Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Flat Ainsleigh Project: Israel Edition, part I

I am so insanely jealous of Flat Ainsleigh right now, that I can hardly type. So I will just preface this chapter by saying that a former-stranger-turned-dear-friend found my blog, and specifically this project, and volunteered to host Ainsleigh, casually offering to show her around ISRAEL. *faints*

After I regained consciousness, we ironed out the details and before we knew it, Ainsleigh had packed envelope and was on her way. Over the past couple months I have been in contact with the gracious Kate who wanted to know if she should send Ainsleigh back, or hold on to her for their trip to Masada. Um, HOLD ON TO HER, was my whole-body response. When I was in college, we had an entire exhibit on loan from the University of Jerusalem on Masada. Fascinating!

Anyway, I'll stop talking, because Kate, her accommodating husband "Taxman" and her exquisitely attractive children Miss M and AM (I may or may not be biased due to a certain...trait?), can do that for me. This will be a multi-post report because the pictures need to be savored. (just don't drool all over your keyboard at the market posts. that would be gross. especially if you don't have tissues nearby. or a falafel stand.)(hover over pictures with a cursor for a description of said pic)

Dear Ainsleigh,

Welcome to Modi’in, Israel! We were so excited to see that you had arrived with the mail that we immediately set off for one of our favorite sunny afternoon activities, a wildflower walk. You’ve come to us in the Hebrew month of Adar, which is when spring slowly creeps back into our lives. The winter in Israel is the rainy season—did you know that between May and October it almost never rains? But now, at the end of the winter, the grass is green, and there are fields and hills full of wildflowers and blooming fruit trees.
We went to Titora Hill, which is a park not only with hiking trails and beautiful flowers, but also archeological remnants from the times of many different civilizations who spent time in this area of the world, including the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans. One unusual feature of Titora Hill is that there are many water holes, used thousands of years ago to store the winter’s rainwater for use during the hot, dry summer. But archeologists think that there were so many holes, more than the people who lived in this area would have needed, that they were used as a business—to sell water to Jewish pilgrims who were traveling to the Temple in Jerusalem, which is only 25 kilometers away.

One of the most special things about living in Israel is having a new, modern country (Israel became a state in 1948) side-by-side with artifacts from many centuries ago. Modi'in is one of the newest cities in Israel; the first buildings went up about 14 years ago. But as they were digging to build new neighborhoods, they discovered an ancient synagogue! Modi'in is also thought to be the hometown of the Maccabees, a small band of Jews who successfully fought the Greeks for the right to worship as they pleased. Their success is still celebrated today as the holiday of Chanukah.

But Chanukah is a winter holiday. While you were here with us, we celebrated the holiday of Purim! The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther. Esther, who was Jewish, became the Queen of Persia just in time to save her people from Haman, who got very angry at the Jews and wanted to kill them all! Esther very cleverly revealed Haman’s intentions to her husband, King Achashverosh, and the Jews were able to defend themselves. Traditions on Purim include dressing up in costume (Miss M went as a butterfly princess and AM was a tiger), giving gifts of money or food to poor people, sending gift baskets of food to one’s friends and neighbors, and listening to the story of Esther read from a special scroll called a megilla. When Haman's name is mentioned in the story, people say “boo” or shake a noisemaker called a "ra'ashan" (in Hebrew) or a "gragger" (in Yiddish) to drown out his villainous character!

At home we made delicious "oznei haman" ("Haman's ears"—in Yiddish they are called "hamantaschen" and are said to look like his tri-cornered hat), triangular filled cookies.

to be continued...

Upon seeing that last photo, I promptly began researching falafel recipes. Or falafel houses. What would be better - homemade or restaurant? Or just heading over to Kate's neighborhood? That would be one mighty expensive ball o chickpeas, is all I'm saying.


Christina said...

Okay first of all-so jealous!!!

Secondly mmmmm... falafels. I love them! I think even Garbanzo's (tell me you've been there!) has yummy ones. Dip them in a little bit of hummus then some cilantro sauce. Delish! My stepmom (egyptian) probably has a good recipe too.

laura said...


4daughters said...

Visiting from Kate's place :).

Your dd fits right in to the Israeli neighbourhood with her peasant skirt!

This is our favourite falafel recipe We double the cumin and the salt. Have fun, its really easy and yummy.