Yesterday, Aziza taught me how to make Hummus. Aziza (Im Ibrahim) lives in an Arab village a bit North of us called Kalanswa. She has like 11 kids, the youngest being 10 and also a bunch of grandkids. Every Thursday, she teaches me to cook Arab food (I think she thinks I am a bit useless at cooking) but so far we have made: awesome cauliflower patties, rice with pine nuts, eggplant and tehina salad, a bunch of other salatim (the red pepper one blew our heads off it was so spicy) as well as the tabouleh that I posted last week. Next week we are doing Shakshuka. Am learning a bit of Arabic in the process, whachta whactha.Of course, bare in mind that there are no accurate amounts to anything. Ingredients 1/2 kilo dry chick peas. Soak overnight. 500 grams good tehina (we used what I had at home and she was NOT impressed- so buy some with Arabic on the bottle) 5 cloves of garlic or more if you like Juice of 4 lemons, or more if you like A small handful of salt. (looked like at least 3 Tbsp, I kid you not) A tablespoon of baking powder- Apparently this helps them to cook fast. (Some people soak the beans with bicarb of soda and or cook them using soda water)
Method Cook chickpeas with the baking powder for around 45 minutes, in pressure cooker, till the chickpeas are really really soft.Let cool a while.
Add the tehina (a whole bottle), peeled garlic cloves, salt, lemon juice and stir. At this point you can take about a cup out and set aside. Its called musabacha, and is served as a garnish on top of the hummus.
In food processor, process the whole mixture really well, in two batches until super smooth. Adjust the seasoning
Serve with good olive oil drizzled on top, hot paprika, the musabacha and chopped parsley. I didn't have parsley and we forgot to save that cup of Musabacha so they are not in the picture. (Check out that huge pita Aravi)
Yes it's true. I have been reading the bible. It all started when I uncovered this free Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) online course offered by Yale University. The lecturer (Christine Hayes) is fantastic and the course is just plain excellent. So I have been doing the readings and am now well into Numbers having struggled along with Moses and the boys from the desert, into Egypt and back into the desert. What strikes me more than anything is what a bunch of whiners these Children of Israel were. Always complaining. Not enough food. Manna's too boring. Not enough water. It was way better in Egypt. On and on. Moses had the patience of Job (I haven't got to Job yet, but I hear he was patient). Reminds me a lot of the squints at work. The same sort of complaints. The debugging tools are so lame. My machine is too slow. The fruit is always finished by Wednesday. The A/C is too cold. Nothing changes. It's clear us Hebrews did not learn much from our 40 years of wandering.
My nephew Paul's wife Carrie was held up at gunpoint, in the middle of the day, a few days after they moved into their new house in Houston. They took the TVs (they had LCDs), computers, cameras, and new dryer. Luckily no one was hurt, just terrified. Unbelievable. That's the US for you. At least when our stuff was stolen a few months back, the bastards had the decency to break in while no one was home.
And that's not all. Blackdaughtero lost her job. Even though they liked her and were happy with her work, the owner decided she was too young and their insurance didn't cover her. Oh, and blacksono and the girlfriend broke up (yeah, he had one). I think I may be more upset than he is. "It was just not working". And god it's so hot, I just don't have the energy to be witty, alls (don't you hate people who say alls) I want to do is read my bible.
This is one of my favorite songs of all time. Originally written by David Bowie to help Mott the Hoople achieve commercial success, All the Young Dudes became a glam rock anthem. The version below is the classic from 1972 - it's Mott the Hoople's original. Sorry about the annoying banner over Ian Hunter's face in the beginning, but just check out those guitars and his platforms. Should you want an excellent, more recent version, look here, it's Ian Hunter and David Bowie live in 2008. But, I just love this version from 1972.
