“G” Stands for Golan, Galil and Gourmet (Pt 1)

Over the last month or so, we’ve had a delightful time discovering that the Galil and Golan are filled with great, gourmet foods.   All the places we went to were within an hour of Ma’alot, with most places being only about 30 minutes away.

Rimon Winery :  Starting off on our culinary journey we went to the  Rimon Winery (rimonwines.com) in Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra.  The winery is located in the midst of the Nechmias family pomegranate orchard 30 minutes east of Ma’alot, being between Safed and Lebanon.  There we sampled some delicious dry and dessert wines made from pomegranates.  What a treat!

Rimon Winery's Wonderful Dessert Wine

After the wine tasting, there was a brief tour with an explanation of the wine-making process.

Who would have thought you could get great, full-bodied wines from rimonim?

Johncolad :  Chocolatier John Alford (johncolad.com) makes some amazingly rich chocolates and truffles in his little chocolate factory in Manof, just 40 minutes south of Ma’alot.  The process appears simple and the result are amazing!

Johncolad

John hand-rolls a "chocolate snake" before feeding it into the "baller"

Here is the oversimplified version of how John’s chocolates are made:

Step 1 – Making the Chocolate.   In this step John mixes premium chocolate products with natural ingredients to produce a chocolate “dough” with centers the flavors of brandy, caramel, mocha, etc.

Step 2 – The Chocolate Snake.  After all the mixing and blending, John forms chocolate snakes of about 1/2 ” diameter, which then go onto his conveyor belt for further processing.  Half way down the conveyor belt (to the right of John’s hands) the chocolate snake is cut into approximately 8″-10″ pieces, which at the end of the line get dropped into two counter-spinning grooved rollers, slicing the snake into a dozen or so little “balls”.

Johncolad

John explains the process of making chocolate

Step 3 – Coatings.  The flavored chocolate centers are then placed into the spinning drums (pictured above) for repeated application of chocolate coatings, nonpareils or cocoa powder, depending on the desired results.

Johncolad Samples

Samples for the Children

His tour is interesting, informative and takes about 15 minutes, followed with samples for the children.

When you go, make sure you bring plenty of cash or checks (credit cards not accepted) and sample your purchases in the parking lot.  That way you won’t have to go back for more after 10 minutes of driving and eating.

La Bonita : La Bonita (labonita.co.il) in Karmiel, about 30 minutes south of Ma’alot, tastefully fills the need for authentic Mexican corn and wheat tortillas.  The tortillas are made on location, and you can buy them fresh off the conveyor belt.

La Bonita

Started by Olim Chadashim David and Betty Kleiman of Mexico

Recently, La Bonita went through some renovations, automating some steps and installing more equipment for higher production.

Tortilla Baking

Special-sized Tortillas being cooked on the conveyor belt

Wheat tortillas are available in a small and large sizes and are amazingly delicious.  Corn tortillas are available in a standard sized 8″ diameter (or so).  Also available are fresh sauces and tortilla chips.

Tortillas being hand packed

Tortillas being hand-packed

The owners and workers are delightfully cheerful and are always happy to see us!

In Part 2 we will explore some profoundly fantastic olive oils of the Golan and some delicacies from Tzippori.

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…sitting in the dust of his feet…

In the book, Pinnacle of Creation, adapted from the talks of Rabbi A. Henach Leibowitz ZT”L (Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim), I found something amazing that I would never have thought about had I not made aliyah, or seen pictures of hesder yeshiva students in the IDF.

In parashat Balak, a Midrash Yalkut Shimoni is used to explain the pasuk, “Who can count the dust of Yaakov…?” (Bamidbar 23:10).  It states that Bilaam’s prophetic reference to the “dust of Yaakov” alludes to

  • the young men of Israel,
  • students dressed in their Shabbat finery,
  • who congregate around their teacher,
  • sitting in the dust of his feet,
  • to hear the words of Torah from his lips.

Further on in the drasha, it states, “…they were proud of the dust stains, they wore them like medals and ribbons, their insignia of devotion and love for Torah.”

Learning Torah

...sitting around their teacher, sitting in the dust of his feet, to hear the words of Torah...

After I read this, I couldn’t help but think about a picture my son’s friend posted on Facebook.

