This Week In Israel - Dec 15, 2009
 A conservative Commentary on events in israel
Al-Bore and Palin!


In an interview, Al Gore rebutted Sarah Palin''s Washington Post op-ed and Facebook postings that question the science on climate change given the "Climate-gate" controversy. In response, Gore said that "the deniers are persisting in an era of unreality. The entire North Polar icecap is disappearing before our eyes... What do they think is happening?" He said we''ve seen record storms, droughts, fires -- and the effects taking place are exactly as predicted by these scientists for years. Asked about Palin''s charge on Facebook that these are "doomsday scare tactics pushed by an environmental priesthood," Gore replied that the scientific community has worked on this issue for 20 years. "It''s a principle in physics. It''s like gravity. It exists."



That’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight! Get a grip, Al.

12/15/2009 - Warmers; Health; Food in Israel

Al still won’t answer journalist’s questions, he won’t debate even Glen Beck, and he now has to wade the snow in Copenhagen at the global warming conference. Amid all the other chatter, more and more scientists seem to be getting some intestinal fortitude and stepping up with disclaimers about man-caused CO2. I hate to tell the “warmers,” but it is a hoax, and besides it’s easy to increase Oxygen levels. Just let the weeds grow in all the vacant lots where businesses used to exist before Obama came to office. Plants drink CO2 and expire Oxygen.



Lieberman choked, as usual, and said he will now vote for the health care bill, while the world tilted today when Howard Dean, of the AAAAAAGGGGGGG! fame, announced that no one should vote for the senate bill. We agree on one thing so far.

WHERE ARE THE REPUBLICANS?! Instead of saying they want to add amendments they should “man up” and just tell everyone it needs cancelled.

OLD PEOPLE. Oh, er, ah, senior citizens. DUMP AARP! You are being hornswaggled!

These liberals are planning on making millions – billions? – on the healthcare plan. Big cuts in Medicare will force many people to buy insurance to meet the new gaps in coverage if the current bill passes, as AARP hopes.


AARP draws political fire

December 11, 2009

Push for health care plan angers many seniors

AARP, the powerful seniors group with 40 million members, is drawing political fire for its support of Democratic health care legislation increasing regulation of the industry and cutting Medicare benefits.

The senior-citizens group, founded in 1959, has become a sprawling billion-dollar financial and political powerhouse that does far more than simply publish a couple of newsletters and find discounts for seniors. And increasingly, its political and financial relationships have put the group's leadership at odds with its members, critics charge.

Jim Martin, president of the conservative seniors group 60 Plus, accused AARP of "putting the wishes of Washington's liberal politicians before the interests of their own members" by backing Obama's health care efforts. "They are big-government liberal activists eager to ensure that the grants and subsidies keep flowing, and eager to keep their Democrat pals in Washington happy," Martin said.

AARP's support for Obama's plan is significant because the organization is a lobbying powerhouse. In 2008, AARP spent $27.9 million lobbying the federal government. Only the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Exxon Mobil spent more.

AARP endorsed the health care bill that passed the House last month and has expressed support for the Senate proposals that are still taking shape. Critics note that these measures do not contain a priority for senior citizens -- allowing the re-importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. And they do contain significant cuts to Medicare spending.

Opponents of Obama's plan have assailed AARP for supporting such measures, but AARP responds that the Medicare cuts would simply reduce waste.

AARP Chief Executive Officer Barry Rand wrote in the current AARP Bulletin that Democratic bills strengthened Medicare and began to "improve long-term care services and support."

Though legally non-partisan under IRS rules, AARP has a visible leftward tilt. In the 2008 and 2010 elections, campaign contributors who listed AARP as their employer gave 90 percent of their money to Democratic candidates, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Rand gave the maximum contribution to Obama. The company's top lobbyist, Nancy LeaMond, was a political appointee in the Clinton administration.

AARP is also allied with a staunch Democratic booster -- teachers unions. AARP began as the National Retired Teachers Association and has lobbied against school vouchers, which teachers unions strongly oppose.

These political leanings and AARP's lobbying record (including opposition to tax cuts) have spawned conservative rivals, such as 60 Plus and the American Seniors Association.

AARP's business dealings also complicate its role in the health care debate. AARP brought in $1.14 billion in 2008, according to tax filings. Less than one-fourth of that was from membership dues -- barely enough to cover the group's printing and mailing costs. Most of AARP's 2008 revenues -- $653 million -- were from royalties. AARP spokeswoman Elly Spinweber told The Examiner that AARP had made $425 million in royalties from licensing its name to businesses -- including insurance and medical companies -- hoping to sell to AARP members. AARP, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, earned an additional $205 million from selling financial products and services.

