I always know how old the modern state of Israel is since it was born in 1948, the same year as my dear daddy. Called Yom HaAtzmaut in Hebrew, Israeli Independence Day, marks the establishment of the modern state of Israel. It is observed on or near the 5th day of the Hebrew calendar month of Iyar.
And it’s never too early to plan the menu.
Food has the power to transport you to another time and place...
One bite of something can lead me to my grandparents’ warm little kitchen, with my feet dangling from the chair, waiting patiently for magic on a plate. A bite of something else can take me to the streets of Yerushalayim, with its heady aromas of Middle Eastern cookery.
I often write about my grandparents because I was so close to them, because I loved them, because I still want to pick up the phone and call them. They played such a big role in my life, shaping my impressions of the warmth of family meals, the pleasurable sense of entering a home where there’s always good food simmering on the stove and the meaning of love and survival.
As I walk the streets of my home in Israel, with the flags flying from every school, every car, every rooftop. I think of my grandparents too.
They always dreamt of living here. As Holocaust survivors, (two in Auschwitz) their lives include stories that flood my imagination: My grandmother used to speak of being selected by the infamous Dr. Mengele on not one but three separate occasions -- and then running back to the "living" line when no one was looking, risking being shot to death on the spot. My grandfather was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Russians for eight years, after the concentration camps were liberated. He served in a Russian forced labor camp alongside his Nazi captors. And he told how the Nazis were dropping like flies because they were not conditioned, as he had become, to the lack of food and intensity of work.
As Yom Haatzmaut approaches, and we prepare to celebrate Jewish freedom and independence, I can't help but link all these thoughts in my head. How this country was largely built by survivors of wars, oppression, and persecution. How the events that led up to the declaration of the State of Israel riveted and united every Jew in the world. I can't help but think about my grandparents, and how they would have loved to be here with me, right now. How they would take pride in my little ones prattling away in Hebrew at a pace I am still able to follow, but not for long.
Every Yom HaAtzmaut since we made Aliyah to Israel in August 2012 we have the custom of celebrating with the Chashmonain Gellers (my brother- and sister-in-law and their kids) not to be confused with the Ramat Beit Shemesh Gellers (that’s us!). Like most Israelis, we spend the afternoon having a good ‘ol fashioned BBQ in some fabulous sprawling Israeli park and in addition to the meat we always bring some sides and salads.
I like to bring my California Avocado Salad. Listen, this is a country of immigrants, so it’s legit to add our own flavor, literally, to the festivities.
But should you want something more bonafide “Israeli” in honor of the upcoming day, I’ll share some of my favorite Israeli recipes with you.
Over the Top Hummus Bar
You can make your own or use store bought hummus and make it the start of the meal or at least the first course. Learn how to make a hummus bar.
Here's another one you can buy or try your hand at making these pockets all on your own. DIY Pita recipe and video.
Don't just make one kind of falafel, make 3! These 3 flavored falafel balls are sure to be a new favorite recipe. Get the Falafel recipe.
Choose your favorite meat on a stick from these 13 Israeli Kabob recipes.
This side is the best because it keeps it low carb but feels filling. Try this Cauliflower Tabbouleh.
Ma'amoud (date rolls)
The ma'aroud (date roll) is a family member of the ma'amoul— they are both dough and date combos. However, the ma'amoul is made as individual circle cookies, while the ma'aroud is a roll that is stuffed with dates and cut into cookies. They can also be stored in a sealed box in a room temperature up to two weeks. Use parve margarine to make parve cookies. Get the recipe.
What's your favorite Israeli food?