A few years ago I was on a plane in the U.S. and started small talking with the woman sitting next to me. Religion came up and when I told her I identified as a Jew, she laughed and told me that when she tells people which religion she identifies with, people often think she is saying “Jew.”
She told me that she was “Druze” and asked if I had heard of it. I nodded my head excitedly and told her that I had visited a Druze village while on an organized tour to Israel!
I remember them welcoming us with open arms and superfluous amounts of food. While we were being served lunch, a few Druze taught us about their religion and cultural values. Although their religion is secretive, they were open about teaching us the basics. Additionally, they were happy to answer any question we had.
While you are on a Holy Land tour, it is an amazing opportunity to meet Israeli Druze to learn about the fascinating Druze lifestyle.
Fact #1: Druze is a monotheistic religion and are often referred to as “People of Monotheism.”
Fact #2: Druze originated in Egypt at the end of the 10th century.
Fact #3: Druze is a blend of Islam, Hindu, and Greek philosophy.
Fact #4: In addition to not having Druze clergy, there are no ceremonies or rituals. This is because they believe ceremonies and rituals are distract one’s connection with God.
Fact #5: They do have a sacred text called Kitab Al Hikma (Epistles of Wisdom), which is only available to religious Druze.
Fact #6: Instead of following the Five Pillars of Islam, they: (1) Speak the truth, (2) Support their community, (3) Abandon the old creeds, (4) Purify from heresy, (5) Accept the unity of God, and (6) Submit to the will of God.
Fact #7: Like Muslims, Druze are forbidden from eating pork, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
Fact #8: Druze do not have nationalistic ideals and therefore, support the country they live in. However, they do have a flag and a five-pointed star symbol. Both contain five colors, each representing a limit which shows the difference between humans and animals.
Fact #9: There are religious Druze women and they are preferred over men because they are perceived as better “spiritually prepared.”
Fact #10: There is a population of over 100,000 Israeli Druze. Most Druze communities are in the North. There are also large populations of Druze living in Syria and Lebanon.
How many times have you attempted to search on the Internet for specific information and failed miserably, not wanting to trust a Yahoo answer from 2007?
If you are similar to me, your answer will range from “Often” to “[sigh] All the time.” While being in the Holy Land, however, I was introduced to different Facebook pages that are useful, safe spaces for me to ask my questions. The answers come within minutes and are relevant. It is also a place for me to learn something new by reading other people’s questions and answers.
These Facebook groups are regional and are called: “Secret Jerusalem”, “Secret Al Quds – East Jerusalem“, “Secret Tel Aviv”, “Secret Ramallah”, “Secret Bethlehem”, and “Secret Haifa”. Nearly all the posts are in English. These groups are also used for selling products and promoting upcoming events. There are additional groups on Facebook, however, the posts are frequently in Arabic or Hebrew.
These groups directly show the culture in this region, even amongst native English speakers. People openly connect with each other. When people have questions, they ask them. When people hear/see asked questions, they answer (although sometimes this happens without a question being asked!).
While talking with a friend who also lives here, she talked about how such pages “keep people from falling into tourist traps” and it helps people “find the trendy, hip places.” She admitted that on her free time she scrolls through these pages because it is both entertaining and beneficial.
For example, you can find posts like these:
And also posts like these:
This September, the city of Jerusalem, through its Jerusalem Season of Culture, will issue a clear and pure call to the peoples of the world to ascend to Jerusalem and celebrate with sounds of unity and compassion. Beginning September 9 through September 12 Jerusalem will host a musical journey that spans continents, definitions and faiths. Over 150 artists, 60 of which will be coming from overseas, will take part in the festival’s performances and offer audiences an experience of healing, spirituality, hope and some heavenly music
Due to the hostilities in the south, Jerusalem cancelled and postponed dozens of cultural events that were to be part of the Jerusalem Season of Culture’s annual slate of special events. However, with the renewed quiet, the city of Jerusalem is proud to announce that the Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival will take place as originally scheduled in collaboration with hundreds of leading artists from Israel and across the globe and the festival will begin on September 9 and is to span four days..
Performances will take place in unique and historical venues in Jerusalem including King Herod’s fortress – the Tower of David, situated just inside the Jaffa Gate, Zedekiah’s Cave, where the stones used to build Solomon’s Temple were quarried -just south of the Damascas Gate, and at the Music Center inside Mishkenot Shaanim. Performances will unfold under the night sky and are sure to off a multi-sensory and mesmerizing experience embracing all sacred traditions.
