Israel: The morning of Day 1

September 3, 2023 • 11:30 am

I slept like a log, wrote a couple of posts this morning, and then met Anna Krylov for a lovely breakfast (her partner Jay was sleeping in). You wouldn’t think that a place like the Ibis, known as a budget hotel, would have such a great breakfast spread, but it did, and I must have eaten four plates of food (I didn’t eat at all yesterday). Here’s my cozy little room at the Ibis (click all photos to enlarge them):

Below are a few photos from my trip to breakfast, served on the eighth floor.

First, there are two elevators in the Ibis: a regular one and one to use on the Sabbath, which starts at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.

In the Sabbath elevator, you don’t push buttons or touch the door, for the elevator goes up and down continuously, stopping at every floor with the door opening automatically. This conforms to the Orthodox Jewish habit of people prohibited from doing manual work on the Sabbath. (You’re supposed to go to the synagogue and spend the day contemplating the divine and reading the Torah.

But of course the Orthodox are constantly debating about what constitutes “work” on the Sabbath, and they have clever ways of getting around it (check out this quantum light switch, still subject to hot rabbinical debate).

The shabbos elevator. DO NOT TOUCH THE DOORS!

The breakfast room at the Ibis is large, with big windows overlooking the city. And the spread of comestibles is impressive. There’s Western food, which I ignored, and Israeli and Middle Eastern stuff, which is what I seized on.

Here’s the breakfast room, with the goodies lined up at the left. There are four stations, plus two coffee machines that make regular coffee and drinks like espresso and cappuccino. I didn’t see any meat, and I suspect the buffet is kosher.

The bread station, which includes pizza (remember, pizza, especially cold pizza, is one of the finest breakfast foods). The triangular sesame rolls at upper left were fantastic, but I can’t remember what they’re called. They went well with the cheese or dairy spreads (there’s also fruit as well as chocolate croissants and sweet rolls to the side).

This sweet pastry, which I loved, is called knafeh, and I was told it’s found all over the Middle East. It’s like a deconstructed version of the Greek pastry kataifi, but this one also has cheese in it. Wikipedia notes that there are several versions. This a good dessert to finish off breakfast, accompanied by strong espresso. I had two helpings.

Below: the heart of the meal: dairy spreads, cheeses, olives, salads, vegetables, and spreads like baba ghanoush. an eggplant puree. I had these with the triangular sesame breads, though I discovered bagels later (I saw neither cream cheese nor lox). But this was absolutely delicious and filling. The dairy spreads on the right were particularly toothsome, especially when mixed with the salads:

Cheeses and more salads:

The Western food, including eggs and potatoes. I didn’t touch it, for we had plenty of this for breakfast on the Galápagos cruise, and who wants eggs when you can have all the stuff above?

I didn’t understand these placemats. Why is the guy feeding a crow?

On the way from the airport to Jerusalem, I noticed a lot of very weird statues of creatures in parks and playgrounds:

23 thoughts on “Israel: The morning of Day 1

  1. I admit to doing a double-take at the first picture. I initially thought that black thing on your bed was a cat.

    The food looks wonderful.


  2. I was going to ask about the elevator electricity and the amazing breakfast, however the Wikipedia page consulted went into great lengths about the myriad ways of “ compliance”
    I hope you enjoy your visit.

  3. This conforms to the Orthodox Jewish habit of people prohibited from doing manual work on the Sabbath.

    So, what do the ultra-orthodox do about the … is “contamination” the right word? … of people rota’d to work Sabbath shift at the power station?

    Quantum light switches … with an uncertain delay before activation? I’ve had wiring looms like that. Every day is uncertainty day, somewhere in the rats’ nest. So now I can sell it as a feature, not a bug?

    But … for the quantumly ultra orthodox, isn’t the decision about stepping into the lift, or even stepping out, regardless of the floor an act of work. Choosing which floor to get in or out at is another quantum of work (several quanta in Shannon’s sense of information).

      1. This reminds me of a childhood story about my orthodox maternal grandparents’ house on shabbos in the early 1900’s. They had emigrated from Latvia to Newport News, VA and had very little (except for a pile of kids). They kept old newspapers and magazines in the bathroom to tear up for toilet paper. On Friday, before sunset though, they would tear up a supply of paper believed to be sufficient through sunset Saturday, because the tearing of the paper was deemed to be work and thus not permitted on Shabbos itself. Even as a child, raised in a Conservative home, I found the Orthodox work-arounds to be silly. Of course that was several years before I found the whole idea of religion to be silly.

      2. The good professor is keeping it simple. There are lengthy and arcane rules for deciding what constitutes prohibited work (melacha). It isn’t just whatever would be work in English.

    1. Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto had a Sabbath elevator that stopped on every floor. The sign brings back fond memories of clinical rotations there many years ago.

      For medical training and practice, my orthodox colleagues relied on a rabbinical opinion that on-call assignments were situations where saving lives took precedence over religious law. They invariably took Sabbath call in their turn. Naturally we worked the high holidays, the Jewish students worked Christmas and Easter. (Even for the non-religious, these are family occasions that are nice to to miss — sometimes.) Call obligations are never negotiable except as you can switch call with a friend for family emergencies (like your baby deciding to come early.)

      One student wanted to go into Pathology. This, he said, would have been a problem for him because pathology requires weekend call for autopsies and some emergency surgical specimens but (according to what he told us his rabbi said), doesn’t involve saving lives. I’d beg to differ now, and perhaps by the time we all applied to training programs he and his rabbi had had a meeting of the minds. Or perhaps he renounced religion to follow his calling, because he was the keenest on pathology of any undergrad. student I ever met.

      1. LOL — Freudian slip. I meant to write “family occasions that are nice not to miss . . .”
        (One of my ancestors probably printed the Wicked Bible that omitted the “not” from the Sixth Commandment.)

    2. I’ve always wondered why, in the case of Orthodox Jews, if they believe God is ominipotent, that if you can devise a workaround of his laws, you’re okay and he doesn’t notice that you’re adhering only to the letter of the laws, not the spirit.

  4. Some years ago here in Manhattan I was in a big hospital that had a shabbat elevator. It was a Jewish owned hospital – owned by what we seculars call “hats” in NYC – orthodox.

  5. I like the Kosher Switch debate. Wholesome stuff! Seems like a relatively innocuous thing for the religious to be debating. What do these people believe will happen if they are not observant? Be invaded? 🙂

  6. I’m used to seeing knafeh on dessert menus. I was going to say it’s too sweet for breakfast, but then I remembered such common morning foods as french toast, cinnamon buns, and pancakes with syrup. And to be honest, I can eat knafeh any time of day!

  7. That looks exceptionally delicious; a breakfast buffet in a foreign country is usually my favorite meal of the day.

    People sure spend a lot of money accommodating the superstitious; just think of all the extra work and ingenuity it takes to help people not work. To quote an early 70’s tune: silly human, silly human, silly human race.

  8. The bread station, which includes pizza (remember, pizza, especially cold pizza, is one of the finest breakfast foods).

    I knew there was something that I liked about you, Jerry. I completely agree. Although, when I was in school, I came home for one weekend to find cold pizza in the fridge (from Baccino’s) and grabbed a piece, only to discover that my dad had ordered it with anchovies. Cold fish pizza, no bueno.

  9. If I ever wonder what it must be like without a brain I will look to religious belief and behaviors to give me a hint.
    Possible ingenious workarounds don’t compensate for the brute stupidity underlying the whole thing.

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