In my conversations with a local hesder student / tank driver, I feel convinced that this Yalkut Shimoni is speaking about these young men who live a religious, Torah-life by learning Torah and by serving in the IDF.

Their dust is real dust and their devotion is seen in “ribbons” and “medals”.

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Don’t Put Your Dreams in the Hands of Others

Imagine the following scenes throughout Shmueli’s life in the thriving religious community of Goshen, Indiana, and how he never fulfilled his dream to make aliyah and live in the Holy Land.

Scene 1.

Little Shmeuli is 7 years old and just finished examining a big picture book of Israel and it’s holy sites.

Shmueli:  Mommy, I want to move to Israel.  It looks really fun there!   Can we move mommy?

Mommy:  No, sorry sweetie.  Abba has a good job here in Goshen,  and anyway the Israeli kids are really too rough.  You might get hurt.  Maybe someday, but not now.

Scene 2.

Years later, Shmueli is now 16 and just finished viewing the Goshen Yeshiva senior class trip pictures of Israel on Facebook.

Shmueli:  Abba, looking at all those picture of Israel really makes we want to go there.  The Cohens made aliyah, why don’t we?

Abba:  It’s not a good idea to disrupt your yeshiva learning, Shmueli.  Learning in Israel is a lot different and it might be hard on you.  And anyway,  Mashiach will come some day soon and we will all go there!

Scene 3.

Shmueli is now 21 and in his third year of Goshen Yeshiva Beit Medrash.  After learning the halachot of Sheviit he feels the desire to move to Israel and consults with his Rebbi.

Shmueli:  Learning the halachot of sheviit has stirred up my feelings to make aliyah, and get land of my own so I can fulfill those mitzvot.  What do you think?

Rebbi:  Now is not a good time.  You’re still young, and anyway, your father has got college plans for you starting next year, right?  You have your whole life to make aliyah – don’t get all worked up about it now.  Think of your future.

Scene 4.

Shmueli is now 28 years old, married with four kids and a degree in programming.   After the Shabbat drasha about the meraglim, Shmueli approaches Rabbi Greenberg with a nagging question.

Shmueli:   Rabbi, I have been thinking about making aliyah lately.  The kids are still young, my wife is interested and I can support the family as a programmer.  I think it would work out fine!  What do you think?

Rabbi Greenberg:  Bad idea.  The government is filled with wicked people, Israeli children will be hard on your kids, your standard of living won’t be nearly the same.  Stay here.  You have a nice home, cars, a night seder – what more could you ask for?  Wait a few more years – until your kids are older.

Scene 5.

At age 35 Shmueli has a couple more kids and has advanced in his programming.  His oldest is 14 years old and is doing well in school.  After looking at another Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight arrival on Arutz Sheva he calls the Rosh Yeshiva of Goshen Yeshiva to speak about making aliyah.

Shmueli:  …we would like to make aliyah.  We can support ourselves financially, my kids are doing well in school.  I would like to pursue the idea further.  What does the Rosh Yeshiva think?

Rosh Yeshiva:  Shmueli, I have know you a long time and have seen you grow to be quite a talmid chacham and a baal hesid.  But, you have to know that your son my not “find himself” in Israel.  You may find him doing “other things” – things that you don’t want to think about.  You have to think about your kids, and what is best for them.  Goshen is good for you and you are good for Goshen.  You have plenty of time to make aliyah.

Scene 6.

Ten years later, two kids are married and his other children are in school, some are doing poorly  and some are doing well.   After finding that an old friend on Facebook has moved to Israel, Shmueli turns to Yaakov, his chavruta of 13 years for his opinion.

Shmueli:  I just got an email from an old friend who made aliyah.  He says ‘It’s the best thing he has done and his family loves it there.’ !

Yaakov:  Man, I would put that on the back burner if I were you.   A lot of kids go off the derech.  It’s a big problem.  Maybe you should move when all your kids are grown and on their own.

Scene 7.

At age 61 Shmeuli is making plans for retirement with his friend and accountant, Hillel Ash.

Shmueli:  I think the time has come for me to retire and make aliyah, you are my accountant – what do you think?

Hillel:  You have a lot of people relying upon your support, both financial and personal.  You’ve got grandchildren who love to come visit you.   How can you leave all this behind?  Work for another eight to ten years and then go.  Stick around, your needed here in Goshen!

Scene 8.

