Two London-based chefs with roots in Jerusalem one day. The next, poster boys for peace.
Such has been the reaction to “Jerusalem,” a bestselling cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli, and Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian, built on their memories of a shared city and its delicious food.
“Regardless of all the trouble, food is always there,” Tamimi said.
The men run gourmet delis and restaurants in London and have written an earlier cookbook together. They were known not for politics, but for saving some chic London neighborhoods from culinary boredom with Mediterranean-based recipes infused with fresh, exotic flavors.
That changed with the publication of “Jerusalem,” as observers took note of their unusual partnership.
An Anglican minister used the chefs as an example of interfaith dialogue in a commentary on the BBC’s influential Today program. The New Yorker piled on with a profile titled “The Philosopher Chef.” Britain’s Daily Telegraph featured the partners on its news pages — no recipes attached.
Suddenly it wasn’t just about how much garlic goes into hummus. It was about them.
“We’ve been very successful at attracting (attention),” Ottolenghi said. “We didn’t go out there declaring a political stance. All we did is say, this is the food that we like.”
The book contains a mixture of Palestinian and Jewish food, and the authors occasionally discuss what bothers them about their hometown, with its largely Jewish west and predominantly Arab east.
Rare evidence of the religious practices and rituals in the early days of the Kingdom of Judah has recently been discovered at Tel Motza, to the west of Jerusalem.
In excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting at the Tel Motza archaeological site, prior to work being carried out on the new Highway 1 from Sha’ar Hagai to Jerusalem by the National Roads Company, a temple and a cache of sacred vessels some 2,750 years old have been uncovered.
According to Anna Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judaea at the time of the First Temple.
“The uniqueness of the structure is even more remarkable because of the vicinity of the site’s proximity to the capital city of Jerusalem, which acted as the Kingdom’s main sacred center at the time.”
According to the archaeologists, “Among other finds, the site has yielded pottery figurines of men, one of them bearded, whose significance is still unknown.”
Tel Motza and the surrounding region are renowned for their prime archaeological importance. Many finds have previously been uncovered at the site, from a variety of different periods. From the 1990′s to the beginning of the present millennium, the site was excavated in preparation for the new route taken by Highway 1.
At the time, the site’s archaeologists proposed once more identifying the site with the Biblical settlement “Mozah” mentioned in the Book of Joshua – a town in the tribal lands of Benjamin bordering on Judaea (Joshua 18: 26).
The proposal was based, among other things, on the discovery at the site of a public building, a large structure with storehouses, and a considerable number of silos.
At the time, archaeologists identified the site as a storehouse, run by high-ranking officials, for Jerusalem’s grain supplies.
The current excavations have revealed evidence that provides another aspect to our understanding of the site.
As part of the festive cheer, Jerusalem’s municipality has been distributing free Christmas trees to happy locals in the Old City, with a friendly Santa walking up and down the walls urging Christians to pick one out from his collection.
Christian pilgrims have also been flocking to the ancient city, which is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and a range of festivities, including banquets, classical concerts and carol singing are taking place for visitors to enjoy, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also expected to take part in the celebrations.
Three days before Christmas, in a showing of religious tolerance, Christian and Muslim representatives from Jerusalem sung Christmas carols and distributed chocolate,
as they passed through the Israeli capital dressed in Santa Claus costumes.
Over the Christmas period Jerusalem takes a backseat to the Holy city of Bethlehem, which Christians believe was the birthplace of Jesus, while the city is home to one of the religion’s oldest communities and is a major tourist destination all year round due to its beauty and history.
Why did New York-based R&B singer Monique Baines come to Israel to do some special recording?
“Because you probably get a lot done and also it’s going to be quality,” she says. “I love the people. Everybody is very helpful, very hospitable. They take you in and I love that.”
Thanks to arrangements made by Israeli manager-producer Gilat Weinman, Baines came to Israel with rap artist Clap Cognac, who had met Israeli producer Meli One in New York.
“Meli One is one of the ‘dopest’ producers out here, one of the hottest producers in Israel. When he came to the States, we actually went to the studio, we clicked instantly and he said, ‘Man, if you ever come to Israel, don’t worry about anything, don’t worry about studio time, anything. You are going to be good.’ So I took up his offer,” says Clap Cognac on this video.
“It was a dream of mine always to bring Israeli talents to America and American talents to Israel so they would find out about each other and have a kind of a cross-cultural experience,” says Weinman
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov will host the traditional pre-Christmas reception for leaders of the Christian communities and churches in Israel at Mishkenot Shaananim in Jerusalem on Monday.
The minister will send season’s greetings for Christmas to the Christian communities, and the Christian leaders present will call on the faithful around the world to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Also participating in the reception alongside the Christian leaders will be Tourism Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar-Nir and senior representatives from the Foreign and Interior ministries, who work in cooperation with the Tourism Ministry throughout the year to promote tourism on the Jerusalem-Bethlehem-Jericho track.
According to Tourism Ministry estimates, about 75,000 tourists will visit Israel during the Christmas period. Of these about 25,000 will be Christian pilgrims.
During the holiday, the Ministry of Tourism will offer free transportation, helping pilgrims traveling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Buses will leave every 15-20 minutes from Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity, and back again and will operate non-stop from December 24 at 12 pm through December 25 at 12 pm.
Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism will welcome tourists and pilgrims at Rachel’s Crossing with sweets and cards in the spirit of the holiday.
Tourism Minister Misezhnikov will also host a reception for church leaders and representatives in Nazareth, with the participation of Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy. The reception will take place at the Gardenia Hotel Nazareth on December 19 at 6 pm.
To date, the year 2012 will end as a new record year for incoming tourism. About 3.3 million visitors arrived in Israel up to the end of November 2012, and of these 60% were Christian tourists (52% Catholic; 21% Protestant and 10% Orthodox).
About half of all Christian tourists are pilgrims. Most of the Christian visitors to Israel also visit Bethlehem passing through Rachel’s Crossing and the various offices work to facilitate a welcoming, fast and comfortable transfer every day of the year.
According to the ministry’s 2011 Incoming Tourism Satisfaction Survey, about 87% of pilgrims were first-time visitors. Most pilgrims visit Capernaum, Yardenit, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Mount of Olives, Via Dolorosa and Bethlehem.
Source countries where pilgrims represent a very high rate among those visiting include Indonesia (83%), Nigeria (82%), Poland (69%), Portugal (59%), Romania (57%), India (50% and Brazil (49%).
“About 60% of all visitors to Israel are Christian,” said Minister Misezhnikov. “The Christian community is a central anchor in marketing incoming tourism to Israel.
“Throughout the year, the Tourism Ministry works with the communities in Israel and overseas to increase cooperation with opinion-formers, community leaders and the faithful in order to promote and develop pilgrimage to the Holy Land.”