Yes, that bacon is kosher

Don't's 100% kosher

Growing up, I didn’t have a very strong Jewish background. I never had a bar mitzvah, Yom Kippur was just another school day and Shavuot, well, what’s that? But Shabbat, now that was special – that was the day we had bacon for breakfast!

Now, I don’t want to insult anyone who’s never tried it, but I really loved bacon. That all ended in 1985, when I went kosher. For 26 years, bacon has not crossed these lips. Until now.

No, I haven’t given up on kashrut. This bacon was 100% kosher. It was on the menu at a small, off-the-beaten-track French restaurant in Jerusalem called Moise.

The kosher bacon at Moise is made from lamb, not pork, but it still has that greasy, oily, crispy texture and flavor I remember from my sacrilegious youth. The four pieces that come with the order are accompanied by several dates, walnuts, almonds…and peach slices.

This was not the first time I’d heard about kosher bacon. Several years ago, while visiting Silicon Valley, I read about a kosher restaurant called The Kitchen Table that also served the dish. I asked Claude, our waiter and the co-owner of Moise, if he’d heard about The Kitchen Table before. Not only was he familiar, he said, but it was Haim David, the chef at that California establishment, who had taught Simone (Moise’s chef and Claude’s wife) how to make’n the bacon. David is now in Israel, studying at yeshiva in Safed.

Beyond the bacon, the rest of the food at Moise is truly extraordinary, including a unique kosher bouillabaisse (the French fish soup staple that is usually made with mostly seafood). The restaurant is tres pricey, but the group buying website Groupon frequently offers half price deals and you can use two coupons per table, which really helps. But when it comes to bacon, the sty’s the limit.


Celebrity at the wedding

Ori Lachmi from the Israeli TV hit "Srugim"

The young man in the light purple shirt and the small knitted kippa looked awfully familiar. He was sitting in the row in front of us at the chuppa of the daughter of close friends. My wife Jody went up to him. “I recognize you, but I can’t place from where,” she said.

He held out a hand. “Ori Lachmi.” Jody continued her quizzical look. “Maybe from ‘Srugim,’” he offered. “Of course!” she blushed, shook his hand and sat down. I did the same, adding “I recognized you immediately,” although I hadn’t.

Lachmi played the character of Ro’i, doctor Nati’s religious gay brother, on the popular Israeli TV series, Srugim. He had one of the only good roles in the show’s rather dreary second season, creating a believable persona and raising some issues that are usually swept under the unpolitically correct carpet in the God-fearing world.

As the real-life wedding proceeded towards the meal and into the dancing, I kept my eye out for Lachmi. Despite the fact I grew up in California, I’ve never seen – or cared much – about movie stars. The last time I was in the presence of a celebrity, it was David Schwimmer who played Ross on Friends, at a sushi bar and frankly it was no big deal. The tempura didn’t taste any different. But this was Ro’i – from my all-time favorite Israeli show.

“You’re a bit smitten, aren’t you?” Jody commented. “Go up and talk to him.” “What would I say?” I replied. “Anyway, I’d get all flustered with the Hebrew.”

When I got home, though, I did what any good journalist with a crush would do – I googled him. It turns out that Lachmi is a local Jerusalem boy who grew up religious (unusual on Srugim where all the actors playing religious Israelis are actually totally secular).

Lachmi attended the religious Horev schools (where a number of children of our friends go) but got into hot water after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated when he set up a memorial corner without official school permission. He was suspended from the student council for three months and some students compared him with Rabin’s killer, Yigal Amir, saying they “both took the law into their own hands,” Lachmi told Maariv NRG in a 2010 interview.

He subsequently transferred to the Hartman High School (from which our oldest son graduated). Lachmi majored in theater.

As upset as Lachmi was from his treatment at Horev, that wasn’t the last straw. He had received an offer to act in a film and he ran the script by his mother. There was a scene in which he had to kiss a woman. His mother vetoed his participation. It was Shabbat and “after that, I just got up, turned on the TV and turned it off, turned it on and turned it off several times,” he said. “And the sky did not fall.”

Lachmi is now a proud, but ambivalent, datlash – an Israeli acronym for someone who is formerly religious. He still visits his family regularly on Shabbatot, but says he can’t abide by stringent religious laws that require strawberries to be soaked in soap for five minutes or that forbid eating brocoli at all, for fear of ingesting forbidden worms, he told Maariv.

What was his connection to the wedding? His still religious brother is married to the groom’s sister. And, it turns out, I could have actually talked to him without getting tongue-tied – he’s half Anglo (his mother is from Australia). I did the next best thing: I friended him on Facebook. Perhaps I should now go and stalk the other actors from Srugim. I kind of have a crush on Hodaya too…

Srugim returns to Israeli screens later this month on Yes.

Rosh Hashana videos…and more

Rosh Hashana videos…and more

New Year’s videos from Israel and other Jewish organizations tend to circulate around the web and email at this time of year. The Fountainhead’s “Dip Your Apple” video is by far the most popular, with well over a million YouTube views.


But there are other cute clips, including one where a bearded techie dips a variety of Apple products (an iPhone and an iPad) in honey vats of varying sizes.


There are also a couple of videos not specifically related to the holiday but that also provide inspiration and enjoyment for the New Year.

