Living in Israel - It is Just Beautiful

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jamie cinametque

The place and the people here are just beautiful

I had one of the most special experiences the other day.  Now that I live in Israel you may expect me to talk about things like…

My day of business meetings, in Jerusalem… did you hear that?  Jerusalem.

The day began with the incredible Chef Yochanan Lambiase and a tour of his Jewish Culinary Institute, JCI, the only Mehadrin cooking program in the world.

cooking school in israel

This is a pict I snapped with my phone of the girls program, in session.  They were in the midst of a cookie class while the boys program next door worked on knife skills.  My heart filled with such pride as I saw these young, eager, hopeful culinary students in the heart of Jerusalem learn the art of cooking from a master chef with unparalleled vision.  The entire JCI is the brainchild of Lambiase.  After a 4 month course Chef Lambiase will place the students in intensive 1-month on site internships around the world.  I MUST do an entire feature on JCI sometime in the coming months.  But in the meantime to enroll for the next semester or support this incredible place please visit JCICHEF.

Or maybe you expect me to write about the tears that formed in the corners of my eyes as I walked to my next meeting with the Executive Director of the Jerusalem Cinematheque.  The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival held at the cinematheque hosted a special screening of Joy of Aliyah in its entirety followed by a panel discussion entitled Aliyah... A Recipe For Success.

It was an incredible event.

jamie cinametque

We lunched at a lovely cafe in Begin Center and enjoyed this gorgeous view.

jamie view 1

As I walked to hail a cab for my next meeting I realized I was right next to the famous windmill I had always seen from afar but never close up.  So I took a one minute detour and walked through a small park toward the windmill with a woman who called out to me on the street.  She recognized me and turns out she is a good friend and neighbor of my step-mother-in-law.  So we strolled together.  I could feel the uneven ridges of the Jerusalem stone under my feet and thought, this is it, this is where I am meant to be and that’s when the tears formed.

I snapped a picture and hailed a cab to my next meeting. Before running home to my son's Gan Chanukah play, entirely in Hebrew, at which I choked back tears as well.

windmill pic jamie

But I actually blogged today to tell you about a special person, no make that two special people I had the pleasure of spending time with this past week -- famous French-Israeli cookbook author, food blogger and columnist for the Hebrew version of Mishpacha Magazine, Maryline Ayalon and her friend Rivka.

Maryline contacted me to do a story about me for her gorgeous blog.  Which you must check out even if you don't know Hebrew.  Her photographs will inspire you and you can also purchase her book A Week In Marlyine's Kitchen, also in Hebrew (boohoo, for those of us that can't hang) there.

When Maryline reached out to me I thought, sure, fine, sweet, nice, I’ll meet her and really thought nothing more of it.  Well she showed up on a bright warm December morning with her friend Rivka who came in the capacity of translator.  In the end my Hebrew and Maryline's English were good enough that we got by without Rivka's assistance so she quickly morphed into social caller and sous chef and we chit chatted, the three of us, like old girlfriends.

Maryline didn’t show up empty handed but rather with both hands bearing gifts (I guess that’s how the French-Israeli’s do it – oy I have to quickly learn!).  Her right hand clutched a bouquet of fresh za'atar and sage from her garden, her left a platter of kadayif best described as a sweet spicy ball of baklava.


The aroma of cloves was just too much for me to bare and I broke my diet right then and there and continued my hiatus until the entire tray was demolished.

Rivka, Israeli born but of Hungarian descent brought me a homemade babka which we saved and savored on Shabbos as a family.

Together we made one of my new weekly staples, Persimmon Salsa.  It’s actually a riff on Peach Salsa from the summer issue of the magazine for which I showed it over grilled chicken legs.  But now peaches are not in season so I swapped them for persimmons which it turns out I much prefer.  We chopped, cooked, tossed and photographed together.  Well really Maryline photographed and I stood by giving my very really and important input like "yes" "gorgeous" stunning "perfect" - not sure what she would have done without me.

persimmon salsa

The morning was a beautiful meeting of the minds.  Maryline shared her frustrations and memories as a new oleh 25 years ago at the age of 17 from France.  She is beautiful inside and out - she has a chen about her which can best be described as a glow.  We parted promising to see one another again.  I feel so welcomed by the food community here... and I hope that we have the chance to share more salads and sweets together.