Today at lunch Joch reminded me that the "green" sticker had fallen off my Prius. In truth the sticker, in the shape of a green car on the back RHS, didn't so much fall off as shrivel up, turn a moldy black, and roll up and die in the heat. Ahhh, the joy of having a black car. I have no idea of the significance of this sticker, so I thought I would try find out. So I called the Toyota dealer and asked to speak to a Prius expert. I was finally put through to a nice young lady with a Russian accent. She thought I was completely nuts. I explained, somewhat tongue in cheek, that I was worried that my car was no longer green and now that the sticker had fallen off I was concerned it was spewing pollutants into our pristine environment. She patiently assured me that the sticker had nothing to do with the environmental friendliness of the car. I was not sure I believed her, and so I asked for a new one. Oh, and could she please mail it to me. She signed deeply and I could imagine her staring up at the heavens as she once again tried "Sir, the green sticker is just to show the car pollutes less, and we don't sell them individually". Basically it seems a new sticker costs as much as a new car. They just throw the new car in for free when you buy the sticker. Those Japanese cars are just not going to sell, I tell you.
We visited Tel Arad this morning. The site is actually two separate cities. The ancient Canaanite City (a reconstructed house can be seen in the foreground of the picture above) was populated in the Early Bronze Age (2950-2650 BCE) when civilization began in this area. The site then lay abandoned for around 1500 years, until in the Israelite period (10th-6th centuries BCE) a series of citadels were built on the hill visible in the background of the picture above.
The story of Arad is long and complex. The site has been under constant archaeological excavation since 1962. In the citadel over a 100 ostraca (clay shards inscribed with ink or engraved) written in biblical Hebrew were uncovered. They mostly date from the last decades of the kingdom of Judah (6th century BCE) and cover topics from strategic threats to food distribution.
Tel Arad is strategically placed on the trade route between the Sinai and Jordan. It seems that in the "old" days rainfall in the area was double today's and the ancient Canaanite city used it's vast catchment area to direct runoff into the large reservoir. As usual we arrived a half hour early and once again used the gaziah to make coffee. Jordeana (Jordy+Adena) our Canadian guests braved the early morning and came along. They claim to not have hated it. As usual we were the very first visitors and as we walked into the citadel on the hill, we disturbed a family of foxes. A mother and baby. They shot off and I just managed to snap this shot as they disappeared into the desert. Very cool. This is the entrance to the citadel. It has been nicely restored. There is a dig going on at the moment, they seem to be digging down, possibly to examine the lower levels of the tel. The citadel itself has a large part of it's area devoted to a temple complete with stone altar above. I like the step in front, possibly for short priests? This is a view of the ancient Canaanite city. It's quite large and is believed to have supported about 2500 inhabitants. We're talking 4th millennium BCE (6K years back) here. This was quite an organized place, with a surrounding wall, water system, palace and temples. Some of the houses had these strange stones in the middle of the rooms. What were they for? The boy thought they were built to stand large jugs of oil or wine. I thought they looked like smallish toilets. I will research this and get back to you. This is a typical house in the lower city. It's called an "Aradian House" and the style is typical of houses from the Early Bronze Age in this area. The house has stone benches along the walls and a stone pedestal (that has collapsed) in the middle that was where the wooden post that supported the ceiling stood. The entrance is set in one of the longitudinal walls with a step down into the house's interior. This well was constructed during the time of the Judean Kingdom at the center of the Canaanite water reservoir to a depth of 52 feet. The water was transported up the hill to the citadel using man power and pack animals. It sucked to be a slave back then.
All in all a very nice place - worth the 12NIS entrance fee and the terrible migraine I got driving back.
Background: Tonight is our turn to host the Goldsmiths. It was last week as well, but a nods as good as a wink and all that blind bat stuff. The very religious (and extremely Kosher, with special mikva'ed pot) uncle is here from the US, so it looks to be an "interesting" evening. We are making quiches. Today, I am letting you all into my secret, incredibly easy pie crust recipe. It works perfectly every time. It's out of Linda MaCartney's excellent book Linda's Kitchen, the first vegetarian cookbook we ever bought and one we still use all the time.
6 TBSP butter or margarine
1 cup + 2 TBSP flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBSP cold water
Directions: Totally simple. Chuck all the ingredients into the blender and blend until "amalgamated and crumbly". Who doesn't like blending shit anyway? I pulse the blender till the dough looks like this: Once it's together, all you need do is wrap it in a little shrink wrap (that does not stick in Israel) and put it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using. That's it. I have tried all sorts of experiments with this recipe. Cut in some parsley for green dough, use whole wheat flour (add a bit more water), substitute olive oil instead of some of the butter. It just takes a few minutes and it always works and tastes great.