A health care overhaul could bring more business to AARP's insurance division -- for instance, driving more customers to AARP's "Medigap" program by reducing the federal subsidy for Medicare Advantage, a competing product sold by private insurers. Also, the weakened "public option" to which Senate Democrats have reportedly agreed would boost enrollment in nonprofit insurance plans -- a field in which AARP already plays a multimillion-dollar role.

Government partnerships are not new to AARP. The AARP Foundation has received $390 million in taxpayer money from the federal government since 2003, mostly for the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps place seniors in jobs. A health care overhaul could provide more opportunities for such partnerships.



That was the first question that occurred to me when I read the next article. “Who are Mikhail, Jake and Yossi?” you ask. Hey! You better get with the program and start reading the tremendous novels found on our home page!


'Scientist revealed Qom secrets to UN'

Dec. 13, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Secrets about Iran's clandestine uranium enrichment facility being constructed near Qom were revealed to UN weapons inspectors by an Iranian scientist who mysteriously disappeared six months ago, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

Scientist Shahram Amiri, who was said to have worked at the enrichment site, vanished during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in late May, Iranian authorities have said.

His disappearance came months before the revelation of the facility, and, quoting French intelligence sources, the British newspaper said that Amiri briefed the inspectors in a secret meeting at Frankfurt airport hours before they flew to Iran to inspect the plant.

Relatives quoted in Iranian media have said Amiri researches medical uses of nuclear technology at a Teheran university. …

For the rest of this piece, go to: /servlet/Satellite?cid=1260447424515&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull



A Jerusalem man was arrested four years ago for walking his dog without a leash. He objected, got a ticket with a big fine. He challenged it, got a bigger fine, and hired a lawyer. After four years, with interest on the fine climbing higher than an IRS penalty, he finally got jail time. That after working within the system. All the loons aren’t in the US, you’ll be glad to know.

Communicated by the Office of the Mayor of Jerusalem:

Mayor Nir Barkat completely rejects the decision of the EU to support the division of Jerusalem, calling it a real danger for the future of Jerusalem that will never work. Mayor Barkat noted that the recent celebration of the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Berlin reminds us that no divided city in the history of the world has functioned properly.




Communications Minister Moshe Cahlon criticizes Bezek and Hot and said that it is advancing – with PM Netanyahu's consent – plan to establish national internet infrastructure. One possibility is to use Electric Corp. infrastructure. (Globe News, through GPO)



Just two weeks ago we walked through the Jewish Quarter, down to the Davidson/southern steps area and were a bit early for all the excitement.

Aish Ha Torah Yeshiva has added a great new Temple reconstruction on their 3rd story roof.

Raising the Temple

The Temple Model at Aish Ha Torah

Installing the Temple near the Temple Mount!

Temple model to open this Hanukkah

Aish HaTorah center in Jerusalem to open 1.2 ton model of Second Temple to visitors this Hanukkah. Model, built out of original materials, including gold, marble, stone, faces Temple Mount

Tzofia Hirschfeld

The Second Temple will be open to visitors next week. Albeit in a different location, and a smaller size, not allowing much room for people to enter. Still, it is certainly the next best thing at the moment.

This Hanukkah the Aish HaTorah Jewish studies center in Jerusalem will inaugurate the largest model of the Second Temple to be built to date. The model, which was built on a scale of 1:60, and weighs 1.2 tons, is made of the original materials, namely, real gold, marble and stone, and was placed on the third floor of the center's building, facing the Western Wall.

The model was placed facing the Temple Mount in hopes of giving the visitors a feeling as close as possible to that felt by visitors back in the days when the structure, described as one of the most beautiful of its period, was standing. The place where the Jewish heart once stood, and, with its destruction, became a site of constant longing.

"We knew that our building was in the most beautiful place, and that you can see the entire Temple Mount from it," Aish HaTorah director Ephraim Shore said, "It was clear to us that such a place should be used to illustrate the experience of being there.

"Clearly, this is an experience that cannot be completely reenacted today, but we saw fit to create something close. When you see the model on the backdrop of the Temple Mount, I think you get the feeling that people got in the Temple."

One of the main dilemmas Aish HaTorah faced in building the model was of the character of their temple – Should the aesthetic aspect be emphasized, illustrating the Temple as a work of art, or should the educational aspect be highlighted?