Whether you are visiting Jerusalem for the evening or on a Holy Land tour, pilgrimage tour to Israel, or any other Christian or cultural tour, make sure to join the festivities while staying in Jerusalem.
Participating artists include: The Klezmatics with Joshua Nelson (USA), Agama Naná Vasconcelos (Brazil), Naná Vasconcelos (Zimbabwe), Orchestre Chabab Al Andalous (Morocco), Ehud Banai, Piris Eliyahu and many more.
The schedule of events for the festival is as displayed below.
Please call 972-2-6535854, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit the Jerusalem Season of culture website.
There is a simple rule that goes when you are speaking to Israelis-1. Israelis think they are always right. 2. If they are wrong, refer to rule number one. These two golden rules are a given in Israeli society and its normal to hear two men arguing over whose mother makes a recipe better, even if the recipe originates from a few different places. So the next few blog posts are going to focus on the origins of various Israeli and Palestinian recipe and their origin(s). Try ‘em out and let me know what you think!
Today’s menu: Shakshuka
Shakshuka is a staple of the average Israeli diet, eaten either for breakfast or dinner. It consists of a tomato vegetable mixture and a sort of sunny side up on top of the mixture. Oftentimes shakshuka is served with bread as it’s a great dish to dunk a warm slice of bread in. There are two keys to this dish- the tomato mixture recipe and how the eggs are cooked (rare or well done).
In my family the tomato mixture is the deciding factor on whose shakshuka tastes better. I prefer a more mild mixture whereas my brother likes to add schug (a spicy Yemenite mix of fresh hot green peppers ) to his shakshuka.
The origins of the shakshuka dish are said to have founded in North Africa- Tunisia, Lybia, Morocco, and Algeria. The recipe was then brought to Israel by new immigrants. But others say that it was founded in the Ottoman Empire and the dish spread throughout the lands.
There are many different additions to this dish, depending on which country you are in. Some add sausages, others lamb, but in Israel the dish tends to be vegetarian, with additions of Bulgarian cheese, Mozzerella, swiss chard, eggplant or spinach. Those who are vegan can skip the egg part and stick to the sauce. One of the most famous places to eat Shakshuka is at Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa which opened its doors some 20 years ago. The restaurant which specializes in homecooked Tripolitan cuisine is run by Bino from Tripoli and for the last 20 has been an institution.
Here is my secret Shakshuka recipe:
6 tomatoes chopped
Two small onions
3 minced garlic cloves (optional more to taste)
Half a spicy green pepper (no seeds)
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
Salt, paprika, pepper, cumin- to taste
Bulgarian or Feta cheese
4/5 eggs- depending on how large your pan is!
Chop onions and sauté until golden on flame, add tomatoes- let simmer until soft. Add green pepper, and minced garlic. Sprinkle sugar in mixture. Add spices to taste. When mixture is ready, crack the eggs in different areas of the pan and cook to taste. Sprinkle Cheese on top! And, as they say in Israel, “Bitay Avon” – (aka bon appetit)!
An Israeli-Arab microbiologist and mother of three won the fourth season of Israel’s most popular reality TV show, “MasterChef.” Her winning dish – Sultan’s Spring.
Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, 32, is a mother of three and possesses a PhD in microbiology. She is the Israeli-Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, north of Netanya. While she plans to use her prize money to open an Arab-Jewish cooking school she ultimately would like to use her food to create common ground between Arab and Jewish Israelis and very much believes in the power of food to foster deep bonds between people.
Recipe: Sultan’s Spring
For the almond cream:
3/4 cup blanched almonds, halved
5 slices dry white bread
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Zest of one lemon
For the salad:
6 green almonds
Leaves of wild fennel
Hot green pepper, thinly sliced
One handful of green fresh chickpeas
Juice of half a lemon
A few small tomatoes, chopped
For the fish:
5 striped red mullets
Oil for deep frying
Soak the bread in water for about two minutes. Place almonds and garlic in a food processor and grind. Squeeze out the bread and add to the processor bowl.
Gradually add olive oil and lemon juice and process, then add the lemon zest, salt, pepper and seasonings, and set aside.
Cut the fennel bulb and green almonds into thin slices. Add the leaves of wild fennel, hot green pepper and thinly sliced and chopped pickled grape leaves. Season with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Clean the fish and debone, then salt with coarse salt. Season the inside of the fish with a little grated lemon zest and salt.
Flour the fish and pan-fry in plenty of oil.
To serve, spread the almond cream on a plate (like hummus). Top with the fennel salad, almonds and green chickpeas. Place the fish over the salad and top with chopped tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon zest and serve.