Saturday, November 18, 2017

Chodesh Kislev Tov! Gd Willing a Rainy One

We've had such dry weather of late. It's very worrying. Rain here in the Holy Land depends on how satisfied Gd is with our behavior. So, let's start Kislev well with Women's Prayers at Shiloh Hakeduma, Tel Shiloh, 8:30, Sunday Morning, the 1st of Kislev, November 19, 2017.

תפילת נשים ראש חודש כסלו
בשילה הקדומה, תל שילה
יום א' 19-11-2017
א' כסלו, תשע"ח 8:30
הלל ומוסף לראש חודש
יהיה דבר תורה קצר וסיור בתל
כדאי לבוא ולהזמין חברות, משפחה ושכנות

Our custom is to pray individually  but sing the Hallel together out loud. We also tour a bit checking what's new in the archeological finds. Email me for more information, Shiloh Hakeduma is an official archeological site open six days a week. For information about the site or arrange arrange special tours or other events, please contact them directly

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pishers' Guide to Jerusalem #25, New Park, New Loo

This is a continuation in my ongoing series about public toilets in Jerusalem. See  #24,  #23#22#21,#20#19#18#17#16,  #15a#15,  #14#13#12#11#10#9,  #8#7,  #6,  #5, Saved by The First Station aka #4a#4#3#2 and #1

I finally got a walk in during my long break between classes in Matan. The Jerusalem Branch of Matan is 30 Rashbag Street, which is near one of the entrances to the extended "train tracks park" in Jerusalem. You can get to the park through a parking lot.

It's a lovely park with all sorts of playgrounds and benches. Considering the parking lot, you can drive over just to enjoy or take the #18 bus and walk through an older park to get to it. It's also a short walk from a lot of other buses, such as the 77, 14, 15 and maybe more.

I was happy to see that the Jerusalem Municipality has equipped it with a nice public toilet.

At 11am, it was clean and fully stocked. I don't know how often it's checked. My experiences with municipal WCs has been very mixed, if not worse. But they do provide a phone number for complaints. It's in the fine print of the sign.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Great Evening in Israel Museum

The other night I took advantage of the free programs in the Israel Museum. There are always gallery tours in Hebrew and English, and sometimes there are free performances. I was happy to get to parts of the Museum I rarely see.

I highly recommend that you use the earphones, so you can listen to the explanations.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dawn, My Favorite Time of The Day

Most of my life I've lived in a home facing east. Our house in Great Neck backed East Shore Road, and I could see the dawn light through the trees.

In Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem, our bedroom was also to the east, and I'd look at the dawn while nursing our firstborn.

Here in Shiloh I looked for a piece of land that faces east, on the eastern side of the neighborhood to build our house. And we've been in this house for over thirty years.

So, if you all those periods of time, when the dawn could easily be seen, I've certainly lived much more than half my life influenced by the morning sun. It's no surprise that I'm a morning person. Or did I choose these locations for that very reason. What do you think?


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sometimes Margarine is Best

Last week I did an experiment when baking my TNT tried and true 1, 2, 3 Cookies. I baked them at my daughter's, and she had coconut oil, which is considered healthier than margarine. So, that's what I used.

First of all, since the coconut oil was in a glass jar and not in pre-measured/weighed blocks like margarine, I had two difficult challenges.

  • getting the coconut oil out of the jar
  • weighing the coconut oil
My daughter set up the scale with the mixing bowl at zero, and I struggled to remove the coconut oil from the jar. Eventually I managed to put enough coconut oil in the mixing bowl. I'd say that it easily quadrupled, or much more, the entire preparation time for making these simple cookies. That's besides the greasy mess it made.

Then I quickly added the two other ingredients, sugar and flour. Since we had decided to make granola cookies, I substituted oats for some of the flour. 

Even though the coconut oil was much softer than unmelted margarine, it couldn't be mixed with a spoon or two. So, first my granddaughter and then my daughter kneaded the mixture by hand. It was so awfully greasy that I kept on adding more flour and sugar, besides the cinnamon for flavor. 

I placed the mush in baking pans and put them in the oven, medium heat. I could see them baking and bubbling, but no matter how long, there was no "browning." At one point, when they seemed to have baked enough, I took out the trays and cut the cookies. Then I replaced them in the oven and turned it off. That's where I left the cookies and went home. 

My daughter reported that even when cooled the oiliness remained, and they didn't properly harden. 

There is a version of these cookies with oil and egg, but since we were making them for a vegan, we couldn't use eggs. 

Since the cookies aren't daily fare by us, baking them with margarine is perfectly fine and safe. Forget the coconut oil. It's just not worth the extra time and effort. And the cookies don't come out well either.