"In the end we decided to go with the educational aspect," Shore said, "Since this is already a creative structure, we felt there was no need to add to it. The next problem was how to demonstrate the experience of the interior.

"There are a number of models of the Temple around the world, but you usually only see it from the outside. You see the hall, but not the Holy of Holies and the menorah. It is true that the building itself is very impressive, but what matters is what happened inside.

"We were really worried about how to go about it because we wanted the final model to be the closest thing to the real structure, and therefore, we finally also ruled out ideas like making one of the walls of the hall out of glass, because we didn't want to compromise its authenticity.

"The solution that we went with in the end was a hydraulic elevator that lifts the walls of the hall and reveals the internal activity in it. This makes the experience more than just an exterior visit.",7340,L-3817817,00.html



On the one hand, the Ministry of Tourism and the business people are thrilled to have pilgrims from all around the world flooding into Jerusalem (and the rest of Israel, including Nazareth and Bethlehem) to celebrate Christmas.

On the other hand, the radical Hassids are a bit unhappy. They are trying to trash JEWISH merchants and restaurant owners who decorate for the holiday. Read on.

Jewish lobby wages war on Christmas trees
Lobby for Jewish values passes out fliers against hotels, restaurants putting up Christmas trees, other Christian symbols ahead of civil New Year, say businesses who do so risk losing kosher certification
Ari Galhar

A new front for religious battles: Hotels and restaurants. The "Lobby for Jewish values" this week began operating against restaurants and hotels that plan to put up Christmas trees and other Christian symbols ahead of Christmas and the civil New Year.


According to the lobby's Chairman, Ofer Cohen, they have received backing by the rabbis, "and we are even considering publishing the names of the businesses that put up Christian symbols ahead of the Christian holiday and call for a boycott against them."

Fliers and ads distributed among the public read, "The people of Israel have given their soul over the years in order to maintain the values of the Torah of Israel and the Jewish identity.

"You should also continue to follow this path of the Jewish people's tradition and not give in to the clownish atmosphere of the end of the civil year. And certainly not help those businesses that sell or put up the foolish symbols of Christianity."

The Jerusalem Rabbinate also works each year to ensure restaurants and hotels receiving kosher certification from the Jerusalem Religious Council do not put up Christian symbols.

According to a senior official in the kashrut department, this is done each year consensually, but that businesses which do not meet this requirement may find their kashrut certificate revoked.

It should be noted that most of the hotels in Jerusalem and a significant part of the restaurants in the capital receive permanent kosher certification from the city's religious council. (



Under the Heading - Believe it or Not

Tree; Ugly One; Beauty

It’s real that beautiful young lady from the US is standing beside a life-size photo of Arafat and a Christmas tree!!

You remember Arafat. He is the one who claimed that Jesus was a Palestinian. Really.



On Mt. Zion, just above the area where “David’s Tomb” is located, though he isn’t in it, is a small room known as the room of the Last Supper.

“Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon will leave Wednesday for the Vatican in a bid to reach an agreement about the Catholic Church's demands that it be granted ownership of a number of Christian holy sites, including the room in which the Last Supper is believed to have taken place.

Discussions on the issue will start Thursday. The Israeli delegation includes experts from the Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry, as well as other figures. The discussions will revolve around the Vatican's demand that it be granted propriety of various Christian sites, tax breaks, and the expropriation of Church properties in Israel.”

Where is that Christmas Spirit?



Some of us are old enough to remember the detaining fences around the USSR and Communist China. Built to keep people in, not out, there is now the Falafel Curtain!

We learned this week that healthy people who live in Gaza are faking cancer to get out of the horrible life in Gaza.

According the the AP, “several thousands” have succeeded in getting into Israel using bribes and faked medical reports. You wouldn’t know it from the way the world press whines and curses Israel, but for years now they take the worst medical cases in Gaza into Israel for treatment in Israeli hospitals.

This includes critically wounded terrorists from wars when Israel goes into Gaza to put an end (temporarily) to attacks.


In Israel, food is not just sustenance. And it is definitely not just carbs and fats! It is fellowship, fragrance, and friendship, from the meeting places, to the history, and to the personalities of both the restaurants; people, owners and locations.

Here are some of our favorites in Jerusalem and around Israel.


My wife’s favorite restaurant in all the world is Helena’s. It sits quietly along the Mediterranean coastline, in an area tourists seldom go, near the shops, etc. Their scallops wrapped in bacon were amazing. Until the last time we visited a couple of months ago. Off the menu. Not because it’s pork. They are not a kosher place. No one seemed to know the answer, but I will tell you, my gal is looking for someplace new to praise. I still love their shrimp and halumi cheese and rice dish.

