Israel Celebrates Ramadan Too

There are about one and a quarter million Muslims in Israel, and most of them will observe the holy month of Ramadan, which this year begins on the evening of the 29th of July (Islam follows a lunar calendar, in which the months gradually move around the months of the Gregorian calendar). The fasting begins at sun up and lasts until sundown, when the evening’s feast begins. Israeli and Palestinian Muslim cuisine are similar to the cuisines of neighboring Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and to a lesser extent, Egypt, although it has its own distinctive dishes and variations on regional delicacies. For example, the hummous tends to have a stronger lemon flavor instead of the heavy tehina flavor that you find in Egyptian hummous.

Traditionally, the fast is broken by eating a couple of dates, for a quick burst of energy, followed by a cold drink, such as tamarind, which is soaked in water the night before, then strained, sweetened and mixed with rose water and some lemon juice; or Qamar El-Deen, which is made by soaking apricot leather in hot water, mixing it in a food processor or blender, and chilling it before serving.

Soups are served after the long day of fasting, and these help provide the necessary liquids to rehydrate the body. The most popular soups are those made with lentils, vegetables, or freekeh, which is cracked green wheat. Various salads, such as baba ganoush, Arab salad, and hummous are also served at the beginning of the meal.

During Ramadan, unlike the other months of the year, meat is consumed in relatively large quantities. Festive Palestinian chicken dishes such as Musakhan and Makloubeh are served as a main course. Date, walnut and pistachio-filled biscuits, such as Makroud and Mamoul, are served to close the meal and washed down with sweet mint tea.

Partly because I live next to three of the largest Arab towns in Israel, and partly because I lived and studied with Arabs from various countries and like their cuisine, I decided to borrow some of the culinary experience of Ramadan and make a couple of typical dishes at home.

For a starter, I made an Iraqi lentil and meatball soup, which is almost a meal in itself, especially when Ramadan falls in midsummer.

Iraqi Lentil and Meatball Soup

Iraqi Lentil Soup With Meatballs

Serving Size: 6 to 8

2 medium onions, minced

500g (1 pound) ground beef or lamb or both

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup soft bread crumbs

1 teaspoon salt plus salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 cups homemade chicken broth

1 pound brown or yellow lentils

55g (about 2 ounces) angel hair pasta

2 carrots, finely diced

Juice of half a lemon

Preheat an oven to 200C (400F), and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place half of the onions and the ground meat, parsley, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and allspice in a medium-sized bowl. Mix the meat mixture thoroughly, and form into balls the size of walnuts. Place on the baking pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pick any stones from the lentils, place in bowl, cover with cold water, and drain.

In a large pot, sauté the remaining onions in olive oil over medium heat until golden. Add the chicken broth and bring to boil. Add the lentils and the carrots to the soup and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are almost tender.

Break the angel hair pasta into the soup and add the meatballs. Simmer slowly for another 5-10 minutes or until the lentils and noodles are cooked, adding more chicken broth or water as needed. Just before serving, squeeze some lemon juice into soup.

Mr BT and I wish all of our Muslim friends: Ramadan Kareem!

For more Ramadan recipe ideas, see:



Makroud (Date and Sesame Biscuits)




Tulip Winery: not just a business

Tulip Winery Sign

Tulip Winery, located in Kfar Tikva (Village of Hope), was established in 2003 by the Itzhaki family. The youngest son, Roy Itzhaki, established the Tulip Winery with a family investment. “I come from a family that works in construction and real estate, and we are wine freaks,” he says. “Seven years ago, we visited a wine exhibition at the Scottish House, and we saw someone sell 1,000 bottles he made at home. I started doing some research and found out that for 15,000 NIS, you can make two barrels of wine at home. Because it’s a messy process, I told my parents, ‘Let’s rent a place.'”

Kfar Tikva, which is close to the Itzhaki’s home, was already established as a long-term home for people with special needs, and had a small, experimental winery for its working residents. “The village had financial difficulties at the time, and they were trying to privatize a few of the occupational departments,” recalls Itzhaki. “I went to see it and they told me the winery was for sale. So I discussed with the family and we decided to buy it.”

Tulip Winery’s vineyards are located at Kfar Yuval and below Keren ben Zimra, in the North, where they grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes. They have also have vineyards in the Judean Hills near Jerusalem at Moshav Matta and Karmei Yosef where they grow Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes.

