Why I Love Jerusalem…

OK, this is just one example of many of why I love Jerusalem, and why am so delighted to call this amazing city home.

We went out to dinner with friends this evening at Eucalyptus, a very interesting restaurant in Jerusalem where the chef, Moshe Basson (scroll down on the link) practices “food archeology,” and presents Biblical style foods using Biblical ingredients – and all of it fresh and kosher, and most of it local. The food was excellent – especially the figs stuffed with chicken (click here for the recipe) the “na’ha’foch,” upside-down chicken, and the braised lamb. The lentil soup was also very interesting, very fresh tasting, not a mushy mash of lentils as usual. The wine, a Castel, was excellent, although when we got the bill we realized we should have inquired about the price after the waiter’s elaborate description – it added 1/3 to the bill! Those of you who plan to visit us, if you’re buying we’ll take you there…if we’re buying, we’ll think about it! J

The restaurant was practically empty – tonight was Rosh Chodesh Av, the beginning of the month of Av, and it marks the beginning of the “9 days” a period when many observant Jews take on signs of mourning in advance of Tisha b’Av, the 9th of Av, the day we commemorate the destruction of the Temple (twice) and various other disasters to have befallen the Jewish people over the years. Many people abstain from meat and wine during the nine days. Which means if you don’t follow that custom, it’s a great time to go out to your favorite meat restaurants as you probably won’t have to wait for a table! Anyway, we don’t follow that custom of semi-mourning during this period; as my friend observed, the liturgy has not kept up with the fact of the existence of the State of Israel. If the state of Israel truly is “reishit tzimichat ge’u’latnu,” the beginning of the flowering of our redemption, as we say in the grace after meals, we need to act like it, and stop mourning so much. Similar to the sentiments I expressed in my earlier posting about NOT reciting tachanun (supplications) on my aliyah flight.

Anyway, my friend had heard about the chef Moshe, and wanted to meet him. Moshe came over to our table, and we had a long chat. He’s a very interesting guy—with perhaps a few contradictions. He lives in Maale Adumim, which technically is a “West Bank Settlement.” He sports a pigtail, engages in food archeology, and is active in “Chefs for Peace,” an organization which brings together Israeli and Palestinian chefs to cook for peace. His partner in the restaurant is a Palestinian who lives in East Jerusalem. Fascinating story, and I definitely want to learn more about Chefs for Peace. I’m already envisioning ways to get them to cater some Rabbis for Human Rights events!

As we were leaving the nearly empty restaurant, Moshe mentioned that Yitzchak Navon, the 5th President of the State of Israel, was at the table near the entrance, and Moshe bet he’d love to meet some new immigrants to Israel. “Sure, why not?” Lauri and I said, and the chef introduced us, and we had a lovely conversation with the former President, who presumably had just come for a late dinner following the inauguration ceremony of the latest, the 9th President of Israel, Shimon Peres. He seemed genuinely happy to meet some new olim—not the least put out by having his dinner interrupted by a couple of strangers. His companion (wife, I assume) mentioned she used to teach in the neighborhood we’re living in, we talked about how it used to be on the front lines, he complimented me on my Hebrew, etc., etc. Very sociable. I now wish I had read his bio before I met him – I would love to have talked to him about his involvement with The Abraham Fund.

As much as I like Toledo, I have to say I never had an evening quite like that!

And even though the wine ran up the tab for dinner making it a rather pricey night out, as my friend said, “we’ll remember the meal and the company long after we’ve forgotten the bill….”

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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