The coffee shop in the Ramada Renaissance, Tel Aviv

This place serves coffee, tea, and the like, along with deserts. It isn’t high gastronomical fare, but the view is great. We actually wrote one chapter of our first novel sitting there drinking afouq gadol. Large cappuccino.

The coffee shop at Ben Gurion

Another place that is more familiar than famous, but we have spent long hours getting to know bus drivers and tour guides here as we share our beliefs, learn of places yet to visit and making friends. Their chocolate filled croissants are delicious.

The Moshikos on Ben Yehuda

Without a doubt the very best chips (French Fries) in Israel. They come in a bag the size of a catcher’s mitt, steaming hot from the olive oil, and ready to be anointed with a lot of salt.

The falafels and schwarma are great too, but the best place for those is likely on Aggrippas St. at the Mehane Yehuda shuq (market). The owner has been in the same location for 48 years!

Shakespeares on Betar in Arnona

Real men do eat quiche. And chopped salads too. This place is Spartan, the tables rock on uneven legs and the chairs scrape. The service is iffy, but on a Spring day, when the warm breezes blow through the place, you can’t beat it for fellowship with friends and a great meal.

The Shwarma Restaurant at the bottom of David Street in the Arab Quarter

There is an Arab man who stands outside his ten foot wide by forty foot long restaurant and invites you in. He just as likely as not has a butcher knife about sixteen inches long with which he slices schwarma. Family-run, his wife cooks behind a divider, his kids run around, dodging through a curtain and bringing food to diners. It is all atmosphere.

The Focaccia Bar near Hillel

Not a bar, but a tremendous restaurant. We bring our American friends here who want a real hamburger without all the ground garlic in the meat. Thick, juicy, and delicious, they get a taste of home. The owner looks to be about a hundred. Sits up on a high dias, and keeps a baleful eye on everything that happens. The service is good, the food – especially the fried calamari – is to die for, and the atmosphere. Well, it is missing. More rocking table legs, open roof in good weather, and close to Ben Yehuda for the tourists.

Rimon’s on Ben Hillel and in Mamilla

Kosher, with one side for meat and another side for dairy, it has some of the best warm bread and bagels in Israel. T. Michael loves their ice cream.

The Coffee Shop at Nof Ginnosaur

A recent addition, this place is run by Alex and Tova Barak, and managed by one very sharp young man. Sandwiches, coffee, tea and soda, and at fair prices. Not something you always find in the Galilee.

Charolais in the Golan

Owned by a former commander of the IDF, it offers great buffets, real meat, fast service and all around good food. Not the cheapest but it is handy when you are on a bus a long way from any place to eat.

The unnamed restaurant in the waterfront outdoor mall at Tiberias for St. Peter’s fish

I truly don’t know the name of this place, but it is near the Golden Tulip (formerly the Jordan River hotel) in that little pedestrian mall to the east. It has the best St. Peter fish (whole or filets) cooked in olive oil, and monstrous amounts of pita, salads and chips. A great place to dine.

Ben and Amital’s for breakfast at Migdol

This is a bed and breakfast high on the peak at Migdol. These kids are lovely, with a cute baby and dreams to make Israel better. You will love them. Ben also works for Alex at the Jesus Boat Store.




And one we missed, but look forward to visiting. It is located just behind our apartment in David Village.

Of biblical proportion

Dec. 3, 2009

When chef Moshe Basson closes his eyes to smell the wild herbs routinely overflowing from his shirt pocket, he sometimes forgets if he is in ancient or modern Jerusalem.

The connection between modern cooking and native and folkloric traditions inspires his culinary life - and now, the latest reincarnation of his Eucalyptus restaurant.

A few hundred meters down and across from Jerusalem's Old City, he says this seventh location for his restaurant is the culmination of a dream to set down roots in a historic setting.

On the lower level, with its entrance in the Hutzot Hayotzer artists' colony, part of the nearly 150-year-old Yemin Moshe neighborhood, the restaurant that opened last week serves meat and vegetable dishes inspired by ancient local traditions. The upper and outdoor levels, facing the Old City walls, David's Citadel, King David's tomb and the Dormition Abbey on one side, and the skyline of Yemin Moshe on the other, will be a cafe called Sabras, where lighter locally inspired dairy and vegetarian foods will be served to live harp music. Basson is also working with the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Fund with hopes of adding a biblical garden in the surrounding greenery.

