Saturday, October 25, 2008


Chickpea is a popular Mediterranian ingredient. Its high protein content make it 'the meat of the poor'. Chickpea is the main ingedient of hummus (seasoned chickpea paste) and falafel (deep fried chickpea balls), two Mediterranian staples. Both go well with [pocket-like] pita bread, tahini (sesame paste) and overweight people with tahini dripping from their pita, via their chin onto their prominent bellies.

'Connoisseurs' travel long distances to get their favorite 'best' hummus or falafel, usually served in tiny bad-neighborhood stands. Last week I had really good hummus in the famous Abu Shukri restaurant in Abu Gosh, Israel's hummus center, because I was in the neighborhood with my son, Dan, who insisted there is no such thing as being in Abu Gosh and not having hummus. But usually, bourgeois like myself buy hummus in a supermarket or even make it at home.

Knowing we'll be in remote Pardes Hannah around lunchtime the other day, we looked up a nice fish and seafood restaurant in the area. But when we finshed our meeting with Motty, a smiley Kurdish Jew and owner a busy carpentry workshop at the edge of Pardes Hannah, Peter, my husband, decided it is best to ask the 'natives' for culinary directions in the area. (This way you are supposed to find cheap authentic food, not the fancy type advertized on websites.) After making sure we are OK with simple food like hummus, Motty recommended the Blue Bus, a nearby hummus joint frequented by both local and far away customers for its renown hummus.
The Blue Bus consists of a decades old bus wreck, loosely combined with leftover construction materials, plastic tables and chairs, plastic tablecloths and glasses, stupid handwritten limericks on the 'walls' and hummus as the only item on the non-existing menu. The place was packed and looked promising. The hummus came topped with coarsly chopped yellowish parsley and sprinkled with an unreconginizable condiment. The promise vanished with the first bite. After the rest of the bites, came the concrete ball feeling in my stomach and fatigue that neutralized us for a couple of hours.
So friends, when in an unknown place in a not too adventerous mood, do your stomachs a favor and leave the sound-good-in-principle authentic food to others.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Music in My Life

I love singing ever since I know myself. I sang in the kindergarden choir, school choir and the choir of the Jewish community in Oradea. I have a basic musical ear and musicians among my ancestors, but my basic talent has not been properly developed.

In 1970 I inherited my cousins' piano and took lessons from 3 piano teachers. The first one, Lazar Herman, tought me popular songs that my grandma sang along, but no sheet music. The others tought me more pedagogicaly, but I shirked practice and my parents gave up on me. Petty.

In 1979 I enrolled in the classical singing program of the Popular School of Art in Oradea, in this beautiful building, that mainly serves as the county library. "You sing like a bird", my teacher, Rea Silvia Pop D. Popa used to say, meaning I don't have enough volume for the opera-like pieces. The two years I spent on this program were truly magical for me. I remember leaving each lesson totally uplifted.

When I came to Israel, I was busy learning Hebrew, earning a living, raising my children and getting higher education, so music was not part of my life for too many years.

After finishing my MBA, I was ready to devote time for my soul. The trigger came at our silver anniversary, where the organizers surprised me with the 'Ve'al Kulam' duet I sang with Yossi Adler, the former cantor of the Zion Temple in Oradea (where I got married). Yossi, dressed in festive white, used to do the Yom Kippur singing from downstairs and I used to peek from the window on the right of the pipe organ while singing my solo part.

Coworker-friend-Enghlish teacher-playwright-musician Jeff Meshel advised me to join a choir. A good way to find something is tell everybody you know you are looking. So I spread the word and another friend, Sandy Noymer, forwarded me an ad from Alex Eshed, the conductor of Barberina. I joined Barberina about two and a half years ago as a lead singer. This is where I learned about the barbershop genre. You can see and listen to what we sing here.

(Then I found out that another friend of mine, Rely, who lives in the UK, is also a lead singer at Phoenix, a much larger award winning barbershop choir that will soon perform in Hawaii.)

The pictures on the left were taken at our last performance at the Abu Gosh festival.

So what's next? Lately, I've been having thoughts about taking piano lessons again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jewish Holidays

This is my own secular perspective and I have very little religious training and knowledge. However, I appreciate tradition and its importance in binding together for 2000 years the Jews dispersed all over the world. Preserving a common identity without sharing a geographical territory (before globalization and virtual communities) while making many important contributions to humanity in different fields of science and arts, and building a modern state on the biblical lands (i.e. sand) after loosing 6 million souls during WWII is no small achievement. Tradition shapes our identity, help us belong.