Basic 1, 2, 3  cookie recipe:
  • Any weight measurement is fine as long as you're consistent. 
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 200 grams margarine melted
  • 300 grams flour
  • either cinnamon, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, seeds, chopped nuts etc
  • measure and mix
  • pat down 1 centimeter or a third of an inch on baking paper in pan
  • bake in medium oven until it starts to brown
  • remove to cut into squares or diamond shape
  • return to oven and turn it off
  • When it gets a bit browner, not burnt, take out to cool. 
  • Once cooled, the cookies will harden.
  • If they are still soft, then return to hot oven for a few minutes of bubbling.

Monday, November 13, 2017

"Playback" Celebrating 40 Years in Shiloh

This past Motzei Shabbat, Saturday night, we, the renew-returned Jewish community in Shiloh had another forty years celebration.

I miss the early days when all of our parties, events were totally homemade, and not just the food. If I'm not mistaken, there wasn't even a "sound-system." There would be a turnout of 90+%, and the patrolling security guards, neighbors taking turns, would also be listening for crying babies. Everything was arranged and performed by volunteers.

The artist and art teacher, Gretta, telling
her story to the newcomers.
Today is a different world. Not only are the guards and coordinators salaried, but professional entertainers are brought in. One popular performance medium is what's called "playback." It's a form of improvisation based on the reminiscences/stories told by others. The actors then "perform" it with a bit of exaggerations and their own interpretations.

At events, such as the one we had on Saturday night, the actors look for what they see as the humor in these stories. Sometimes when the narrative isn't clear to them, they'll ask the storyteller a few questions. What interested me was the reactions of the actors, who are a generation younger than those who established yishuvim, communities like Shiloh. They just couldn't get into the skin/mind of the first story told, which was by someone who was an active participant in that pioneering time. And the storyteller, who so embodies those early days, didn't really understand what they were asking.

The actors did a better job with some of the other stories, but I ended up leaving the event rather depressed. It's so clear that fifty years after the 1967 Six Days War, the profound significance of our miraculous victory is still lost on most Jews, including those living in the State of Israel.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cats have an Easy Life

It seems like the local cats are always on vacation. What do you think?

These cats posed with the confidence of someone who cruises first class through life.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Surprisingly Easy Stuffed Peppers

Thursday my husband bought a lot of peppers in the shuq, more than we normally use in a week or even more. The price was good, as was the quality. And even better, it solved the problem of how I would cook the chopped meat I had thawed for Shabbat. That's right. I made Stuffed Peppers.

My version of Stuffed Peppers is very healthy, low carbohydrate and extremely easy to prepare. I start off by making my own tomato sauce. If that's a bit daunting for you, then use whatever ready-made tomato sauce you like. Just dilute it a bit, or things may burn.

Easy Tomato Sauce
  • package of chopped tomatoes 500gm
  • large cut onion
  • fresh garlic
  • peppercorns
  • oil for sauteing
  • a bit of water to swish in carton to get out all of the tomato 
First saute the onion and garlic in oil until it begins to get shiny. Then add the chopped tomatoes, water and peppercorns. Cover and cook on a low heat. While the sauce is cooking you start on the meat and pepper.

Stuffed Peppers
  • 600 gram chopped meat/poultry or combination
  • diced onion
  • a couple of eggs
  • optional any herbs you like, garlic etc
  • 4-6 peppers, depending on size

Cut off the tops of the peppers. You can use the edible parts of the top in the sauce. Just add the pieces. Clean out the seeds from the peppers. Mix the chopped meat with the onion, eggs and spices. 

Spoon the mixture into the peppers. Place them carefully into the pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes. Yes, it's that simple.

My recipe is different from most people's. I don't add rice to the meat, nor do I add breadcrumbs or matzah meal. You really don't need to, unless you want more carbohydrate and less protein. I don't add salt, either.

Give this recipe a try. I hope you like it. You can add more greens for flavor, such as parsley and celery. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Friday, November 10, 2017

An Advantage of a Poor Memory

To be honest, I haven't had a great memory for decades. I don't think it was all that bad when  was young, very young. But in more recent decades I trust my sense of logic and observation to help me get things done. That's especially true when it comes to using modern appliances and equipment, like the smartphone and computer.

I discovered quite a while ago that the instructions are usually on the screen, and most versions are based on the same sort of logic.

Way back when... I'd never touch a new appliance, whether a blender or oven without reading the instruction book cover to cover. And I even read the entire Dr. Spock baby/child healthcare book from beginning to end when pregnant with my first. The instructions and warnings I carefully memorized have cluttered my brain long after the appliances ceased to function.

In recent years, not only did I find the booklets' written instructions more complicated than the "menus" on the screen, but there's no way I can remember them all. A number of years ago during the days of "word processors," I helped out in an office, and the secretary begged me to take over the computer, since the program wasn't the same as most of us had at home. In all honesty, I couldn't see any real difference.