Tulip Winery Exterior

Tulip Winery employs Kfar Tikva residents in harvesting, bottling, and packaging the wine as well as welcoming guests in the visitors’ center. The winery also promotes joint activities with Kfar Tikva, including the sale of crafts made by the community members. During the holidays the winery offers holiday gift packages that include artworks created by the members, with revenues donated directly to Kfar Tikva and its members.

Michal Negrin Tulip Winery Bottles

Notwithstanding the emphasis on contributing to the community, Tulip Winery’s main goal is to produce top quality wine that not only tastes good but also looks good in the bottle: for example, one series had labels designed by the well-known Israeli jewellery and fashion designer Michal Negrin. Even the normal series pay serious attention to the aesthetics of their labels in order to catch the buyers’ eye, something that is now typical of Israeli boutique wineries.

Tulip Wines

The range of grapes that Tulip uses is a little more varied than most Israeli boutique wineries: only a few others, for example, have a Cabernet Franc, a grape that produces wines with a powerful and chunky taste that is difficult to balance. But what’s perhaps more unusual is that in a country where the climate and soil — and habit — make red wine far more popular than white (and where rosé is mainly very new), this winery has also developed what it calls White Tulip, a blend of Gewürtztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc that combines the fruitiness of both varieties without the natural sweetness of the Gewürtztraminer and so is suitable both as an aperitif and for drinking throughout a meal.

Tulip Winery Interior

The irony is that although Itzhaki calls himself and his family ‘wine freaks,’ their whole enthusiasm for wine started out of ignorance: his father was dining at a top restaurant in Paris, he told Israeli daily Haaretz in a profile article, and aroused the staff’s disdain by ordering beer. The result was that father Itzhak was given a swift education in drinking wine with gourmet food, and then passed on his newly-acquired knowledge to Roy and the rest of the family. But from the establishment of the winery in 2003, success didn’t take long to arrive: they already received silver medals at the Finger Lake competition in the USA for their 2004 Syrah Reserve and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; the 2005 vintages of the same wines were recommended by international guru Robert Parker in the Wine Spectator. Virtue, it appears, does get rewarded, at least when accompanied by skill.

Tulip Winery’s Visitors Center
Open every Friday 10:00-13:00 and every Saturday 11:00-16:00
Now Kosher (as of end of 2010)

Trains and Balkan Water Börek

I used to love to go to the train station in my hometown. My father would take us there every once in a while to see the trains and we would always try to get there early so he could put a penny on the rails and have the train run over them. As soon as the train was safely out of harm’s way, he would retrieve the misshapen pennies for us to take home as souvenirs of our adventure.

So when I found out that the Tel Aviv municipality had painstakingly renovated an Ottoman-era train station, now unoriginally called HaTahana (The Station) near Neve Tzedek, I couldn’t wait to go and see it. And I must say, they did a beautiful job with the restoration.

The train station was inaugurated in 1892 and was the first railway line in the Middle East. The rail line went from Jaffa to Jerusalem and the length of the journey took 3-1/2 to 4 hours. The line was eventually extended to Lod and Haifa, and in 1921 the train travelled to Al Qantarah El Sharqiyya, Egypt, approximately 160km (100 miles) from Cairo. The station was closed in 1948 and only reopened as an entertainment complex this year.

There are several restaurants and cafes to choose from to sit and have a leisurely coffee with your favorite someone, such as Cafe Tahana in the original railway building.

Or sit on the roof of Shushkashvilli Beer Bar and Tapas, which is in a beautiful old Arab house that stood in the neighborhood called Manshiya, built by the Turks in 1892 to house Egyptian laborers working on the new railroad.

The Wieland Villa, built in 1902, was owned by a German Templar named Hugo Wieland, who built his home and a factory building and agricultural materials next to the railway station with the intention of shipping the goods throughout what was then Palestine and around the Middle East. The family remained in the house until the 1930s when they left and eventually moved to Australia.

HaTahana also has some lovely boutiques and art galleries in the surrounding stone buildings that will appeal to all sorts of shoppers.

The train tracks are quiet now, but HaTahana is abustle with people enjoying the lovely cafes, restaurants, art exhibitions every Thursday evening, and the real reason Mr BT and I got up early to go there: the Orbanic market, which is the new organic farmers market, open only on Fridays.