Shmueli dies at age 79 leaving behind his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  After the hespedim, Shmueli’s body and his closest family members board the next El Al flight to Israel for his burial place on Har HaZiytim.  As the plane taxis to the runway Shmueli’s wife converses with their oldest son.

Wife:  You know, your father always wanted to live in Israel….

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Fill ‘er up at the 10 Station

I never thought I would write a blog post about a gas station, but at the “10” station there is more than meets the eye.

The Ten Gas Station

The Ten Sign - a Beacon of Service

First of all, the 10 station is conveniently located near our favorite fruit market, plus it has attendants that pump your gas for your, and, to top it off, they wash your windows too! The attendants are nice and polite, and wear snappy bright blue “10” uniforms.   Full service gas in 2010!

The Ten Gas Station

It is always a pleasure to get gas at the 10 station.

Even more incredible, we recently learned from one of the “10” attendants (our neighbors son-in-law) that the IDF pays 9000 NIS (approx $2400) to exiting members of the military to work for 150 days in a factory or a gas station.   This allow Israel to be more self-sufficient, and reduces the need to import foreign workers.

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Buying a Taboun in Yarka

A little over a week ago we were back at Beit Baad Alzitun in Pe’kin to pick up some more of their fantastic olive oil when we noticed a nice, but rusty taboun (domed pita grill).  The owner of the Beit Baad gave us the name and phone number of the nearest taboun manufacturer and assured us that all we needed to do was ask anybody in Yarka where “Abu Taib” is and they would point the way……

We had been to Yarka a few times in the past. Yarka is a Druzi city with a good sized population, not a place where you would think that everybody knows everyone else.  But our optimism, desire for adventure and yearning for home cooked pita had us driving  into Yarka the following day.

Taboun - Pita Grill

Our Taboun - Pita Grill

Yarka is a good sized city, but there is only one main road through it, and even that road is much like an alley in some places.  We drove through about half of Yarka before we found somebody to ask directions of.   He was an old Druze with a pleasant smile, long white mustache and bright blue eyes.  We rolled down the window and asked, “Eyfo Ha Hanut shel Abu Taib shel tabounim?” (“Where is Abu Taib’s store for tabouns?”) hoping that we pronounced the name properly.  He didn’t know Abu Tiab.  The Beit Baad man was wrong – not good.  We repeated, “Abu Taib” and “taboun” hoping he would make the connection.  The old Druze asked, “Abu Saib?” and “saboun?”, making the whole experience even more perplexing.

Fancy Pita Oven for the Industrious Baker

Fortunately, there was a younger, astute Druze watching the scene and came to lend a hand.  Once again we asked, “Eyfo Abu Taib?” thinking for sure he will know Abu Taib.  Nope, the other guy didn’t know Abu Tieb.  We presented to him our Beit Baad Alzitun business card with Abu Tieb’s name and number on the back.  Sensing our confusion, he calls the number on the card and informs us that we need to go to Pe’kin near Ma’alot.   “No, no – that’s the beit baad we know where that is!  Flip the card over to Abu Tieb” we exclaimed.  After a couple attempts he finally got through to Abu Tieb and got the directions to his “factory”.  Not wanting to leave us stranded, this friendly Druze drove ahead and lead us to Abu Tieb’s home / workshop making certain we were at the correct place before leaving us.

Abu Taib and Sons

Pictured with his sons, employees and probably housemates (sharing a HUGE house) is Abu Tiab in the middle and is his oldest son Tieb to the right, and his other son to the left.  “Abu” means father and since his oldest son is Tieb – that becomes his name “Father of Tiab.”   What his name was before Tieb was born will be a mystery until we meet him again.

Time for Drinks to Celebrate the Sale

Bargaining was fun with Abu Tieb – he told me the price, and I counter-offered.  He told me he didn’t understand me and told me the price again, and I counter-offered again.  This happened a few times, until finally he understood and accepted my counter-offer – except he was 10 NIS short to meet my price.    On the way out of his shop there was a stack of pita spatulas.  I grabbed one, called for Abu Tieb who was walking ahead, and gestured that this spatula would be in lieu of the 10 NIS .  Abu Tieb liked this proposal.

