Israel: Day 19

September 24, 2023 • 11:30 am

To finish off my photo journal of traveling in Israel, here are some photos from last Thursday in Jerusalem, the day before I left (well, technically I left at 50 minutes after midnight on Saturday).  The four-hour tour involved more walking around the center of town with my local friend Anna and her father Roberto, including lunch in a really excellent but unknown (to tourists) restaurant. Let’s get started.

We went to lunch back at the Mahane Yehuda Market, which gets busy on Thursday when the Orthodox Jews have to get in provisions before Friday’s Sabbath.  Most people at the market then were Israelis, though there were a few tourists. I haven’t found this market, which must be visited in Jerusalem, nearly as “touristy” as the guidebooks describe—and the noms are great.

Yom Kippur begins today, but they were already erecting “sukkah” structures to celebrate the next holiday: Sukkot, which is a weeklong festival starting next Friday and lasting until October 6.  From Wikipedia:

sukkah or succah (/ˈsʊkə/; Hebrew: סוכה [suˈka]; plural, סוכות [suˈkot] sukkot or sukkos or sukkoth, often translated as “booth”) is a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is topped with branches and often well decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes. The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) describes it as a symbolic wilderness shelter, commemorating the time God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness they inhabited after they were freed from slavery in Egypt.It is common for Jews to eat, sleep and otherwise spend time in the sukkah. In Judaism, Sukkot is considered a joyous occasion and is referred to in Hebrew as Z’man Simchateinu (the time of our rejoicing), and the sukkah itself symbolizes the fragility and transience of life and one’s dependence on God.

With three holidays in a row, not only was the market doing a land-office business, but the police and IDF were everywhere because, you know, the Palestinians like to do their terrorism on Jewish holidays.  BTW, the significance of all Jewish holidays has been jokingly described this way:

“They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat!”

A crowded market with the IDF patrolling:

I didn’t realize this before, but there are some stores that specialize in precooked food for shabbos, as the act of cooking itself is forbidden to many on the Sabbath. Here’s one place with precooked food (kosher, of course):

Anna told me that this restaurant, Azura, which specializes in Middle Eastern food, is one of the most popular restaurants in the market, and it certainly gets high ratings. It sits in a little hidden plaza in the market, so I hadn’t seen it on my previous visit. Now that I know about it, I’ll surely be a regular if I revisit Jerusalem, and I recommend it highly to visitors:

The menu (remember, it’s about four shekels to the dollar). It isn’t cheap, but it isn’t pricey, either. Think of visiting Jerusalem as financially equivalent to visiting New York City.

It’s certified kosher, of course, but NOT FOR PASSOVER! (Don’t ask me why.)

Noms! We shared a large plate of hummus with chickpeas and tahini (there are no small plates of hummus that I’ve seen).

I had the azura: “Turkish eggplant filled with ground beef and pine nuts in a special sauce with cinnamon.” It was the only time in my three-week trip that I ate animal protein, and the dish was superb (and filling!). It also came with pita bread, of course, which doubled for scooping up the hummus:

Anna had the Jerusalem salad:

. . . and Roberto had “beef head with chickpeas cooked in a piquant sauce”.  It was so filling that he couldn’t finish it:

We ate outside, but I went inside to see the dishes, all displayed on a hot table. Most of these dishes take hours of cooking, and thus they’re ready to eat when you order. Your food comes in less than five minutes. This reminded me of Greece, where in many restaurants there’s no menu: you just go back into the kitchen and see what’s on the stove:

Nearby were two tables of guys playing backgammon. One of them yelled to us (in Hebrew) that the guys at the adjacent table didn’t know how to play!

Another thing I missed on my first visit, but was imparted by Anna, was that there was one north-south “cross” corridor called the “Iraqi market,” where the produce is sold by Iraqi Jews. It’s heavily patronized because the fruit and veg are supposedly cheaper there than in other parts of the market.  They’re good, too.  I swear, I will never be happy with an American tomato again after having ripe Israeli tomatoes, sweet and right off the plant:

They also sold miniature eggplants, which I understand are hard to find:

Pitas are formed by hand but then go through an assembly-line machine that cooks them to perfection. I never had a single pita bread in Israel that wasn’t absolutely fresh. I miss them.

