Jewish restaurant 521.
(photo credit: Reuters)
I’m fascinated by nuances of Jewish life while traveling, and so it was on a
recent speaking tour to the western US. Because my husband and I eat only kosher
food, the ubiquity of certified products in American supermarket chains, even in
states where years ago kosher symbols were once scarce, makes paper-bag dining
easier than ever.
And while it’s true that the cockpit was locked down
this week by the frightened crew on Alaska Air unfamiliar with tefillin (I did
say my morning prayers on one Alaska Air flight, but more circumspectly, and my
husband made sure to put on tefillin on the ground), Jet Blue Airlines offers
one of its five purchasable “hand-selected boxed meals” marked “kosher” with the
appropriate kosher symbol printed by each ingredient.
kosher sun-dried tomato humous turned out to be made in Jordan.
“zesty snack mix” made by a company called “Sheffa, The Best Earth Can Offer,”
was packaged with a legend explaining sheffa as “an ancient word for abundance”
as well as the sublime energy that moves through all creation. Sheffa is indeed
an ancient word, a Hebrew ancient word.
Wherever possible, kind hosts
insisted on upgrading our picnic-style eating and taking us out to eat. More
than places to eat, contemporary Jewish eateries abroad have become outposts of
Israeli culture, often in both menu and style. The lingua franca is Hebrew and
you’re apt to meet someone you know. The waitress in Agoura Hills, California,
turns out to live on a familiar moshav near Ashkelon. In Seattle, at a home for
retirees which features a kosher café, the large circle of talented knitters are
fashioning warm caps for IDF soldiers on the icy Hermon. In Dallas, the menu
offers pargiot. Others feature Israeli pizza and the eggplant-egg-humous combo
we call sabbich. A taste of home.
IN HOUSTON, Texas I find myself
speaking for Hadassah in a new kosher restaurant, actually called Aroma
Classique, and featuring Israeli sandwiches like halloumi cheese and fried egg
and matbucha. Compulsory entry to the event is wearing the slender golden key
necklace that marks the 2012 organization centennial and dedication of the new
Hadassah Hospital Tower back in my hometown. But when I sit down after lunch
with Michal Ravid, the owner, for cappuccino, the sense of familiarity becomes
Ravid is from Jerusalem, too, and she is a terror
No, she’s not related to Efrat Ravid, the waitress blown up in
the Moment Café on March 9, 2002. Her terror attack in Kikar Zion happened a
long time ago, she begins.
I assure her that I remember the day
July 4, 1975. Ravid was a schoolgirl with dark hair to her waist.
She lived in the German Colony, and took the 18 bus downtown on the Friday
morning. Summer vacation had just begun. She was playing a lot of basketball and
reading, and she was determined to change her book at the school library before
Shabbat. She was a student in laboratory science at the popular Seligsberg
School, then located on Rehov Hanevi’im.
She got off the bus at Kikar
She heard the boom and then lost consciousness.
Jabara, a Palestinian also known as Abu Sukar, had packed a refrigerator with
five kilograms of explosives and placed it at the entrance of the Ron Hotel.
While Esther Landner was reporting the abandoned appliance to the police, it
blew up. Fourteen people were killed, 77 wounded.
Among them was Ravid,
She remembers fading in and out of consciousness, the doctors
telling her parents that she would be okay, having her long hair shaved for
brain surgery, telling the doctor that she didn’t mind losing the hair, that she
wanted to live.
“Your life changes forever,” she said. No more
basketball, no more class trips, no military service. “Your parents are always
watching you, worried about you. You’re no longer focused on school. Hospitals
become part of your life.”
Indeed, many head operations
She was allowed to do National Service. She grew up to become
producer of a TV health program, a mother of two. In the restaurant she pushes
aside bangs now streaked with gray to show the golf-ball sized bump on her
forehead. “I have a metal plate in my head,” she says. “Any change in weather
still makes me miserable.”
She and her second husband, for whom she moved
to America half a dozen years ago, left Michigan because of the weather. She
opened the restaurant which features Tunisian fish in addition to the sandwiches
because she was so nostalgic for the taste of home.
I remember well the
morning of July 4, 1975. I was newly married and my husband had gone to Kikar
Zion to buy me earrings as a surprise for our first Shabbat. We had even
considered splurging and staying at the modest Ron Hotel, but changed our minds.
I heard the blast and the sirens. In those days before cellphones we didn’t even
have a land line. It was the first of so many long waits to find out if your
loved ones are okay that mark our lives in Israel.
I remembered, also,
that among those killed in Kikar Zion were a couple, Rivka Soifer Ben-Yitzhak
and Michael Ben-Yitzhak, parents of two small children. Reports of them growing
up appeared in this paper, and each year the Israel Museum presents an award in
the Ben-Yitzhaks’ memory to illustrators of children’s books. Rivka’s parents,
whose name is the same as mine in Hebrew, stepped in to bring up the orphaned
children, as will the grandparents of the surviving Fogel children in
We returned home to news of the appalling massacre. Terrorist
Jabara was apprehended and imprisoned. But in 2003, he was pardoned as a gesture
to Yasser Arafat before the Aqaba Summit to endorse the road map. At that
meeting Mahmoud Abbas denounced terror against “Israelis wherever they may
Jabara returned home to a hero’s welcome.
Among his first
acts was a public speech endorsing terrorism. He was reported released because
he was the “oldest terrorist in Israel’s prisons.”
He was only 67, the
age of grandparents young enough to bring up orphans.The writer lives in
Jerusalem and focuses on the wondrous stories of modern Israel. She serves as
the Israel director of public relations for Hadassah, the Women's Zionist
Organization of America.
The views in her columns are her own.