City non-planning

The Hursha event flyer

I posted back in November about some neighborhood excitement over the planned recycling area in the Hursha, a neighborhood playground and garden. At the time, we were all disappointed because while an area had been paved for recycling bins, no bins were ever brought to the paved area and it seemed clear all these months later that it just wasn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, the garden’s been taking off, as well as more heavy-duty recycling in other nearby neighborhoods, enabling people to gather their cardboard, batteries, plastics and metals more easily. It’s still nothing like cities that I know in the States, where you just bring your recyclables curbside on the appointed day (yes, I know people who have to freeze their garbage because pickup is so infrequent). But, it’s something.

And then, a major scoop on why it is that the Hursha recycling area never happened. During a ‘heppening’ — Hebrew for a gathering, an event — that was taking place yesterday at the Hursha playground, sponsored by a local Jerusalem political and social action party, a municipality official taking part in the event told a friend that the reason the bins were never put in place is because the space wasn’t planned well, and there was no way the recycling trucks would ever be able to access the bins.

The Hursha, you see, is situated between two streets, Efrata and Korei Hadorot, accessed by what we call a simta, a kind of open alley or path that connects the two streets. The recycling space is at the front of the park, about midway up the simta, formally known as Barzilay Street, and therefore inaccessible to cars or trucks. It’s quite true, there is no way to access large recycling bins and clearly someone in the municipality made a big mistake when they poured the cement for this particular corner.

So that’s it. No cardboard or metal recycling corner for Talpiot, or not yet. And it seems doubtful that the city would post an apology sign, letting us know that they screwed up. Instead, the orange-painted area has become a default hangout space for parents and their toddling kids, until someone comes up with another, better idea.

Icecream for breakfast

February 4, 2012 - 8:35 PM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Blogging, Entertainment, Food, General, History and Culture, Holidays, Life 

Ben and Jerry's Israel ad for their ice cream club

According to my calendar, today was International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. I always thought that certain friends of mine down our Jerusalem block were the creators of this particular chag, LOL, but it turns out — thanks to the Facebook world — that they’re not, and many other communities worldwide celebrate the day.

In fact, when I typed ice cream for breakfast into the search bar of Facebook, dozens of posts popped up for celebrants around the globe, from Mexico, Seattle, Louisiana and Philly to Maine, Albany and Shanghai.

According to Serious Eats, all you need to do is eat ice cream, for breakfast, and on the first Saturday in February.

We’ve always celebrated on Saturday, Shabbat in our house, which is the only day that we’re all around, fairly calm and relaxed, and have the time to enjoy the wonders of ice cream for one’s first food of the day. Usually it’s a good selection of Ben & Jerry’s, sometimes with homemade ice cream as well, thanks to my nephew Natan, the artisanal ice cream connoisseur. Toppings? Not always, but it does add to the experience.

Serious Eats also adds that “the holiday was started in the 1960s in Rochester, New York by Florence Rappaport, who let her kids eat ice cream for breakfast on the first Saturday of February to make winter more bearable for them. Now this custom is done all over the world, from Minnesota to Israel to Australia.”

Turns out, there’s an official IEICFBD blog, where you can list your own celebration — there are four in Israel, including one in my own neighborhood of Talpiot (I think that one is hosted by other neighbors of ours) and one down at Kibbutz Ketura, where given the hot weather nearly year-round and a surfeit of American-born kibbutzniks, they’ve been celebrating for some 30 years.

It comes down to the fact that you just need to celebrate sometimes, and even with the upcoming holiday of Tu B’shvat, which, lord knows, offers ample opportunity for celebration, February can be a bleak month. So, if you missed it today, go for it next week. We won’t tell.

Lentil soup

December 7, 2009 - 9:31 AM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Food, General, History and Culture, Israeliness 

hawaijSo Daniel, my husband, has been hankering to get the recipe for a particular lentil soup at one of our favorite shipudiya joints, Bibi — named for the owner, not the prime minister — in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The soup in question is a yellow lentil soup, laden with turmeric and what has been an unknown spice to us. But instead of just asking Bibi, the friendly owner, I’ve just kept trying different lentil soup recipes, trying to attain the right flavor that we’ve been seeking.

Last night, finally, after many evenings of skewers and chips (the Hebrew term for French fries) — kabob and chicken livers for me, grilled pargit (chicken) for Daniel — we finally asked Bibi for that secret ingredient. He gave it up, hawaij, which is a spice mixture, like the kind that you find in many cuisines, and even took Daniel into the kitchen to show him the pot simmering on the fire. Here it is, Israelity readers, we’re sharing it with all of you:

Yellow Lentil Soup (but no measurements, sorry)

Red/orange lentils
Salt and pepper

Cook the lentils until soft; saute onions and garlic, add lentils, and add turmeric, hawaij, salt and pepper.
Add water, and you’re done.