After visiting the old Ottoman station, I was inspired to make a Water Börek, which is a cheese or meat bureka, made with boiled warka leaves. Instead of going to all the trouble of making my own warka, I bought Moroccan cigar wrappers at the supermarket. Since most of my readers in the US and Europe will not be able to find cigar wrappers so easily, you can use egg roll wrappers. You can serve this for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a light supper with a big salad.

Water Börek - Su Böregi

Serving Size: 6 to 8

1 pkg (500g or 1lb) Moroccan cigar wrappers (thawed) or large egg roll wrappers

100g butter, melted or 1/4 cup olive oil

250g (1/2lb) Bulgarian or Greek Feta

1 log of plain goat's cheese

1 egg

1 cup fresh parsley or 1/2 cup parsley and 1/2 cup dill, chopped

2 green onions, sliced thinly

Several grinds of black pepper

Butter a 22cm (9 inch) deep-dish pan.

Mash the feta and goat's cheese together until well combined. Add the egg, parsley, green onion and black pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

In a large pot of boiling water, place one cigar sheet or egg roll wrapper in the pot and cook for 1-2 minutes. Scoop out the sheet with a wire mesh skimmer and place in the pan. Don't worry if you can't straighten the sheets out, just try to smooth a few out so they will go up the sides of the pan. Repeat until you have one layer of the sheets.

Brush butter or olive oil on the sheets and cover with half of the cheese mixture. Place another layer of boiled cigar sheets, brush them with butter, and add the rest of the cheese mixture. Place a final layer of cigar sheets, fold over any sheets that are hanging off the side of the baking dish, and brush with butter. Bake for 1 hour or until lightly brown. Serve hot or a room temperature.

Freekeh Friday at Shuk Ramle

Two Fridays ago Mr BT and I went on a lovely nature walk near Uriah (from the sordid tale of King David, Uriah the Hittite and his wife Bathsheva) with Sarah from Foodbridge and Mimi from Israeli Kitchen. I learned that you can stuff cyclamen leaves just like grape leaves. I saw wild asparagus, zaatar, fennel, borage, a mastic bush, which is used to make chewing gum and is also used in ice cream, and navel wort, which Mimi uses as an ingredient in the amazing moisturizer that she makes. We did not pick any of these plants because most of them are protected by law, but it was fun learning about them. I can’t wait to go on another walk with them.

After the walk, Mr BT, Mimi, and I went to the town of Ramle (derived from the Arabic word Raml, meaning Sand), founded around 716AD.

A geographer, el-Muqadasi (“the Jerusalemite”), describes Ramla at the peak of its prosperity: “It is a fine city, and well built; its water is good and plentiful; it fruits are abundant. It combines manifold advantages, situated as it is in the midst of beautiful villages and lordly towns, near to holy places and pleasant hamlets. Commerce here is prosperous, and the markets excellent…The bread is of the best and the whitest. The lands are well favoured above all others, and the fruits are the most luscious. This capital stands among fruitful fields, walled towns and serviceable hospices…”

Ramle is no longer at the peak of its prosperity, and in fact is now one of the poorer cities in Israel, but it should be proud of its ancient architecture, such as the Pool of Arches, pictured above, which is an underground water cistern, currently under restoration. Also known as St. Helen’s Pool and Bīr al-Anezīya, it was built during the reign of the caliph Haroun al-Rashid in 789 AD (the early Islamic period) to provide Ramle with a steady supply of water.

The shuk is rich and vibrant showing off our beautiful produce and the multi-cultural diversity of the city.

The stalls are full of interesting vegetables and greens that grace local kitchens. The purplish root vegetables, on the left in the picture above, are purple carrots. When carrots were originally brought to Europe from Central Asia, they were in fact purple and yellow, not the bright orange color we know nowadays, which was developed in the Netherlands in the 17th century. The green-eyed Arab woman selling them, who must have been a great beauty when she was younger, was so happy that we knew what they were. She also sold beautiful fresh peas that I have not seen since I moved here. I bought some and we savored every morsel.

Mimi and Sarah had told me about the Bukharan baker who sold traditional Uzbeki flatbread. I had seen a travelogue a couple of years ago about Uzbekistan, which showed a local baker making flatbread stamped with beautiful geometric designs. Apparently, women used to bring their loaves to the local baker and put their own unique design on the bread so that he would know who to give them back to.

The baker in Ramle puts lovely floral and Star of David designs on his bread. We bought a couple of steaming hot ones to take home.