Blackdaughtero got a job. Let me repeat, blackdaughtero got a job. I so love the way that runs off the tongue I need to say it one more time .... blackdaughtero got a job. All on her own, after weeks of parental frustration and angst, and night after night coming home to sleep when it's light out, she convinced someone to hire her. She is pumping coffee at our "quickie mart" equivalent, the gas station convenience store. It's been two days already - and most astonishingly she was at work by 8am this morning. (The fuzzy picture above is her in her uniform before she left, still a bit blurry from too little sleep). She worked 8 whole whole hours today (and 4 yesterday at 20.7NIS an hour - how many more hours to an iPhone?). What a happy dad I am. The boy has been slaving away the whole summer, and now the girl too has a job. My work here is almost done.
My first real girlfriend Gail, turned 50 today. We went to her party. It was very nice affair, tasteful and laid back. Things seemed to have worked out for her. Her family is very talented. Her husband sang, her son played the guitar and daughter the drums. It was an impressive evening. Looks like we both did more than alright for ourselves and married wisely. It was good to see old faces from my high school days. It certainly is fascinating looking back over all those years. We were so young once. We have all grown and evolved, yet inside we all still have a little bit of the Port Elizabeth wind that blows off the sea at 2pm every afternoon. That wind shaped us all.
Blackwifeo missed Suzanne Vega because she put her back out. She likes this song and it was one of the highlights of the concert. So here, Jo, is a live version of "The Queen and the Soldier", just for you.
I like this video of "In Liverpool", which she played as the last encore during the second concert, which we saw. She didn't play it at the first concert, so neeneeneenena.
I clearly remember the excitement I felt all day (July 20th, 1969). We had no TV in South Africa in those days, but during the radio broadcast of Apollo 11's decent to the moon I sat in my room in Mill Park Road, ear glued to my little blue portable. It was close to midnight when I heard "The Eagle has landed", by this time the radio was tucked under my pillow and I was pretending to be asleep. I was nine years old. I heard Armstrong's "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" early the next morning, probably not live, but it made no difference to me. I also clearly remember laying on my back in the garden looking up at the moon and imagining those guys exploring - everything blurry and in black and white.
I loved the Apollo program. I read everything I could get my hands on that mentioned NASA and the space program. In 1972 (I was 12) the folks took me to Cape Kennedy (as Cape Canaveral was called in those days). The mission patches I bought there were amongst my proudest possessions and were immediately sown onto my scout jacket. As clichéd as it sounds, the space program taught me to dream big and to love science.
We sat around at lunch today and sprouted the usual cynical bullshit about the whole thing being filmed on the back lot at Universal Studios and so on. That was wrong, driving home I heard a replay of those memorable phrases on the BBC and I realized I missed an opportunity. I should rather have told the squints just how much difference man's walking on the moon made to a little boy growing up in a small town on the tip of Africa. The staggering power of human beings united behind a simple idea is awesome. It meant a lot to me then and still does now.
Blackdaughtero and I saw Suzanne Vega tonight. Excellent concert. Jo was supposed to come with me, but she put her back out washing my socks and so is confined to bed, most sad and unhappy. My young daughter claims she was not texting throughout the concert, rather she was "writing the names of the songs, so she could look up the words later" - excellent excuse I have to say. The highlight of the evening began with an initial heart dropping dread on seeing the huge lines of people waiting to pick up their tickets at the cashiers windows, only to be followed by the complete glee of realizing that the "aleph" line (our last name begins with an aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet) was completely empty. Score! The only real downer was the annoying woman sitting behind us who insisted on singing over the vocals. Luckily she only knew the songs on the first album, and anyway, someone eventually leaned over and told her they paid to listen to Suzanne Vega, not her. So she shut up.
Good Sushi, Good Company, Good Music, Good Night!
Note: Special thanks to Shirley for calling for the tickets and choosing the excellent Sushi place.