And other breads sold by this store:

I found a cheesecake store I missed on my first trip! I didn’t buy any, as I was full, but perhaps I should have. If you can read Hebrew, tell me what the signs say.

Right outside the market was an Orthodox Jew performing a blessing on a passing woman. (I don’t know what’s in the envelope that he’s tapping on her head.)

These proselytizers will grab you as soon as look at you, for blessing anybody is a mitzvahone of 613 Jewish commandments whose fulfillment will hasten the return of the Messiah. I’ll show a mitzvah booth shortly:

Here is a store that, says Anna, caters entirely to the religious headscarf needs of Orthodox women, who often shave their heads and then put on a wig and a headscarf. Sometimes, I was told, the women put a hunk of sponge on their heads so that it takes a huge headscarf to cover it (see the one at upper left), adding to their appearance by enlarging the cranium. My reflection is visible in the rear mirror.

Here’s another plaque marking the site of a terrorist attack. If you read Hebrew, please translate it in the comments:

Yes, this is a mitzvah station, where Orthodox Jews will be glad to put Jewish garb on you temporarily (only for men, women get Sabbath candles to light, which is their job). You can get a kippah, a talit, and tefillin (by now you should know what these are).  Once you put them on, you’ve been part of a mitzvah. But when will the Messiah come? (One thing you learn as an atheist in Israel is that religion is not only nuts, but divisive and deadly). Yet still I consider myself part of this group.

By all accounts Kadosh is the most famous and best coffee-and-pastry emporium in Jerusalem. There’s always a line outside, and we were lucky to get a table.

The crowd at about 1 p.m.:

Notice that in this group of what seem to be Orthodox women, one of them was wearing pants. This is supposed to be forbidden to Orthodox women, but I gather there are degrees of Orthodoxy. Notice how high the headscarves ride:

We went inside to assay the pastries, and I was photographing them through the glass when the woman behind the counter offered to take photos for me, for from her side there was no glass. Aren’t they lovely?

I ordered one of these as I had no idea what they were but they looked good:

Roberto, who’s from Italy, had a macchiato: espresso with a tad of steamed milk. I had never had one before, so I joined him.  It was only a tiny sip of coffee, but I had forgotten that in Italy coffee is not a beverage experience but a drug experience.

Here’s my pastry, which not only looked like a Halloween ghoul, but was great, with crispy and toothsome pastry on the outside and a wonderful whipped cream filling.  And it was filling in the other sense, too. Get one of these! Kadosh is on Jaffa Street, not far from the City Hall and Old City.

Anna and Roberto split a chocolate croissant:

Finally, we walked through the “Russian quarter” nearby and I saw my first Israeli prison behind a police station. I asked someone where they put convicted terrorists, and they’re not kept in Jerusalem. Instead, they’re scattered throughout Israel, some in the Negev desert. This is probably a local jail for minor criminals; you can see the fence around the top:

Before flying out I packed my camera away, so the last three photos from Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv were taken on my iPhone. The first is the very last meal I had in Israel: shakshouka with tahini and hummus (of course) with a side of fries. It was remarkably cheap and filling (and good!) for airport food):

The Lubavitchers had a booth in the duty-free area past customs!  It was too late to see them, but there was plenty of literature and cards showing their late rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson (I’ve written about him before).  I nabbed a handful of cards showing him in his famous pose.  You really should read the Wikipedia entry about this guy; he was amazing, and did do some good stuff even if he was deluded by Orthodox Judaism. So many great minds and diligent bodies devoted to studying—fiction!

I couldn’t resist putting up this group photo from Wikipedia of Lubavitchers taken in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where their big synagogue is (I’ve been there, and have recounted how I was wrapped in Jewish garb and thrust onto the synagogue floor, thence to be prayed over as a mitzvah).

Not much diversity here, though perhaps some diversity in thought (as interpreting the Talmud).