They also make lovely round challot.

Ever since Mr BT and I ate at Ezba in Kfar Rama, I have wanted to make a dish with freekeh and I had the great fortune to find some at a Halal butcher shop in Ramle. The shop was very nice and sold all sorts of interesting items to cook with. I thought about recreating the dish we had at Ezba, but I decided instead to stuff a chicken with freekeh. To offset the smokiness of the wheat, I added dried sour apricots that I soaked for 20 minutes in hot water and also added toasted pumpkin seeds for a little added crunch. The dish was delicious and the dried apricots really went well with the freekeh. I will definitely make this again. You could use cornish hens instead of a chicken for a more elegant meal.

I served the chicken with the purple carrots that I tucked in under the chicken. The roasted carrots were sweet and delicious with more carrot flavour that their orange cousins. I thought the carrots were going to be solid purple, but when I cut into them, a beautiful yellow and orange sunburst revealed itself.

Roasted Chicken stuffed with Freekeh

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 roasting chicken, 2kg (4lbs)

1-1/4 cups freekeh

1-1/2 cups finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup dried apricots, soaked in warm water

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Soak the freekeh in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes, skimming off any debris that floats to the surface. Change the water twice and drain well in a colander.

Cook the freekeh, uncovered, in a medium sized pot of salted boiling water, stirring and skimming occasionally, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes; drain well in a colander and transfer to a bowl.

While the freekeh is cooking, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onions, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent. Add the coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper. Cook stirring for a minute more and add the onion, dried apricots, and pumpkin seeds to the freekeh. Set aside until the mixture has cooled completely.

Stuff the chicken cavity with as much stuffing as you can and tie the legs together with string. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over the chicken. Place the remaining stuffing in the bottom of a small roasting pan and place the stuffed chicken on top. Brush the chicken with olive oil and bake 180C (350F) oven for 1 hour or until the chicken is completely cooked and is a nice golden brown.

Home Away from Home – Day Two

After the lovely experience in Shtula we had lovely dreams and awoke to birds singing in the little tree house in the North. The sun was shining and the view from the zimmer was the valley below.

The members of my family have a tradition of taking pictures of whatever view they happen to have from their hotel room. This was our spectacular view. The air was clean and fresh, with a wonderful atmosphere of peace, even though the rather unpeaceful Lebanese border was only a few hundred yards away.

Northern Israel always relaxes me and I feel like I can breathe when I am there. Don’t get me wrong, I live in a quiet little village, but I really feel like I have flown out of the country when I travel to the North. It is a different way of life up there.

The zimmer did not include breakfast, but they gave us a beautiful loaf of homemade bread, six eggs, two different kinds of homemade jam (mango and fig), butter, milk, fresh lemonade with fresh mint, a jug of water, coffee, and a selection of teas. They also had a beautiful pot of fresh sage to use for your morning omelet, to say nothing of lots of other fresh herbs growing right outside our cabin, such as za’atar, thyme and mint.

The zimmer is beautifully decorated . This lovely door leads to the loo: the inside view is even better.

There is a nice sitting area in the living room which contains a wood-burning fireplace and the kitchen nook. It was too warm to try out the fireplace, so we will have to find an excuse to come back in the winter.

They had several interesting items in corners of the living room and bedroom. One corner contained a cute lamp with a basket of various teas and another contained a slanted shelf with a covered bowl full of candy. In a nook near the jacuzzi there was a “genie” bottle filled with homemade ‘cherry sherry’ and two glasses. The sherry was delicious and was a perfect close after we got back from our Kurdish dinner.

After breakfast we headed to the ancient city of Tzfat, but about 4 kilometers from there we saw a sign for a winery in the village of Or HaGanuz. This spiritual-Kabbalistic settlement was founded in 1989. The name of the village means Hidden Light, and is derived from the kabbalah which refers to the original light described in the Bible that was the first act of creation (see Genesis 1:2). We had never heard of this winery, but we find it hard to pass up a chance to have a taste of wine. There are several signs that guide you directly to the winery and you can’t miss the large replica of an ancient amphora (an earthenware jug for oil or wine) at the front of the building.