When I visit the states, people generously offer to let me use their home computers, which are inevitably completely different from mine, apple vs a simple pc. Within a few minutes I adjust. And recently, I've helped lots of friends to function on their computers and smartphones. None of them have the brands and models I own. I just work slowly and look carefully at the screen. So many things are basically the same, even iphones and android models.

I hardly notice when the computer or phone does an automatic update. Just read, and you'll find what you need. It's not all that hard. Don't forget the "undo," Ctrl/Z. It's a lifesaver...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

When You Need Some Catered Food...

When I have guests at home I cook, but the other evening we ended up having a family event in Jerusalem for which we couldn't cook. The logistics and ambiance in a restaurant also wasn't a good idea. So I decided to contact Coney Island Bakery, 0526684005.

Even though Coney Island Bakery had closed that great little place they had on Jaffa Street, in the center of Jerusalem, that they are still in business. Now they just do catering. Coney Island Bakery has multiple kitchens, five separate ones:
  • dairy
  • meat
  • vegan/vegetarian
  • gluten free
  • bakery for every taste
Coney Island Bakery does everything, from small orders to large weddings. We ordered a few quiches, of which one was vegan, plus a few salads and desserts. Here are the pictures:


Everyone enjoyed themselves eating the tasty foods. There was a really nice selection, and the food was custom-cooked.  Prices depend on what you order, or if you have a strict budget, they will do their best to come up with an affordable menu. They also delivered, which was very helpful. Coney Island Bakery aims to please. They care about their customers. We plan on ordering from them, again.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Keeping Warm, Fabric Makes a Difference

Even when I was a kid, mid twentieth century in the USA, they practiced a form of "climate control" indoors. We were never cold in the winter when inside, and by the time I was in my teens the house was cool in the summer.

Here we have to try non-electric methods whenever we can. I've discovered that my bed is much warmer in the winter with cotton jersey sheets, which are also comfortable in the summer, and flannel blanket covers.

I find that it makes a real difference in how I feel, especially when I first get into bed. There isn't that cool shock to the system, which I get from woven fabrics.

For most of my life, including quite a long time here in Israel, I just had woven bedding. Then I just had it for summer and used flannel in the winter.

Now I use the 100% jersey sheets all year long and flannel blanket cover in the winter. This is actually my last one. I'm going to have to start searching for more. So far, I haven't found any jersey ones.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

EFL Teaching in Israel, Sigh...

Tzivia, Adventures in AliyahLand, recently posted about her opinions of the "English" her kids are "learning" here in Israel, Unseens: How NOT TO learn English in Israel. Sigh...

It's hard for me to get started on the topic without getting lots of people upset and angry. As you probably know, not only have my own children gone through the system, sometimes as the only home grown English speaker in the class, but I've also spent more than a decade as a teacher and am still called on to help.  I've even opened up an official "small business" to tutor, though I still must get receipts printed.

First of all, an "unseen" is the term used for a Reading Comprehension. It can be as simple as a sign or invitation or as long and complex as a multipage article or essay. The emphasis on answering questions about a text is because a very large grade percentage of the Bagrut, Israeli Matriculation/College Boards/Regents whatever you think of as a national "final exam," is made of unseens. And, unfortunately, instead of concentrating on teaching Israeli children ENGLISH, the powers that be want high/passing test grades, so they teach for the test.

In all honesty, I was horrified to discover that even in the good schools, it can take more than one year to learn how to read English. The Education Ministry has been trying to give the impression that the students are learning more English by starting it earlier, but all they have done has been to divide the few hours allocated to elementary schools into more years. So, just like if you take a teaspoon of cream and divide it among four cups of coffee, the coffee will still be very black, giving the kids one or two hours a week of English from the 3rd grade won't teach them more than if they learned four or five weekly hours from the 5th or 6th grade. And for effective teaching/remembering these hours must be daily, not in two double lessons a week.

For decades it has been proven that the most effective way to teach a foreign language is to first speak, sing and play in it, even ulpan style. Yes, the classic ulpan, which emphasized functional spoken Hebrew and then reading and writing, was extremely successful. A half a century ago, my sister was in an experimental program which gave the students oral French before they began reading and writing the language. That produced students fully fluent and comfortable in French.

Another problem in the Israeli system is that, especially in the smaller schools, all of the elementary school students learn English together, whether they know the language from home, don't even hear it on the TV, are gifted learners or have problems even reading their native Hebrew.

That is why I would never teach classes younger than high school.

Parents must be proactive and take the initiative. Don't trust the school to know what's best. Get together with other parents to make groups, even if it cost money. Pressure the school to start English later with more hours per week.

Even more important is to make sure that your kids have good Hebrew language skills, grammar, literature, composition-writing etc. That is something that Israeli EFL teachers must lobby for, but that's for another blog post.

I had to teach these very basic elementary words to my high school students last year.