Eurovision Shabbat dinner Dov Lasker, an active member of the Modern Orthodox community in Tel Aviv, prepared for visitors to the event.
(photo credit: OR MALKA)
What’s a Eurovision experience in the Holy Land without a Shabbat dinner? Two British tourists from Manchester, England will never know. When the women landed in Tel Aviv on Thursday, their first stop was to a Eurovision information booth in Jaffa, where they learned about must-do activities in Israel.
“The woman told us we had to sign up for a Shabbat dinner. We were worried we were too late,” Karen Summerville said.
But they weren’t too late. The two joined Dov Lasker – an active member of the Modern Orthodox community in Tel Aviv – who had already signed himself up to host. He’d seen the marketing for it posted by the municipality and decided to be a part of it. The website that the municipality worked with to bring people together is called “Eat With” – and it helps people who want to have authentic meals in new countries meet locals who want to accommodate.
Lasker said he received a tough vetting process by phone about why he wanted to host and if he had experience having people for dinner. Once he passed the test, organizers from “Eat With” started pounding out email notifications, reminding hosts to get in touch with guests, to share the cultural norms about Shabbat in advance and explain the best way to arrive without public transportation, which does not run on Shabbat in most of Israel. In addition, the city provided PDF’s of Friday night prayer booklets that guests could download in the event they didn’t have any.
“I’m excited about hosting people who may not otherwise know what a Shabbat dinner is or even have never experienced one,” Lasker said during the last hours leading up to Shabbat.
The meal had a mix of guests. Israelis who were born and raised in the country, Americans and Canadians who had made Aliyah and an English international businessman who returns to Tel Aviv between trips. Dinner was called for 9 p.m. and everyone arrived in accordance. Lasker’s meal left nothing to be desired. From soup to nuts, dinner was five courses and then some. Lasker set a designated wine-pourer for each end of the table and a couple of guests helped serve sweet potato soup after Kiddish and Hamotzei were conducted. Lasker explained the rituals of blessing the wine, washing, remaining quiet between cleansing hands and eating the traditional challa bread. Salads were passed around and guests explained the hummus, matboucha (spicy tomato salad) and smoked eggplant dips to Summerville and her friend.
“You’ll see these all over Israel at every restaurant,” Adina Katz, a guest and resident of Tel Aviv, explained.
Guests even had a choice of appetizer: rolled eggplant filled with minced beef and tehina drizzled over it, or a light salad with grilled chicken. The main course was buffet style: a brisket that had simmered for hours (which sat next to a bowl of au jus), seared salami slices, grilled vegetable antipasti, a zucchini bake and spaghetti with vegetables. As people began to finish off their plates, Lasker came around shaking up martinis and offering cool whisky to those who weren’t vodka and olive fans. Dessert included a fruit platter plus a chocolate cake with the Eurovision slogan penned across it. The purple frosting read “Dare to Dream” lettered out alongside a Star of David.
The night was filled with chatter, laughter, inquiries about the lives of the out-of-towners and explanations about Shabbat customs. Lasker had all the answers to the “whys” when it came to the purpose of lighting Shabbat candles, avoiding electricity or how an eruv works.
While many Eurovision-fans tour the world each year following the contest, Tel Aviv is only Summerville’s second Eurovision trip. She once visited Kiev, Ukraine for the contest.
“I had such fun that I persuaded Katy to go,” Summerville said of her friend and travel partner, Katy Leach.
The two said they actually expected Tel Aviv to be more built up than it was, and noted they intend on returning for a proper vacation in the future.
“We have so many restaurants we want to visit and so little time,” Summerville said during the meal.
The Jerusalem Post caught up with Summerville after Shabbat to find out what the experience was like. She described it as an “amazing experience” with fantastic food and even better company.
“It was a real insight to life in Israel and how groups of friends and families come together for Shabbat dinner. That is something we didn’t realize. It was also much more informal and friendly than we expected, and I was grateful everyone laughed off my faux pas during the ceremony,” Summerville reflected. “It’s not only a highlight of our trip, but something I will take away in life and try to find time to bring friends together around food on a more regular basis.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>