Guy Barzily was born in Israel, raised mostly in London and recently appeared on the Dutch version of the “Idol” franchise. His audition was wildly received by the judges. One said “I’ll kiss the ground you walk on.” From another: “That was a perfect audition, more than perfect. You’ve astounded me.” (For the record, I didn’t think it was that good, but judge for yourself.)


Then there’s this cool video made by 24-year-old Jerusalemite Eran Amir, which depicts 500 people flashing across the stream in 100 seconds while holding 1,500 photographs from around the country. Like the Fountainheads, his clip has also racked up an amazing million + views.


From all of us here at Israelity (and me personally) – Shana Tova!

Immigrant Moments

A personal validation of Zionism

When I backpacking around Europe and Asia, some 25 years ago, I felt a mix of disdain and sadness for the many tourists I’d encounter ensconced in their oversized, air conditioned tour buses, being ferried around from site to site, taking in the highlights through tinted windows which they’d abandon only at carefully selected cafes and for quick museum jaunts. They’d never get a chance to really know a city, I thought to myself, by walking it block by block, riding the trams and soaking in the local atmosphere.

But when my mother recently came to Israel, an organized tour was just the ticket. Despite our having lived in Israel for 17 years, this was my mom’s first ever visit to Israel and, at nearly 80-years-old, she wanted to see everything.

The two-week tour, run by the Margaret Morse travel agency, was as challenging as it was comprehensive. The 100-person, three bus “adults only” group started in Tel Aviv, headed up the coast via Caesarea to Haifa, cut across the Galilee to Kibbutz Goshrim with a stop in Safed, climbed up to the top of the Golan Heights, danced on a boat in the Sea of Galilee, drove down the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem (where they spent 5 days touring the capital’s extensive offerings) before plunging even further south to the Dead Sea, Masada and Eilat.

The tour guide on my mom’s bus was a staunch Zionist and peppered his exhaustive descriptions of antiquities and modern Israeli innovations with an hefty dose of idealism. The 2,000-year-old longing of the Jews for the land of Israel, why all Jews should move here, our tragic history and inspiring renewal in the modern state – it was all there in spades.

Now, since we moved to Israel, my mother has never really commented on our decision. Not visiting was less out of a philosophical stance than the fact that my father was disabled and never could have handled all the climbing, steps and stairs (which my mother pointed out were ever present). After he died two years ago, she began thinking seriously about visiting her children and grandchildren here.

While it’s true we never heard any outright cries of protest about our living so far from California, where I grew up and where my parents still were, we also didn’t receive any emotional support towards such a life-defining choice. Until now.

It was over a sushi lunch (these days becoming more the classic blue and white staple than the staid falafel) that my mom turned to us and mustered a few words that were as transformative for her as they were affirming for us. “I understand now why you’re here,” she said as a single tear ran down her face. “This is where you belong.” And then for emphasis: “I’m glad that you are here.”

After so many years of assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that our move here had dealt a mortal blow to my parents, a rejection of everything we’d been raised with that, in parallel, ripped their grandchildren away from the warm multi-generational embrace they had undoubtedly anticipated, these words of validation brought tears to our eyes too. We didn’t require it per se – we’re middle-aged adults ourselves and supposedly long past the need for our parents’ approval. But it’s never too late for a mother to tell her son “you done good, kid.”

Mom flew back to California Saturday night. Will the enthusiasm for our adopted home and her newfound Zionism remain, once the cheerleading of her tour guide has abated and the comforts of routine and sanitary bathrooms return? That’s not clear, though I hope a remnant at least will remain. But for a moment, we were all on the same page. And that was a happy enough conclusion to a novel that has been a long time in the writing.

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A crafty New Year

I’m thinking that the impending holiday has to be about more than the fact that my husband is leaving for two weeks to work as a baal tefillah at a synagogue in Toronto — read, vacation money, new furniture funds and maybe some put into savings — the food that has to be cooked for three days of chag and the mountain of dishes that will be washed. (Although there are some good recipes in there.)

And so, I’ve been inspired by a gan tradition that I had to fulfill, which was that we had to make cards to be given to our boys this week. It happens in schools and ganim throughout the country before Rosh Hashanah, but this was a first for me. So I first thought about easy ways to fulfill it; scribble something on a paper, print out a coloring page and use that. But then I warmed to the idea and came across all these momblogs that are just filled with crafty ideas, some cool, some kitchy. I finally settled on this one, from ChallahCrumbs, Thumbprint Bees for their RH cards, using just black construction paper, yellow fingerpaint and a white crayon. The idea was really adorable, just that my yellow paint ended up drying invisibly on the black paper and I had to use yellow crayons to outline the bees. No matter, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Even thought the thumbprint bees weren’t a total success, we had a great time today with Playdoh and a new Fun Factory, so much so that I’m thinking of embarking on another project tomorrow, Wine Cork Stamp Rosh Hashanah cards from creativejewishmom, in which you use wine corks and a red stamppad to create really sweet apple stencil cards, napkins, gift tags, what have you.

I can’t promise what will come out of all that, but I’m willing to give it a try. Finally, I’ll also be creating a non-dairy frosting for very sweet apple-shaped cupcakes. I already made these a week ago, using a lime cupcake base — gotta use all the limes from our tree — and a readymade frosting with red food coloring. But, have to think non-dairy for some big meat meals, so will probably be using this frosting recipe. Still, I can tell you that the cupcakes are a hit and there’s something very satisfying about creating such a finished looking product.

How’s them apples?