Nostalgia Sunday

Sometimes it’s the dog days of summer, as you drift or, preferably, drive in a comfortably air-conditioned car, through the familiar streets of your neighborhood that you pay more attention to where you are and where you’re going.

Agnon's library

Agnon's library

At least that’s what seems to have happened to a friend and neighbor of mine, Kenny Borsykowsky, who recently spent time putting together a fabulous document of historical photos and descriptions of our Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot. Most famously home to the early Israeli writer S.Y. Agnon, the Talpiot of yesteryear was, in essence, a Jerusalem suburb, as well as an outpost of sorts, guarding the border with Jordan. And for the residents, life was full of challenges. The bus, tells Kenny through an Agnon quote from The Fire and The Trees, came four times a day.

“And for the bus to come and go as scheduled 4 times a day. And what would [the driver] do if he had to consult with the neighbors? Indeed there was no telephone. He would take the shofar, climb onto the roof of his house and blow it, the neighbors would hear and come…”

That was later in the settlement of the area. Beforehand, in the 1900s, the entire area was a cluster of army bases and today’s Beitar Street was once a landing strip. Other points of interest? The Orthodox synagogue, commonly known as S.Y. Agnon, and where I have been attending one of the many daily minyanim in order to say kaddish for my father — more on that later — was named for Agnon, one of the first residents of the area. He was born in Galicia, moved to Jaffa in 1908, then to Berlin and back to Palestine in 1924, when he settled in Talpiot. He loved the neighborhood, as he wrote in The Sign:

“I stood among the little trees, all surrounded by gardens…Since I love the small houses and the refreshing gardens, I will tell their story.”

In The Sign he tells of a young veterinarian who wants to build his home in Talpiot, overlooking the desert with the Dead Sea in the distance:

“Descending from his donkey, he began hiking and walking, making his way among thorns and boulders, pondering in thought: ‘Imagine if I could make this place my home, together with my wife and children! But living here was impossible, far from town with neither any sign of settlement nor a living soul around, except for birds and insects.”

20464894[1].DSCN1906Clearly, those times have long passed, as witnessed by the many residents, long lines of traffic in the morning hours and Egged buses passing through all day long. And Agnon got to witness his neighborhood’s changing facade as well, as witnessed by his decision to build the entrance of his own home away from the street, in order to reduce the noise entering his own home. It was from his home library that he worked, writing his books as well as the Prayer for the State of Israel, and he even convinced the city to make his street one-way (which it is to this day) to cut down on traffic and post a sign stating, “Please keep quiet: Writer at work!”

If only I could convince them to do the same for me…


May 8, 2009 - 8:38 AM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: design, General, Immigrant Moments, Israeliness 

The sign for Yael and Zemer's wedding, at Ramat Rachel

The sign for Yael and Zemer's wedding, at Ramat Rachel

Israeli signage in English is the budding proofreader’s dream: It’s chock full of misspellings, mistranslations and unintended idioms, starting with the question of whether to translate a ‘kuf’ as a ‘q’ or a ‘k,’ and only perhaps succeeding in directing you where you want to go. When you’re driving on the highway, that can mean ending up in Gadera rather than Hadera. Once you get into cities, towns and neighborhoods and check out the local streets, stores and menus, it’s a veritable cornucopia of transliteration masquerading as the English language.

After 14 years here, I actually like the fact that there’s a difference in opinion over whether a ‘kuf’ should be a ‘k’ or a ‘q.’ But what I am wondering is whether the signage misspellings are more about culture and less about language. That is, Israelis seem to like signs, certainly more than they like giving directions. (When asked for directions, most Israelis will tell you to go straight for a while, and then ask the next person for more directions.) And so, signs of all kinds tend to proliferate. There are now electronic signs letting passengers know how long they will have to wait for their bus to arrive. In Jerusalem, there are signs at each neighborhood offering the name of said neighborhood. For instance, many Kiryat Shmuel residents may have thought they were living in Rechavia (should it be ‘ch’ or ‘h’?) You can be sitting at the intersection of Baram and Hebron Road in Talpiot, and there’s a sign pointing toward Tel Aviv, which is sort of confusing given that you’re nowhere near Tel Aviv at that junction.

And there are the temporary handwritten signs, letting you know where Itzik and Dalia’s wedding is being held, with an arrow pointing in the general direction. It’s sort of the local equivalent of the New York Times Celebrations section, letting us know who’s getting married this week and where. You won’t necessarily end up at Ramat Rachel (one particular wedding hall locale) if you were to follow said signs (I like the one pictured here; they used the Ramat Rachel part of someone else’s wedding sign as part of theirs), but it’s a fun way to start the celebration. And who knows? Maybe that sign will help you get to where you’re going.

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