■ FORMER NEW Yorker Esther Klein, like many other Israelis of American background, couldn’t let Thanksgiving go by without a celebration. Her own apartment was too small to accommodate all the people she would have wanted to invite, so she suggested that those of her friends who were not going to any other Thanksgiving dinner or hosting one themselves get together at the Noya restaurant in midtown Jerusalem. The upshot was two large tables of friends who had such a good time in each other’s company that Rena Quint, who had come with her husband Rabbi Emanuel Quint, suggested that Thanksgiving should not be reserved for a single day of the year, because no matter how bad any situation got, there was something to be thankful for every day of the year. Friends should get together more often, just to give thanks, she said.



■ MOST OF the youngsters who come from abroad to celebrate their bar/bat mitzvas do so at the Western Wall or Masada. But some prefer the more intimate environment of a synagogue. This was the case last Saturday with Sammy Schoen, son of Beth and Joel Schoen of Los Angeles, who did a sterling job at Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue in Talbiyeh. The bar-mitzva boy, dressed in suit and tie, amazed the regular congregants by reading not only the week’s Torah portion, but also the Haftara, then carrying the large Torah scroll back to the ark after leading a parade around the men’s section of the congregation – and then leading the whole of the Musaf service.

In addition to his parents, his proud grandparents Anita and Lou Schoen and Evelyn and Sy Richman were on hand along with other relatives. They would have been proud of their boy under any circumstances, but were even more so after they heard the complimentary remarks of other congregants.

Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, in delivering the sermon, recalled that when he had attended a Young Israel service in LA, three quarters of the male congregants had disappeared at Musaf time. When he asked what had happened, he’d been told that the bar had been opened. So he understood that in LA there was a difference between “bar” and “mitzva” – but in the case of Sammy Schoen, bar mitzva still had a singular meaning.

■ ABU GHOSH is known to mainstream Israelis first and foremost for its excellent humous. In fact, last year, it won the Guinness World Record, beating Lebanon in preparing the world’s largest dish of humous.

Some of the members of the mainstream population also go to Abu Ghosh to buy furniture or to attend church concerts. Many residents of the adjacent haredi town of Telz Stone do much of their shopping there. Religiously observant Jerusalemites know that just before Passover each year, the chief rabbi sells the capital’s leavened food to a member of the village’s large and influential Jaber family. People with some knowledge of immediate pre-state history are aware that the residents of Abu Ghosh sheltered Stern Group broadcaster Geula Cohen from the British.

Although it is regarded as an Arab village, the roots of Abu Ghosh’s residents are actually Circassian. The founder of the village was a man called Ghosh. Mayor Salim Jaber is very proud that Abu Ghosh is a model of coexistence, with Muslims, Christians and Jews enjoying friendships, eating with each other and shopping in each other’s stores.

A new project soon to be established in the village is a cultural center devoted to the roots of the original settlers. This follows a recent visit by Jaber and other village dignitaries to Chechnya, where they met with various government ministers who were eager to strengthen ties with Abu Ghosh. One of the reasons for this is a shortage of males of marriageable age. Any male resident of Abu Ghosh who is willing to live in Chechnya and marry a local girl will receive a house from the government in return, free of charge. That’s quite an incentive, but it’s doubtful, despite the housing shortage in Abu Ghosh, that it will lead to any significant exodus.

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