In his new office, lavender, hyssop, bay leaves and dried garlic bulbs are scattered among a mess of papers and books. His shirt pocket overflows with wild basil, sage and lemon verbena.

"I always have herbs on me," he says, calling them his inspiration and talisman. Picking one up at a time, he jumps from stories of perfume in the Song of Songs and the incenses used in the Second Temple to the aromas that recall his own childhood.

Basson was born in Iraq in 1950 and grew up in an immigrant transit camp in Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood. His parents opened a bakery in the neighboring Arab village of Beit Safafa, and the scents of bread, cake and local cooking infuse his memories.

His first Eucalyptus restaurant was opened in 1986 around the namesake tree that he planted on Tu Bishvat as a child. Since then, he has been known as a food folklorist, a wild and native food activist, and as 'the biblical chef.'

What are your first memories of Jerusalem?

All the Jewish people from Amara, near Basra, came to Jerusalem. Some, like my great grandmother came a year or two before us and lived in Musrara, and the rest of my family came during Passover in 1951. We lived up to seven people in Talpiot in a seven-square-meter tin shack with no floor. You were lucky if you had a proper floor. The refugee shacks made from wood were the luxurious ones, like the ones in Kiryat Hayovel. By us, there was only one tap for water for 5,000 people, so there was always a line, 24-hours-a-day. The worst thing was the stinking so-called toilet, a hole in the ground for everyone. There were many bad smells, but I remember the smell of sweet halla and black bread baking in the oven.

A lot of native Israelis don't know about the ma'abarot; for them refugees are Palestinian. I am anxious to build a ma'abara museum.

When we moved to a 16-square-meter stone house, with a toilet outside with a seat and a small garden, it was like a villa. There were all the fruit trees, vegetables and chickens you could imagine. I remember the smell of the freshly ground allspice and dry etrog my father would add to the smelling tobacco, or the other herbs that he would bring to the synagogues at the end of Shabbat. I also remember the smell of the meats my neighbor, auntie Zeinab in Beit Safafa, made and how I fantasized to eat her [non-kosher] dishes, like Moses who sees the Promised Land and cannot enter.

I grew up in the traditions of the east. The traditions of my Jewish ancestors since the days of the prophets and kings blend with the traditions of the Palestine Arabs and the traditions of Iraq.

How did you start foraging for herbs and food?

My father used to pick wild leeks for omelets. My teacher, Nehama, used to take us on sunny days into nature and showed us the khubeiza [mallow] herb that her family ate when Jerusalem was under siege [in 1948]. And this guy from Beit Safafa used to plow our yard and I would ride a mule and follow his son Mustafa to the wadi between Mekor Haim and the Katamonim, that is today the Talpiot industrial zone. He herded goats and sheep, and I saw him picking wild peas. I was afraid it was poison and brought some home to my mom. Eventually we tried it and it was sweet and delicious and we started to trust him. I also learned from him how to cook with cyclamen so that it's not poisonous.

Later, when I was a chef, I would go to the Damascus Gate and talk to the Arab farmers and field workers who sold greens they found foraging and that were not found in the Jewish markets. Jews from Iraq come from a different climate. They knew about the plants here because they stayed in touch with Jerusalem and Hebron all through the exile, but they had no knowledge of finding or using herbs. The Halabi [Syrian Jews from Aleppo] had more practical knowledge, because the climates are more similar. Palestinians here on this ground were the keepers of our traditions.

When you go out into nature with your father and sisters and people with more experience, this is tradition. People pass on knowledge, but without schools, without lectures. I feel the tradition of herbs and medicine from nature is ultimately passed down from God. It is a common knowledge and you have to know how to soak up the knowledge. I know it might be in our mind, but for me it's there and maybe it's [in the] soul. You could also call it a collective wisdom.

What did Jerusalemites eat for their three meals, 2,000 years ago?

It seems they ate only two meals a day. And like the Americans, they started their day with cereal grains and sometimes with milk and [date] honey or bread dipped in olive oil and vinegar. For the main meal in evening, they ate grains and legumes. They also ate squash, zucchini, cucumbers and common truffles, each thing in season, and all the food from the seven species. There are archeological findings that they ate beans and lentils, which, of course, are also mentioned in the Bible. Meat and fish they primarily ate on the holidays. Those that could eat meat and fish every day were the priests and the wealthy.

Today, whose recipes are closest to the recipes of the Bible and ancient Holy Land?