Wow. We visited Beit She'an today. It's quite something. Much more than I expected actually. We set out at 6am as usual, this time we had brother-in-law blackyanno with us. The boy so loved the idea of a "gaziyah" to make black coffee, as Ravid illustrated last week, that we had to go out an buy one. We bought a cute little pack that came complete with gas stove, glasses, finjan and containers for coffee, tea and sugar. We arrived at the park a half hour before it opened at 8am, and so had time for coffee. A good new ritual. Beit She'an has a wonderfully long and involved history. Look here for a more complete synopsis. Basically because of it's excellent strategic placement and fertile soil it's been populated in one form or another since the fifth millennium BCE (on the tel) till the present day. It was a major Egyptian, Greek and Roman center. In the 4th century CE Beit She'an became the capital of Palaestina Secunda and it's population reached an enormous 40,000-50,000. So it's quite something. The same earthquake in 749 CE that destroyed last week's site of Sussita/Hippos, caused huge damage in Beit She'an as well.
Like all good Roman cities there is an impressive Theater. It seats 7000, and once had three tiers of seating, only the lowermost of which remains intact. The view from the seats, through the columns overlooking the backdrop of the ruins and the tel, is quite breathtaking. Below is a picture of the main drag, Palladius Street. The imposing Tel is in the background. I assume they reconstructed the fallen pillars alongside the street. Yep we climbed up to the top of the Tel (it was hot). The view is excellent. There are a lot of ruins on the top of the Tel and the many layers of civilization are visible as you climb up. This is the view of the palaces behind the "Agora" from half way up the Tel. I had to include this picture. In the top right hand corner you can see the "Golden Arches" of Beit She'an's McDonald's while in the foreground you see the huge columns of Silvanus Street, they have been restored after the earthquake. This interesting ruin is visible from the back of the Tel. It's called the "Truncated Bridge" and is all that is left of the triple vaulted bridge that spanned the Harod River and left into the main street. These are the remains of the forth millennium BCE (yes that's 6K years back) settlement on the Tel. Unbelievable. Although it's not really surprising as Beit She'am had it all, fertile land, plenty of water and an easily defended position. This is Tyche, guardian godess of the city, wearing a crown of the city walls. This is from one of the mosaics in the Sigma, a Byzantine concourse near the baths. Yes, folks what you see below is a hypocaust. A Roman method of underfloor heating in their public baths. These pillars raised the floor so that heated air could pass underneath and warm the room. There are two bathhouses in Beit She'an. Both are very complex buildings. Below is a Corinthian Capital for a pillar, complete with the head of the god Dionysus. Those Romans had some talented stonemasons. This was my favorite building of all. The public latrines. Apparently men and women both used these at the same time and there were no partitions between the stalls. Basically you perched between the two slabs and all your waste was washed down the trough into the sewerage ditches below. You were given a fig leaf to cleanup with after. The most amazing thing of all was in all the time we were wandering about the site, we saw five other people. Beit She'an is well worth the 20NIS entry fee. It was even worth braving the sweltering heat.
Please note: All amounts are just suggestions. There is NO recipe.
Ingredients 2 chopped onions 1 pkt frozen mixed veggies (I used peas, carrots, potatoes, green beans, corn) defrost or not depending on your time. makes no difference 1/2 -1 tsp poultry seasoning A large pinch of rosemary Salt and pepper to taste About 3 Tbsp of Flour 1 1/2-2 cups hot vegetarian chicken stock. (make sure to use a lot of stock powder) 1/4 c soy sauce or to taste 6-8 Tivol Chicken breasts, sliced Puff pastry Egg wash Sesame seeds
Directions Preheat oven. (Around 350) Stir fry onions in oil and butter Add veggies and spices. Cook for a few minutes Sprinkle flour over veggies and stir. You may need to add some extra olive oil before the flour Slowly add the stock and cook till its thick. Add soy sauce and adjust seasoning to your taste. Add "chicken" breasts Cool Filling. It will thicken a bit when cold. Roll out dough in large rectangle. Put filling down middle. Roll up or plait (see photo) Twist into horseshoe shape. Move to baking tray. Wash with beaten egg Sprinkle over sesame seeds Bake for about 30 minutes, till golden brown.