Some holidays remind us of important events in Jewish history (a subset, such as Hanukkah and Purim, falling into the 1-2-3 category, where 1 = They tried to kill us, 2= We survived, 3=Let's eat) and some are connected to agriculturally meaningful times and even taxes. Although tempted to categorize the holidays accordingly, I am leaving this task to knowledgable scholars. What I want to discuss is the theme of taking things for granted, which so much caracterizes our modern lives.

The things we take for granted are usually the needs situated on the lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid.

Passover teaches us not to take food for granted, by forbidding bread, the most basic food, for an entire week. But most importantly it teaches us that freedom is worth believeing in. I would parallel that to Maslow's self-esteem layer.

Giving up the security of our home during Sukkot to live in a booth teaches us not to take shelter for granted. The hospitality tradition touches on higher social needs. We can expand the notion of physical security to all sorts of other securities, including the financial one.

Before Yom Kippur, Jews seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against fellow men. If your 'fellow men' don't forgive you, neither will God, fast or no fast. This is about mantainance of relashionships, the 'Love and Belongingness' layer of Maslow. Do not take the love and friendship of those who surround you for granted.
According to the arameic saying in the Talmud, "me'igra rama ad bira amikta", falling from the greatest heights until the lowest depths can happen pretty fast. Extreme changes can happen suddenly. So is there anything we can or should take for granted? The only thing that comes to my mind is that the sun will continue heating the Earth for the next few million years. If an astroid won't change our orbit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Special Wedding

This is Felix Slamovics, my first boyfriend, at the age of about 9. Well, without the mustache and beard, but with a lot more hair.

We were the only Jewish kids in Elementary School No. 8 in Oradea, Romania, where teacher Duma Marta tought us for 4 years (1969-1973). We used to live on the same street for a few years and my parents also knew each other from the Jewish Community. His mother, a good, patient person, my future mother in law and two other women played rummykub weekly. His father, a fearsome limping man, used to beat him up, a 'pedagogic' method frequently used at the time.
Since Felix was a weak pupil, I used to go to his backyard apartment to help him out with homework. We also sang in the choir of the Jewish Community and hung out around the synagogue and canteen. His 'academic' achievemens at the time led me to believe nothing will ever come out of him. After the 4th grade, I moved to another school and our ways parted. I got married, came to Israel, had two kids. I heard he also came with his parents, lived in the North and then his parents died.
A few years ago, I saw his picture in my favortive Friday paper, along with an (Hebrew) article about him. I immediatley mailed him and we got back in touch. The once weak pupil found his call. He grew up to be a top alpinist, communicative, fun to be with, optimistic person. He lived and lives his life to the full, always doing what he wants, surrounded by his numerous friends and fans.
Confined to a wheelchair and using a breathing machine, as well as a special device designed especially for him, he continues to climb in order to raise awareness to ALS, the terribile, incurable disease he suffers from. He attempted to climb El Capitan in Yosimite National Park and the Azrieli Tower in Tel Aviv.
His only regret was not having a family of his own, wife and children. I promise to revisit this blogspot and add pictures taken at his wedding I just returned from. Started shortly after sunset in a Tel Aviv Port restaurant, the ceremony was conducted by TV star Avri Gilad. One of the guests was Israel Prize winner and fellow ALS sufferer Dov Lautman. Before leaving, I asked Felix to invite me to his Silver Anniversary. "It's a deal", he said.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I was wondering the other day wether the multitude of communication means we have really improves the quantity and quality of our relashionships.

We can call on a landline or mobile phone, we can send letters by snail mail, electronic mail or fax, we can chat and exchange files using a myriad of instant messaging applications and combine text, voice and video using free computer programs. The combinations are endless: we can get our voice messages by email, using a PDA in the middle of the desert, listen to hundreds of online radio stations on Internet radio or track past collegues and friends on social networking apps.

Before we had mobile phones, we set meetings by determining a fixed date, time and location. Once we left the proximity of a landline phone, we could no longer change the meeting details. Nowadays, the deifinitions are fuzzier, we don't bother to set things in stone as we know there is always a possibility to change later. We commit less.

We send automatic electronic greeting cards to our friends and bulk Happy New Year wishes by SMS or email. The mass production concept kidnapped our personal communications. We say more, but mean less.

Finding a lost kindergarden buddy? Joining a virtual support group for your diet? Just google and find more details in seconds than you'll ever need. No doubt, all this infrastructure makes it easeir to keep in touch. Do we? Yes, but... Being able to say 'I love you' or 'I'm sorry' in a dozen different ways does not make us actually say it. We still have to invest in our relationships, work at them to make them last.