We were greeted by a friendly face whose accent immediately gave away that he was a French speaker. It turned out he was originally from Tunisia, but his family is originally from Livorno, Italy. I joked that we could be related since I have some relatives who lived in Livorno. Giovanni Affricano, the winemaker of this winery, studied wine-making in France and Italy.  He originally worked in education and decided to move to the North after he became religious and fulfill his dream of making wine.

After the tour of the winery, Giovanni let us sample five different wines, Sahar (Cabernet Sauvignon Premium), Glilee (Merlot), Torr (Sangiovese Cabernet), Nadiv (Cabernet Sauvignon) and a sweet dessert wine. All of the wines have a Mehadrin kashrut certification. Different types of Mehadrin certification for wine and food basically means that they are checked even more carefully for any non-kosher contaminants. In the case of Mehadrin slaughterhouses, the animals are checked more carefully than in normal kosher slaughterhouses for blemishes, especially of the lungs, that could make them unfit.

As for our wine tasting, we very much liked the Torr and Nadiv and bought a bottle of each. We thought the Glilee had too much tannin and the dessert wine was little too sweet for our taste. We are going to wait six months to a year before we open the wines we bought.

Tzfat  is considered to be one of Judaism’s four holiest cities. It is known as the center of Jewish mysticism or kabbalah, not Madonna’s kabbalah, but the real thing, which is far from the commercialized version she adopted.

It is a poor city that is full of hippies, artists, followers of kabbalah (some who are sane and some who have lost their way), the deeply religious, and a smattering of secular people. It is a place which,  if I stay too long,  gives me an eerie feeling; a feeling of ancient ghosts who have yet to find their resting place. For others, it is a place of spiritual awakening.

We didn’t come to Tzfat this time to walk along its ancient streets, but rather to visit a museum that we just discovered in a guidebook; a museum that is near and dear to my husband, the Memorial Museum of Hungarian Speaking Jewry. I am constantly teasing Mr BT about how crazy the Hungarians are and I was afraid if I entered the museum that the crazy dust would begin to cover him and make him crazier than he already is ;-).

The museum, which is in a side building of the old Ottoman saraya, or police station, was established by two of the many Hungarian Jews who ended up in Tzfat after the Holocaust and is managed by Ron Lustig, their son. What is unusual about the Hungarian Jews is that the community has been there since the days of the Roman colony of Pannonia, centuries before the Magyars under Attila the Hun swept in from Central Asia. That made the Jews feel more Hungarian than the Hungarians, which resulted in their tremendous contribution to the country’s economic and cultural life from the mid-19th century until the Holocaust; but it also meant that they mistakenly didn’t feel threatened by the growth of Fascism from the 1920s and Admiral Horthy’s eventual alliance with Hitler. In fact, Horthy protected the Jews until 1944: even though they were forced into a ghetto, the Jews of Budapest continued a very active cultural life there, including theatre, a symphony orchestra and an opera house, in which my mother-in-law was one of the leading soloists. It was only after Horthy decided in early 1944 to switch sides because he foresaw Hitlers impending defeat that the Germans invaded the country and started deporting the Jews en masse,  both to labor camps and to Auschwitz.

The museum includes artifacts from 18th century Jewish life onwards up to the time of the Holocaust, most of them the gifts of Hungarian Jews living all over the world. The most touching of all is a braid of blond hair cut from the head of a young girl a few days before she and her mother were sent to Auschwitz to be murdered there. Ron told us and some other visitors that he received the braid, together with a few other keepsakes of the girl and her mother, from the father who had survived the Holocaust, with a letter saying “this is the whole of my life.” Ron wrote back to thank the donor, but received a reply from someone else saying that the donor had died only two days after sending the letter, perhaps knowing that he had only enough time left to leave his memories of his beloved wife and child to the museum.

Mr BT was happy to discover that the museum’s extensive computer system included an entry for his grandfather, who was a distinguished pedagogue in Hungary, and that the museum also had a copy of his semi-autobiographical novel The Five Books of Aaron. There was also a photograph from 1939 of a class at the Jewish high school in Budapest, in which Mr BT thinks he identified his grandmother, who was one of the teachers there.

After the very moving and sometimes tearful visit to the museum, we decided to have a light snack in the Druze village of Hurfeish before heading back to the zimmer to rest before heading out for dinner.