And so it’s farewell to Israel, where I had a great time. And there’s lots more to see. Will I go back? Perhaps, though my bucket list is pretty full. I’d recommend a visit there very highly, but keep to Jerusalem and other parts of the country, and avoid Tel Aviv unless you like beaches.

18 thoughts on “Israel: Day 19

  1. Thank you ever so much for the many photos and posts on your trip to Israel. Read every one without exception and enjoyed and learned from each. Stay well.

    1. +1

      I have to log in now to leave a reply. I don’t get it. There are 3 log in choices: via wordpress, facebook or email. I think only the email log in works for me. Strange and a pain.

      1. Yes, I know about this and I think it’s a WordPress glitch. My tech guy has ghosted me, and I’m trying to find a new WordPress expert to hire who can help me. If anybody knows of one, let me know.

  2. What a wonderful post! I so enjoyed seeing these photos of Israel. The food looks so fresh and delicious.
    I am not at all familiar with the Orthodox women and those huge headscarves. I’ve never seen that before. I am familiar with the wigs they wear. I wonder if the huge headscarves are more of an influence from the Sephardic Jews.

  3. The plaque says

    In Memorium

    (First column. Some names are speculation, since there are no vowel points)
    Giyora Balash
    Tzvika Golomback
    Yehudit Shoshanah Greenbaum
    Freida Mendelsohn
    Tamar Mesinger
    Tehilah Maoz
    Avraham Schijveschuurder (just guessing, honestly)
    Hemdah same-last-name

    (Second column)
    Mordechai Schi….
    Tzirah Schi…
    Ray’ah Schi…
    Malkah Channah Rot
    Michal Raziel
    Yocheved Shoshan
    L’eli Shimshivilli

    May God avenge their spilt blood
    Killed here in a terrorist attack
    Thursday, 20th of Av 5,761 (August 9th, 2001)

  4. “When will the Messiah come?” The wise elders of Chelm gave the village shnorrer a municipal job: to sit at the town gate and watch for the arrival of the Messiah. When he complained about his pitifully low wages, they explained: “The pay may be low, but at least it is steady work.

    1. “Shnorrer” – now that’s word I haven’t heard in quite a while. As I, a non-practicing and atheist Jew become more socially estranged from my larger extended, Practicing Jewish family, so am I isolated from aspects of formerly familiar Yiddish culture and speech.

      1. I haven’t heard the word or seen it in print (as schnorrer) since reading Requiem for Bibul, Jack Ludwig’s warm nostalgic story of a peddler of fruit and vegetables in Depression-era Winnipeg’s North End. The slum where the story is set, referred to as “the Island”, became a font of talent and creativity whose alumni put Canada on the map in the literary and performing arts. It’s not a spoiler to say that Ludwig’s hero achieves his life’s ambition….after a fashion.

        And mirabile dictu the story survives (with a few typos) into the digital world here:

  5. “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat!”

    Such wonderful spirit in that expression.

    Cooking too. Finding simple ways to transform a dismal day is good for the soul.

    Yeah an atheist wrote “spirit” and “soul”, and why not!

  6. Wow 🤩 you packed a lot into your visit. The cakes look delicious. When I visited the market was closed sadly. Maybe another time. I’ll ask my friend if she can translate.

  7. Interested to see the azura in that Greek moussaka is flavoured with cinnamon too. You have to get the amount right or it becomes confusingly like a pastry. Even Italian cooking uses a pinch of cinnamon in meat dishes, but the amount used seems to get less as you travel towards the setting sun, perhaps a result of the origin and price of cinnamon bark?

  8. The photo of Menachem Mendel Schneerson at the end is also on the wall behind the Lubavitch desk, but flipped around the vertical axis. (If I follow).

    Which photo is the original, I’m not sure – it’s just amusing, is all.

  9. Jery asks for a translation of the bakery signs. The sign on the left says “coffee and pastry.” On the right, ’shtiyah karah’ means “cold drinks.”
    Flanking the workman, on his right it says “noodle kugel” and over his left shoulder is “potato kugel.”

    At the very top I see that this establishment is part of the “charedi community”

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