Grapevine September 18, 2020: Eyes on Jerusalem

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

CELEBRITY CHEFS and a burn victim collaborate in the cooking of a delicious meal. (photo credit: Courtesy)
CELEBRITY CHEFS and a burn victim collaborate in the cooking of a delicious meal.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With the elections for the Ginot Ha’ir Community Council coming up on November 17, members of the existing council thought it was high time to call a meeting. Strictly speaking, elections are supposed to take place every five years, but it’s been 10 years since the last one.  Representing the community council – a confederation of six neighborhoods – were executive director Shaike El Ami, veteran activist Avner Haramati and social worker Flor Bryner. Some 20 other people showed up at the 9 p.m. socially distanced outdoor meeting in Sokolov Park. A real problem in their vicinity, explained Arthur and Bernice Fogel, is the traffic change that will result from a hotel and two residential towers to be constructed on the corner of Ahad Haa’m and Keren Hayesod streets, plus light rail infrastructure planned for the area.
When the Fogels first came to live there some three decades ago, they loved the area for its calm, pastoral flavor, particularly on Shabbat when scores of young children play in the park. Until now, the area has been fairly safe for kids, but under the new traffic regulations that will follow the above-mentioned changes, the area surrounding the park will become dangerous, with hundreds of cars and tour buses traveling to and from the hotel. Aside from the noise and pollution, the Fogels are fearful for the children’s safety.
Haramati and El Ami explained that the community council does not make decisions but acts as a liaison with the municipality. They emphasized that every community should set its priorities and try to reach consensus before approaching either the community council or the municipality with their complaints or suggestions. The relationships between the community and the municipality should be one of partnership, said Haramati, but this can only happen through residents’ steady input.
Haramati and El Ami said it is easier to work with current Mayor Moshe Lion than it was with Nir Barkat, as Lion is more flexible and willing to listen to other options in the hope of meeting residents halfway to find a win-win situation. Haramati acknowledged the seriousness of the potential traffic problem, over which the municipality so far has refused to budge, but was optimistic this could change.
■ EVEN BEFORE lockdown, many Israelis were fond of watching TV cooking programs. There are competitions in which celebrity chefs judge the culinary talents of contestants from around the country, and there are shows in which celebrity chefs, sometimes with a celebrity guest on hand, show viewers the step-by-step preparations for turning a basic dish into something exotic.
One of the most popular shows of late is Anachnu al Hamapit (We Are on the Napkin – borrowed from basketballer Tal Brody, who as captain of Maccabi Tel Aviv, after winning the European Championship in 1977, memorably shouted, “Anachnu al hamapa!” – We are on the map!). The cooking show, which is also part travelogue, highlights the global impact of Israeli chefs and restaurant proprietors.
Barak Yehezkeli, a celebrity chef in his own right and owner of Tel Aviv’s famed Burek restaurant, travels to different countries and wheeling his small trolley case, enters a restaurant in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona, Milan or somewhere in the US, to be embraced by the Israeli owner who feeds him a variety of delicacies, allows him to explore the kitchen, takes him to the market and also hosts him as a house guest. The slim, personable Yehezkeli has a voracious appetite, but never seems to put on weight.
Sometimes he interviews other diners, both Israeli expats and non-Jewish locals, and asks them about the food. Generally, they rave about it. All over the world, people are obsessed with so-called Israeli cuisine – and it goes way beyond hummus and eggplant salad.
For the show’s third season, Yehezkeli’s travel plans were stymied by coronavirus. So instead he explored several Jerusalem eateries with veteran chef Ezra Kedem as his guide. This program offered Jerusalem viewers a glimpse of some restaurants they’ve never been to and in some cases didn’t know existed. In the process of touring the city, Yehezkeli also discovered some Jerusalem cooking secrets new to him. Sometimes the obvious is right under our noses, and we just don’t see it.