Hurfeish, pronounced Khurfeish, is situated in the heart of the Galilee just to the north of Mount Meron. The site is from the Byzantine era and the current village has existed for about 500 years. The origin of the town’s name is unknown, but it is assumed that it is derived from the family of Al-Khrafsha that settled there. It is a lovely village with a popular stand called Sambusak HaArazim. They take dough and roll it out in a thin circle, fill it with lamb or tuna, or labane and za’atar, fold it half and bake it in a large gas-fired oven. They are delicious and I highly recommend making a stop here. You may not be able to stop at one: I had to stop Mr BT from ordering another one. I was so hungry at that point, I forgot to take a picture of the stand and of the sambusak.

After a couple of hours of rest, we drove back to Hurfeish for dinner (this time taking the main road instead of the gravel track between the hills from the back of Hurfeish to Matat). We thought we were going to a Druze restaurant, but just like the previous night, we discovered that the restaurant was actually our host’s living room. This time our host was Nimr Nimr, a retired Druze teacher, who now works as a tour guide. Nimr Nimr, by the way, is Arabic for Leopard Leopard: names like this are quite common among the Druze, another one being Assad Assad, which means Lion Lion.

The Druze are ethnic Arabs who broke away from Islam to form their own religion at the beginning of the 11th century and are regarded by Muslims as heretics. They live mainly in Lebanon, Syria and Israel, although there are emigre communities in the United States and South America. In Israel, the Druze do national service in the Army, some rising to very high ranks.

Dinner was delicious, the usual combination of meze, salads, and grilled meat. But what was special was the hospitality, something for which the Druze are rightly famous. It wasn’t just the warm welcome that we received from Nimr and his wife Samiha, but the amazing tennis match of conversation that I thoroughly enjoyed watching between him and Mr BT, which ranged from Druze history to modern Middle Eastern politics to literature to Israel’s social problems. Although pretending to just be an ordinary man, Nimr is obviously educated way beyond the average for Israelis of any background or religion: he was quoting from Shai Agnon, the first Israeli to win a Nobel Prize (for literature), and in Aramaic from the Mishnah, and from time-to-time would jump up to pull a book from his very well stocked library to illustrate a point. I could have stayed on for hours just to gorge on the fresh figs and homemade maamoul filled with walnuts that Samiha brought to the table; Mr BT could have easily stayed on all night talking to Nimr. It is an evening I will never forget.

Cherry Heaven

I was so excited when I purchased my new computer because I new it would make blogging so much better. However, a few days after I hooked everything up, my monitor blew up, literally! I was sitting a my desk, reading my email and all of a sudden I heard a pop, the monitor turned black and a puff of smoke came out the top of it! So, I have been monitorless for a while. Now, I am up and running again and I have a few things to tell you about while I was monitorless.

Just picked Queen Anne cherries, Bulgarian cheese, sheep cheese, Gouda cheese

I went to a cherry picking festival at Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim with my husband and a colleague from Germany. We drove 45 minutes to the beautiful Judean Hills which always reminds me of the rugged terrain in Provence. The festival had booths with people selling kosher charcuterie, local wine and pottery. They also offered a free tractor ride around the kibbutz.

It was very hot, but there was a large crowd eager to pick big juicy red and Queen Anne cherries. We picked cherries, or rather my husband had a great time climbing trees picking the cherries, and my colleague and I had fun eating them! Don’t worry, we kept plenty to bring home with us. The Queen Anne cherries were tastier than the red ones. I was really impressed that my husband could still climb trees considering he hasn’t climbed one in over 40 years!

The trees were covered with netting so the birds couldn’t eat the cherries. This kibbutz packs and sells its cherries for the shuk (open market) and the local supermarkets. The cherries that were available for picking at the cherry festival were the last of the crop. They were juicy and sweet, especially the ones my husband picked from the top of the tree. Unlike the older trees that grew as nature intended, the new ones were espaliered, like apple trees, to make the fruit easier to pick.

We packed a nice picnic lunch consisting of:

Baby greens, dried apricots, cranberries and walnuts with a mustard vinaigrette
Stuffed grape leaves
Roasted eggplant slices
French bread
Bulgarian cheese
Sheep cheese
Smoked Gouda cheese
Olive oil potato crisps
Pomegranate iced tea
Just picked Queen Anne cherries
Dried fruits and nuts
Chocolate-hazelnut cookies

Other people at the festival came up to us and complimented us on our beautiful picnic. One woman even took a picture of it with her mobile phone. We though this was a rather ordinary picnic and had a laugh about it.

We had a very nice time and will definitely go back next year.

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