Abu Taib an I

After the sale, any sale, drinks must be poured!  Being short on time, we refused the cafe im hell (coffee with hell – cardamon) and the tea but settled for Fanta Orange Soda and water.   Abu Tiab took great joy in serving the drinks and posed with each member of the family while he poured.

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Learning Torah or Loading a Merkava

When the Jews of old were persecuted and the dominate military force of the day was trying to extinguish the light of Torah, we fought back – with Torah learning and tools of war.  We learned this tactic from Yaakov Avinu who, when preparing to meet his brother Esav developed a three-pronged approach – prayer, gifts and war.   Bar Kochba and the Maccabees also used these techniques (sans the gifts) and today in modern Israel – we still continue in our father’s footsteps.

Yeshivat Ma'alot Yaakov

Yeshivat Ma'alot Yaakov - There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.

Yeshivat Ma’alot Yaakov is a one of the many hesder yeshivot in Israel that offers young men the opportunity to learn Torah and serve in the IDF, protecting our people.   The program is genius and the results are phenomenal.

After graduating high school the boys learn Torah for 1.5 years, and then serve in the IDF for 1.5 years, followed by two more years of learning to complete the program.

The military options offered to the boys are limited to a few, like tanks, artillery, foot soldiery and para-trooping.  The boys are usually kept together in their new military units since there already exists a sense of camaraderie and cohesiveness.

Operations

Hesder yeshiva student during training

Troops

Meeting Time

Tanks

Operations

The fire for learning is not extinguished in their new roles.  Some have pocket-sized seferim and seize time to learn in situations like while standing in line to eat or waiting in their tank.  Many soldiers can be found using their breaks to either learn by themselves or with a chavruta.   Additionally, the shiurim at Yeshivat Ma’alot Yaakov are recorded and uploaded onto the Yeshiva’s website for listening/learning when time permits.

Purim

Yeshivat Ma'alot Yaakov on Purim

At the end of the five year program the young men are polished.  They have developed themselves spiritually, emotionally and physically and are ready to build beautiful families to follow in our fathers’ footsteps.

To learn more about Yeshivat Ma’alot Yaakov go to their website > http://www.yesmalot.co.il/about/

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Lag B’Omer – 5770

Last year I was at Khal Chassidim in North Miami Beach, where the Riminover Rebbie orchestrated the Lag B’Omer “bonfire” experience in the parking lot.   The “bonfire” consisted of a metal vessel filled with flaming cotton balls soaked in olive oil.  We sang Bar Yochai and threw candles into the fire from behind the police enforced barricade.    Everything was safe and … filtered… muted… kinda “Super 8 – black and white” like.

This year in Ma’alot in the northern end of the Holy Land, the Lag B’Omer festivities started days before, and it’s almost a completely different experience, it was … “Technicolor” or “Kodachrome” like.

Ma'alot Bonfire

Two Fires are Better Than One

About 4 days before the holiday we recieved an email from my son’s 2nd grade teacher warning us of the dangers of collecting wood.  Dangers being – snakes, spiders and the like.

On Friday morning all of the children brought wood to school for their bonfire in the playground.  Some brought little pallets, some brought little boards, others brought chucks of wood or bags of pine cones.  The children also brought foil-wrapped potatoes, to be eaten with the complimentary pita and hummus.

Madurah Ma'alot

Another Bonfire

After Shabbat – on Lag B’Omer night, tons of kids converged on the hill at the end of our block.  A steady stream of cars unloaded planks of wood, pallets and cardboard, BBQ’s, food and drinks for the long night ahead.   The children were electrified shlepping wood here and pallets there.   They were busy like ants.   There were no parents or teachers to supervise – the high school kids and slightly older handled everything, and everybody, beautifully. The little children did a great job of following directions.

The police and fire trucks came around periodically ensuring that all fires were safe and that everybody was okay.

Big Bonfire

This fire was about 15' tall when I arrived

By the end of the night, well around 3:00 in the morning, there were about 18 fires on the hill.   Kids were chatting, playing guitar and singing.  Their intention was to stay all night long, but… around 3:30 am a storm rolled in and put out the fires.

As I live in Israel and feel the experiences of the holidays, whether they are from the Torah (Shabbat, Pesach, etc.), or  a minhag (Lag B’Omer), or from the government (Yom HaAtzmut), the feeling is more intense, more real, bigger than life – like “IMAX Dolby with Surround Sound”.

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