Abigail Klein Leichman
February 5, 2019

While walking through Jerusalem’s Old City on a winter visit to Israel, Rachel Carter Koch of Nashville, Tennessee, got a whiff of the most tantalizing aroma.

Following her nose, she discovered a street vendor doling out steamy sachlav, a thick milk-based drink laced with cinnamon and ground orchid bulbs. She found this “hot cocoa of the Middle East” absolutely delicious.

So when Koch saw a cooking video posted on ISRAEL21c showing how to make sachlav, she was thrilled.

“I realized it was the drink I loved. I had asked the vendor in the Old City how to make it but I didn’t understand him. So when the recipe popped up on ISRAEL21c I was tickled,” she recalls.

And then she noticed that readers sharing the video on social media could win a cookbook by garnering the most “likes.”

“I would have shared it anyway,” confides the winner of Chef Michael Solomonov’s Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious.

Koch is a longtime fan of our website and has found various ways of incorporating it into her teaching activities.

“I helped run a summer exchange program for high-schoolers called Get Connected: The Israel Teen Tour, between Nashville and Hadera for eight years. I had the Nashville students follow your website during the six-month academic period leading up to their trip to Israel,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

“It’s a great way for students to learn about Israel in a noncontroversial setting. I encouraged them to choose a topic and read one article on the site that interested them each week.”

She continues using our site as a resource for the fourth-grade Israel curriculum she teaches at her Reform synagogue, Congregation Micah.

Back in 2012, ISRAEL21c featured Adiv Gal, an Israeli zoologist who spearheaded a kestrel preservation project  with fifth-graders at the Alona Regional School in Moshav Amikam near Hadera.

It was Gal who got Koch interested in Israel in the first place.

She explains that in 2009, she asked her rabbi how she might learn more about Israel, and he suggested a trip. But she couldn’t afford it at the time, so he encouraged her to host an Israeli teacher coming to Nashville that summer on an exchange program sponsored by the Nashville Jewish Federation’s Partnership2gether initiative.

She hesitated to do so, but the Israeli coordinator for the program worked hard to find a guest from the group with whom Koch had a lot in common. She was then leading hikes at a nature park in Nashville.

“They did a good job of matching personalities,” she says. “Adiv and I became best friends from the moment I picked him up. That was in 2009 and we still talk all the time. Our families have been on vacations together; we are that close.”

Her friendship with Gal led her to become very involved in the Partnership2gether project and in 2010 she was chosen to be part of the educators’ exchange and got to teach at Alona Regional School.

“Once I had met Adiv, that made Israel alive for me and I wanted to know more,” she explains. Since then her family has hosted many Israelis for summer visits. Koch and her husband, a psychiatrist, have a daughter and a son.

She has been to Israel three times, the most recent time to visit her daughter, now 20, who was working at the Hava V’Adam ecological educational farm for a semester.

“It was when I visited her that I smelled that drink in the Old City,” she says.

She reports that she has tried some of the recipes from Solomonov’s book, with great success. “I made the Opera Bean Soup because that restaurant is in Hadera, our partner city; Cauliflower Shawarma; and Rice Pilaf with Peas and Pistachios.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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