According to the traditions that we see in the Torah, from the story of Abraham greeting the angels with a meal, the food is identical to the meat and grain meal cooked in butter that Beduin will make today for guests. The rest of the time the Beduin diet was also identical to how people in the Holy Land ate on typical days - a vegetarian diet, based primarily on bread, butter, some cheese, sometimes eggs and occasionally fruits.

Workers of the land [in ancient times] ate in a way more similar to the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese kitchens of today - more olive oil and vegetables, higher-quality bread and a wider variety of grains and legumes.

In the Iraqi kitchen today - maybe because of the continuously strong connection to the land here through exile - you can also find traditional foods from ancient times, like a haroset of date syrup and walnuts, and other food customs and traditional foods mentioned in the Mishna.

Traditional Palestinian farmers still eat and cultivate many wild species of plants. Why did the use of wild plants fall out of use in most other areas here?

In 1948 when people were eating khubeiza, as well as during the time of the Bible, it was considered poor people's food. After 1948, there were also many types of cultivated vegetables that pushed khubeiza to the side.

The modern lifestyle doesn't leave time for the proper way of life. Sometimes it is exactly the situation of hunger, unemployment and lack of advancement that has helped indirectly to preserve the important traditions of using herbs and wild plants.

The new "Slow Food" movement that I am involved with is trying to preserve this ancient tradition.

Lately there have been a number of arguments that Israeli Jews claimed Palestinian recipes as their own. Did Israel steal felafel?

I and the other Arab Muslim and Christian chefs in Chefs for Peace [a group committed both to coexistence and culinary excellence] think this argument is nonsense. There are similar food traditions all over the region, though here some things are different because of kashrut. Last year the Lebanese claimed tabouli, like the Greeks claim feta cheese. The Arab countries responded that tabouli was actually here long before Lebanon. Felafel is Egyptian. More than 100 years ago, it was the street food in Egypt but not in Palestine.

If I'm stealing something that means I'm saying it's mine. But sometimes if I try your recipe, it does not mean it's mine and it also may no longer be yours because, though maybe you found the recipe, I will experiment with it, change it and maybe I will make it famous. I'm waiting for people to say that I stole magluba [upside-down rice and chicken dish]. I'm not putting a sign on my food. I eat to survive.

Felafel is cheap for people who can't afford to eat meat. So why don't we talk about rice and beans or rice and lentils? This is also cheap food and it is real Jerusalemite food, but you can also say rice and beans or rice and lentils are Egyptian or Indian or South American or influenced by Jewish hamin [cholent], because sometimes similar foods develop in many places simultaneously.

Anyway, Jews and not only Muslim Arabs come from Iraq and Persia and Egypt and India, and the foods of Palestine developed under the Ottoman Empire. So I don't look at these as food of Jews, Christians or Muslims. What you can say is that if something has pork in it, it is probably Christian. But all the rest of the foods are developed naturally. You can't say wheat belongs to one group or another. It is food, not a trademark. When it started and spread, it wasn't about who put a flag down first.

What is Israeli food? Is there something unique that has developed here?

Israeli food is a mix of traditional foods from the Levant and foods from Eastern Europe, with a growing influence from the various international and local cultures and the kitchens on TV. Now there are also unique biblical elements that are starting to return to the modern kitchen. More and more Israeli chefs are looking at local ingredients rather than what French cuisine, for example, is offering. They are starting to understand that the best foods use local ingredients, and what we have is clean and good and we can be proud of it. For example, almost every chef in Israel now uses pomegranate, one of the seven species. When I started using pomegranate in recipes, I was one of the few. I'm very happy it has come back into use.

What other biblical/ancient foods are not made in Israeli cooking that you would like to make popular again?

If we look back to the Bible stories about the Second Temple, it was clear that incense and a form of couscous were also offered. Couscous is thought of as a North African dish, but for me the Bible is the real source and I believe that this Second Temple era couscous was actually made with a very fine bulgur. I explained this when I won the world couscous championship in Italy several years ago, and eight or nine years later I sent my son Ronni to the competition with this recipe that I call King Solomon's couscous, and he also won. We serve this at the restaurant using local ingredients and ingredients from the Bible, and I would be very happy to make this dish popular.

I would also like to popularize my stuffed figs, and other dishes I make using rich, local game meats - pheasant and quail, and wild Jerusalem sage, purslane and khubeiza, which are now considered bad weeds. My recipe for khubeiza meatballs without meat is from the 1948 siege. And hopefully, I'll find the secret of manna [the food the Israelites ate for 40 years in the desert].