I don't usually complain (Me complain, Never), but the people in this house seem very tired at the moment. As we all know, blackwifeo hasn't slept a full night in the last 17 years. Lately she has been having more than the usual trouble getting to sleep and then staying asleep. Surprisingly, it seems I'm most of the problem. The "loud and annoying" zipping of my bag in the morning is waking her up and messing with her peace of mind. Why can't I just pack my bag the night before, why indeed! Blackdaughtero is now living fully on the reverse cycle. She comes in when it's light and then sleeps till the late afternoon. Then she awakes in a dark and foul mood. It seems now to add insult, she's PMSing. So we should grin and bare her tantrums because there is no food in the house (even though today the fridge is completely full with excellent Azziza salad) and anyway why does she always have to do everything. Today is Thursday and blacksono is "exhausted" (said with a drop of the head on the last syllable, because even saying exhausted is tiring). He's worked the whole week and he had to wait an hour for the bus home today (in the sun). He is so tired that he hasn't even got enough energy to hookup Rockband (we brought the one from work home). He must be very tired indeed. The cats seem to sleep all day and then growl and spit at each other all night, when they are not knocking over glasses. Only Adina and Jordy (our Canadian visitors) seem to take it all in their stride and have actually walked downtown.
I haven't walked or biked once this week, on "the advice of my doctor". I'm not to place any strain on my stitches on my chest. So I, have tonnes of energy.
It's 3:30am. I have been lying awake for a while, since one of the damed cats knocked over a glass and it shattered on the floor with an enormous crash. There's a lot on my mind. The ultra orthodox are once again going mad in Jerusalem, they are burning the garbage in their own neghborhoods. Very civic minded. Not content with protesting the opening of a parking lot on Saturdays, they are now violently protesting the arrest of a Mea Sha'arim mother who was caught abusing her child on camera. Then there's the story of the man who was charged $23,148,855,308,184,500 for a pack of cigarettes in New Hampshire. I knew cigarettes were pricey in the US, but I had no idea the "sin" taxes were this high.
But mostly I was thinking how much damage tiled floors cause. Nearly all floors in Israel are made of some sort of stone. Tiles from high end marble, to the grimy old yellowing stone found in old apartments, are everywhere. It's for the heat, you know. The problem is that any glass dropped from any height shatters on contact. We are constantly buying drinking glasses. We used to have a dozen or so of these wonderfully thick liter sized beer glasses, they're all gone. Not to mention the perfectly large thin and tall beakers that were just perfect for the freezing water out of the machine. Even our new lot of Ikea specials (probably called gloösen or something) are breaking at an astounding rate. What can one do.
These are the sort of things that keep me up at night.
I was actually going to post a Suzanne Vega song seeing as we are going to see her on Sunday. But nothing really grabbed me. Then I remembered this song by Tanita Tikaram. I'm just a fool for the oboe. Twist in My Sobriety is off her debut album Ancient Heart (1988) when she was just 19. I remember seeing this video on MTV one night when we had just move to Houston. I rushed down to Sound Warehouse and bought the CD, which I still have in my office. Great song.
Two news items caught my eye today. Firstly a Saudi family is suing a genie for harassment - yes a genie, the kind that pops out of a lamp when you rub it. Its really been annoying, throwing stones, leaving them threatening voicemails and stealing their cell phones. What are they suing for? Three wishes, I should hope. This must be true, it was on CNN.
Closer to home we have the equally bizarre case of the Jerusalem District Court Judge's decision not to convict a yeshiva student who ran over an Ethiopia-Israeli parking lot cashier. The (religious) judge apparently did not want to spoil the man's chances of being appointed as a judge in the rabbinic court. Not only did this "haredi" idiot try leave the parking lot without paying, he then ran over the parking lot attendant and carried her 15 meters. Worst of all he attempted to deny the incident until confronted with video from a security camera. Lovely. Just the sort we need on our rabbinical courts. Better yet, the District court judge who did not want to impact the yeshiva student's future by passing a "moral turpitude" judgment on the driver, is himself a candidate for the Supreme Court. You couldn't invent a better story if you tried.
