Grapevine: Veering toward vegetarianism

VEGETARIANS HAVE a tough time on Pessah, as most hostesses pride themselves on the variety of meat dishes they bring to the table. Vegans have an even worse time because on Seder night they can't even eat the traditional egg in salt water, let alone fish or meat. Last Sunday night Prof. Richard Schwartz, an active proponent of vegetarianism, met several like-minded people at the Vegetarian Community Center, which is located in a gracious old house in Jerusalem around the corner from the official residence of the Prime Minister, and discussed the connections between vegetarianism and Pessah themes of freedom, rebirth and redemption and Earth Day, which falls on April 22. Schwartz stressed the importance of sustainability and conservation, at a time when there are so many environmental, economic and other threats to Israel and all of humanity, and predicted a major national shift toward vegetarianism by 2012. In a country famous for its salads, it should not be all that hard to make Israelis more vegetarian conscious. PLAYWRIGHT, LYRICIST and translator Dan Almagor is also a musical historian, who often acts as screen and stage moderator of musical shows reflecting a particular ethnic group or a particular period in Israel's history or a combination of both. Although he is of Ashkenazi background, Almagor is extremely knowledgeable about Yemenites and has even written Yemenite songs for local Yemenite singers. He has also written a recently published book about the aliya from Yemen and the contribution of immigrants from Yemen to Israel's development. There have been at least three Israel Prize recipients from among the Yemenite community - Rabbi Yosef Kapach, Rabbanit Bracha Kapach and Shoshana Damari. Other famous Israelis of Yemenite origin include highly decorated military hero Avigdor Kahalani, Labor Party Secretary General Eitan Cabel, Lehi broadcaster, journalist and politician Geula Cohen and singers Yizhar Cohen and Gali Atari, who each won a Eurovision contest. However, on Saturday, April 18, when Almagor makes his way from his home in Tel Aviv to the Jerusalem Theater, there will be very little of a Yemenite nature. He will moderate an evening of Israeli music that was largely created and initially became popular during the Fourth Aliya from the end of the 1920s to the early 1930s, a period that was marked largely by the arrival of immigrants from Poland. His own father was one such immigrant. From a historical perspective, the affable Almagor will talk about the 1929 riots, the large-scale unemployment, the earthquake and Israel's first cabarets. The musical program will include songs made famous by Bracha Tzfira, Emmanuel Harousi, Nahum Nardi, Yoel Angel, Moshe Wilensky and others. IF YOU'RE wondering why you're hearing so much of Leonard Cohen on the radio, it's because the 75-year-old Canadian-born poet, novelist and songwriter who has become an international icon will come to Israel for a one-time-only performance in Tel Aviv on September 24. Cohen was due to come last year but backed out, and his agents have since been conducting talks with several Tel Aviv impresarios. NIR'S LOSS is Bibi's gain. A new broom does not always sweep clean. New heads of administrations are generally inclined to bring in their own people, and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat was no exception, although there were certainly some people who had worked for his predecessor Uri Lupolianski that he was interested in keeping on board. Among them was spokesman Gil Sheffer. However, Sheffer received an offer he couldn't refuse - to work in the Prime Minister's Office, and Barkat reluctantly accepted his resignation. Before coming to Jerusalem's City Hall five years ago, Sheffer was spokesman for the Ramle-Lod Development Company, prior to which he was a spokesman for the National Religious Party. JERUSALEM'S HORA dance troupes, which often go abroad on goodwill tours for Israel, now have a wonderful new facility in which to practice and perform thanks to the generosity of David Efron from Miami, who dedicated the Efron Dance Center during his current visit to his friends Sheila and Zvi Raviv, with whom he spends Seder night each year. The dance center is named in memory of Efron's parents. Zvi Raviv is a former director general of the New Jerusalem Foundation. TOURISM MINISTER Stas Meseznikov is urging Israelis to forgo vacations abroad and to consider having their holidays anywhere in the country so as to provide jobs in the tourist and hospitality industry through increased domestic tourism. There are enough people who are still sufficiently affluent to be able to afford family vacations in a hotel, he argues; and if they are sufficiently patriotic to do so in Israel, it will help to reduce unemployment and will give a boost to the economy. WALKING THROUGH the market place in Jerusalem's Old City on their way to the Western Wall, Rabbi Avigdor Burstein and his wife Dina came across a store that sells T-shirts with a choice of slogans on the front and back. The one that caught their eye was "Don't worry, America. Israel is behind you." Burstein related the story to congregants of the Hazvi Yisrael Congregation while giving a sermon on the meaning of freedom. There can be no freedom, he said, while there is ongoing carnage on the roads, domestic violence and mass unemployment. But for Jews, the true test of freedom, he emphasized, was the ability to put aside time to study Torah. These days, people are so busy that many observant Jews simply cannot find the time for study. As an exception to this generalization, he cited newly installed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who followed his own example when he was previously justice minister 13 years ago, by introducing a Daf Yomi for himself and members of his staff as a start to the working day. JERUSALEM VISITORS to Chicago and New York can get an extra taste of home. Several Israeli food products are already available in these and other American cities, but now there's a product that appeals to many American Jews, and its major outlet in Israel is in the Mahaneh Yehuda market. Rugelach under the Marzipan label produced with other pastries by the Ozarko family in their bakery premises in Atarot were originally intended for sale in Starbucks coffee shops, but the deal fell through because the Ozarkos were not equipped to supply the quantities that Starbucks needed. Undeterred but fired by the idea of selling his family's products in the US, Itzik Ozarko made a deal for a smaller volume of supplies with outlets in Chicago and is now branching out to include New York, with first deliveries already on the way. The Marzipan store in Mahaneh Yehuda has been well patronized by American yeshiva and seminary students spending a study period in Israel, as well as other Americans who come to the capital.