order here than what we see in other places around the world. We feel good here. I have a life, work, people I know and love. I would love it if this friendship with Elinor will cause people to think that there’s another way but I’m also realistic and I understand that this friendship won’t bring peace”.
Elinor: “we want to live in peace, without sirens, without wars. And it all begins with the common people”
The war between Israel and Gaza posed a first obstacle in this new friendship but even the rockets fired from both sides a week and half ago didn’t shake their peaceful viewpoints.
“It wasn’t Salma who fired those rockets from Gaza” says Elinor
“I heard some responses from people living in Gaza who said they didn’t want to be a part of all this war”.
An Israeli research team has found a way to mate male prawns and increase yields and profitability for farmers. The revolutionary advanced gene-silencing biotechnology for aquaculture was developed in a lab at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).
Prof. Amir Sagi, president of the International Society for Invertebrate Reproduction and Development, is celebrated for his extensive research on the regulatory role of the androgenic gland in sex-differentiation and intersexuality of crustaceans. Now his lab team is garnering headlines for its innovative biotechnology that will change the field of freshwater prawn farming.
Sagi’s team of researchers produced a cutting-edge biotechnological tool for crustacean sex reversal and mono-sex progeny production.
“This is the first time that the aquaculture industry will be able to use advanced gene silencing to increase yields,” says Sagi. “Since the males are faster growers, this discovery could help local farmers increase their incomes.”
The process was patented and licensed through BGN Technologies, BGU’s technology transfer company, to the Tiran Group, an Israeli shipping company with aquaculture farms in China. Tiran recently signed an agreement with Green Advances, a Vietnamese company, to advance aquaculture in Vietnam using the groundbreaking technology.
“Prof. Sagi has pioneered a number of techniques to increase rice and crustacean output in countries like Vietnam for years,” said Doron Krakow, executive vice president of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “As the world faces a challenging population growth and decreasing resources, [this] work provides sustainable solutions for developing nations.”