It's a well known fact that I'm quite the wimp when it comes to being injected or cut up by doctors. The old Russian ladies who work at the health services blood lab already know they need to use the "small butterfly" needle on me or I cry like a baby. A month or so ago I went to the dermatologist. She found a spot that she did not like on my chest and decided it must go (Out, out, dammed spot). After four sleepless weeks, terrified over the potential for pain and blood, today I went under Dr. Sbaro's knife. She used a local anesthetic and then hacked off the offending spot, before bottling it to send to the lab. Three stitches later I was good to go. Honestly it did not hurt too much then. It was sort of like getting a haircut, parts of you are being cut, but the feeling is remote and not unpleasant. It stings a little bit now. The worst part is no immersive showering for a few days.
Sussita or Hippos is strategically situated on a hill overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). It's name means horse in both Hebrew and Greek. Hippos itself was originally built by the Greeks in the mid 200s BCE and probably served as a border fortress for the Seleucids in their war with the Ptolemies. The conflict between these two dynasties descended from Captains of Alexander the Great was eventually won by the Seleucids and Hippos grew in size and stature. The population relied on collecting rain water in cisterns and the availability of water limited the size of its population.
According to Josephus, during the Hasmonean Period (In 142 BCE, the Maccanean revolt resulted in an independent Jewish kingdom), Alexander Jannaeus conquered Hippos in 83-80 BCE, and forced the entire population to convert to Judaism and be circumcised (ouch).
Then as always, came the Romans. Once again Josephus told the story. Around 4 BCE Hippos was a pagan city with few Jews. After the Romans put down the Bar Kochba revolt in 136 CE, Hippos' prospered. Huge walls were constructed as were a theater, shrines, and palaces. Most importantly, an aqueduct piped water from springs in the Golan Heights (50Km).
Ravid and I set out before 6am. It was warm and hazy, and clear that the day would be a scorcher. Sussita/Hippos is about 20 minutes south of Kanaf where Ravid lives and where bwo and I spent the night. The view from the access path is spectacular. That's the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias in the distance. The path is narrow and clearly easy to defend. Sussita was on the border with Syria and housed an Israeli army base. There are still signs of the military presence in the days leading up to the Six-Day war in 67. Yep, it says there are mines on both sides of the trail. We were careful. This Ravid tells me is a sentry post at the entrance to the site. There are quite a few dugouts like these all over the site. The aqueduct system must have been very impressive. There are remains of the stone piping that must have been used running into the city. There are impressive remains of this system all along the trail leading up the mountain into the site. As usual, the Roman stonework is spectacular. Clearly a lot of impressive stones remain as even the most hard working thief would struggle to shlep these down the mountain, as access is difficult. There are signs of very impressive and expensive marble columns. This is in the large forum in the middle of the site. Apparent proof of the great wealth of Sussita/Hippos, the streets were lined with many red granite columns which were imported from Egypt. Lifting these to the top of the hill (350M about the sea) could not have been much fun. This is the Decumanus Maximus (main street). It runs east-west through the city. The granite paving stones are very impressive and you could feel the ghosts of Romans walking along early in the morning. I am always fascinated by toilets. Maybe it's a wash basin. The homes are well defined and you can get a sense for the size of the rooms and courtyards. This cross and another similar one looked to have been recently uncovered and restored. There is a dig going on right now. Signs of their work were everywhere. This looks to be the very solid and intimidating walls. Huge blocks of granite. This is on the west side, overlooking the Kinneret. As you can see, the Hippos dig, run by the University of Haifa, is well underway. There is still place though, just go here to sign up. It will cost you 330 Euro a week. Of course, whenever you go out with Ravid, you need to make coffee. He brought along his "gazziyah" and we had Turkish coffee while looking out over the Kinneret. Right behind our coffee stop, we stumbled over a beautiful tomb or church, complete with mosaic floor and this cross carved into the stone. The end for Hippos came in January 749 CE when a huge earthquake flattened the city. The results of this can clearly be seen all over. Not single pillar stands, and only the huge squat walls remain solid.
All in all, Sussita/Hippos is well worth visiting. The walk along the trail is not too challenging and the remains and view are spectacular.