Why is it so important to you to look to Torah and Mishna and history for inspiration in your cooking?

Maybe it's not primarily a matter of searching for the past, but I also get so much enjoyment from the search because it's so interesting. Perhaps it's also a feeling of bringing new life into the Israeli kitchen through invention. n

December 10 is International Slow Food Day/Terra Madre Day, which is observed by more than 100 countries around the world. Chef Moshe Basson, Chefs for Peace and the David Yellin College are sponsoring the Israeli celebration, with one event for school children (closed to the public) and another for adults at 8 p.m. The chefs will explain the value of using local, natural ingredients and returning to the tradition of having family meals. There will also be a food tasting, a talk with members of Chefs for Peace and a live video hook-up to the international headquarters of the event in Italy. To participate, members of the public must sign up by e-mailing /servlet/Satellite?cid=1259831449746&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Why a Peace Agreement with the PLO has not been Reached?

Ze’ev B. Begin

Published (in Hebrew) in Haaretz – 5 Dec 2009

"To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them," wrote former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (The Washington Post, 17.7.2009). "It would be worth exploring the reasons that the Palestinians rejected my offer and preferred, instead, to drag their feet, avoiding real decisions."

The main elements of Olmert's proposal, as understood by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mahzan) were: acceptance of the principle of the "right of return" for Palestinian Arab refugees and resettling thousands of them in Israel; Israel’s withdrawal from 98 percent of the territory of Judea, Samaria and Gaza; and a land swap for the remaining two percent (Washington Post, 29.5.09). In addition, Olmert proposed a "safe passage" between Gaza and Judea; acceptance of the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State; and relinquishing Israel's sovereignty on the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives and the City of David while proposing a joint administration of these sites by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the PLO, the United States and Israel (The Australian, 28.11.09).

What this means is that at the end of 2008 Mahmoud Abbas rejected a concrete proposal for the establishment of a state in all of Samaria, Judea and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem. The failure of the recent negotiations, following the failure of the previous round of negotiations in 2000, demands an explanation.

As a first attempt to explain the recent failure, it was suggested, mainly in Israel, that the belated nature of the offer and the weakness of the Olmert government at the time the offer was made led the PLO to reject it. PLO leaders, however, at no point questioned the prime minister's authority to negotiate with them, just as they did not question the authority of Ehud Barak in 2000, after he lost his parliamentary majority. The PLO leaders suggested more substantial explanations for the most recent failure.

Saeb Erekat asserted that Jerusalem had been left unsolved (Al Jazeera, 27.3.09; translations from Arabic are by the Middle East Media Research Institute, and appear on its Web site). He later claimed that the problem had been Israel's refusal to acknowledge PLO sovereignty in the entire area up to the 1967 lines before attempting a detailed demarcation of the border (Al Dustour, 25.6.09). Recently, Mahmoud Abbas stated that it was the number of refugees who would be allowed to return to Israel that had remained in dispute (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 10.11.09). However, of all these, the most precise and thorough explanation for the failure of the negotiations is to be found in the simple words of Abbas: "The gaps were wide" (The Washington Post, 29.5.09). Obviously, to narrow the gaps after all the concessions Israel offered, the PLO still demands more.

This means that the explanation for the rejection of Israel's far-reaching proposals is a profound one, and is to be found in the adherence of the PLO leadership to the traditional, extremist positions of the movement. While it has been argued that these positions are no longer valid, they were in fact recently reaffirmed by the sixth Fatah conference in Bethlehem, convened in August 2009.

Resolutions of the Fatah Conference
The principal ideological resolution of the conference reads: "The goals, principles and methods, as they are written in Chapter One of the [Fatah] charter, are the basic point of departure for our movement, and are part of the ideological and political identity of our people." The Charter is posted on the official Fatah Web site, and includes, in Chapter One, Article 19: "Armed struggle is a strategy, not a tactic. The armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a crucial element in the battle for liberation and for the elimination of the Zionist presence. This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated."

The practical translation of this declaration is reflected in the conference's resolution on the issue of refugees: "Efforts must be made to implement the right of return and restitution for refugees, and they are entitled to have their property restored. Likewise, the refugee problem should [be handled] uniformly, with no differentiation based on the refugees' location, including the refugees within the 1948 areas [pre-'67 Israel]." Before the Conference, Saeb Erekat explained that "there is restitution for each article: not return or restitution but return and restitution," (Al Dustour, 25.6.09).

The suggestion in some circles, that the PLO will eventually give up on the "right of return" but will only announce this at the very last moment, is not supported by facts on the ground: the very last moment has already passed twice - in 2000 and in 2009.

This unequivocal position regarding the “right of return” is well tied to another resolution of the Fatah conference: "There must be absolute opposition, from which there will be no withdrawal, to recognizing Israel as a 'Jewish state,' in order to protect the refugees' rights and the rights of our people on the other side of the Green Line [i.e., Arab citizens of Israel]." This statement is a direct echo of the announcements by Fatah leaders made several months prior to the conference. Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) said: "It's not fair to demand that we recognize [Israel] as the state of the Jewish People because that means an evacuation of the Arabs from Israel and a predetermination of refugees' future, before the negotiations are over. Our refusal is adamant," (Haaretz, 26.5.09). Abbas explained that the PLO refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, since it would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees within Israel (Washington Post, 29.5.09).

However, the source of Fatah's opposition to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is deeper than that. It arises from the reaffirmation of the term "Zionist entity," meaning that the ideology of the movement is still based on the assertion that Judaism is not a nationality, but only a religion, which has no right to a sovereign state. Hence, recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people contradicts the profound ideology of Fatah, as explained by Erekat before the Fatah conference: "Whoever asks you to recognize the Jewish State asks you to fill a form requesting to join the Zionist movement. This movement maintains [the idea] that religion is nationality," (al Dustour, 25.6.09).

Hence, what we see is a solid ideology: "The liberation of Palestine" will come in the wake of the return of the refugees to Israel and the "elimination of the Zionist presence," and no decision contradicting this plan, such as acceptance of Israel as a "Jewish state", can be allowed. Whether such a plan can be realistically implemented in the near future is unimportant. Declaring it is aimed mainly at the movement activists, in order to keep them politically alert with a clear understanding of the common goal. Experience shows that Fatah resolutions and declarations by its leaders should be regarded seriously, and the competition for public opinion support between Fatah and Hamas increases Fatah's commitment to its stated policy.

In August 2009, attempting to improve its image, Fatah could have refrained from any discussion of its Charter, or could have adapted it to current political conditions by eliminating its extremist sections. However, by preferring a blatant reaffirmation of the Charter, the conference demonstrated the importance that its delegates attribute to adherence to their original goal. Abbas, who has been recently threatening to resign, did not try to prevent the acceptance of the extremist resolutions at the conference through a similar threat, and has not expressed any
reservations about them.

We can therefore assume that the updated platform of Fatah indeed defines the impossible Fatah conditions for an agreement with Israel. Fatah does not really accept the "two-state solution" and does not view an independent state within the 1967 lines as its final goal. This explains well the series of events since 1993: the Fatah leadership violently violated the Oslo Accords, it failed to reach an agreement with Israel in 2000 despite far-reaching concessions offered by Prime Minister Barak, and it turned down Prime Minister Olmert's proposals in 2008. This is in accord with the fact that in 2008, when the Israeli delegation asked the PLO delegation whether a final agreement with Israel would include an article declaring the end of conflict and an end to further demands, the reply was in the negative.

Refraining from reaching an agreement with Israel has served the PLO well, as explained by Erekat: "At first they told us that we would run hospitals and schools, later they were willing to give us 66 percent, at Camp David they reached 90 percent and today they have reached 100 percent. Why then should we hurry, after all the injustice caused to us?" (Al-Dustour, 25.6.09).

Those who urge Israel to reach an agreement with the PLO "now" should explain what they suggest doing if negotiations are resumed, as the PLO is demanding, at precisely the point where they left off in 2008. There is no indication that the PLO agrees now to terms it declined a year ago, and hence it is clear that in this situation the PLO will make additional demands. Those who prod us should suggest what else Israel is expected to concede? I have not heard an answer to this question, except for mutterings "but we have to try." As long as Fatah does not fundamentally change its platform, there will be no Zionist faction in Israel that is capable of reaching a final-status agreement with it.

Reality must not be artificially beautified. This is indeed a regrettable situation, but we cannot allow it to cause despair. As was the case 100 years ago, our future in our land does not depend on the ill-will of our neighbors' leadership. It is in our hands. We have proven that.

The writer is a minister in PM Netanyahu's cabinet.

Edm – He also has the reputation of being one of the most honest men in all of Israel.

(Courtesy of GPO)

Well, that’s about it for this week. We send you our very best, our appreciation for visiting with us, and our prayers.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ernie Moore

Genesis 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Psalm 25:22 Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

Psalm 60:12 Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

Psalm 122:6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.


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