Thursday, October 7, 2010

Links to Stuff

Did you know that the Crimean War changed the face of Jerusalem, adding complexity which will impact on the future of the city even in the 21st century? No? Well it did. Here's a new book about the war, sounds interesting, though I'd be much surprised if it included the Jerusalem angle: The Crimean War: A History, by Orlando Figes.

Yossie Yuval is doing a series in which he gets in his car of a morning in Tel Aviv and drives off to an Arab town chosen at random. (Israeli Arab, not West Bank). He's done 14 chapters so far, and the latest installment is rather comic. He visited Magdel Krum, and found it populated by "the most Ashkenazi Arabs in Israel". Shrinking families, youth drifting towards at least partial preference for Hebrew over Arabic, "ashkenzi food" at weddings, green (environmental) houses. Alas, the series is in Hebrew, but it shouldn't surprise anyone that if you wish to understand Israel, English simply won't do.

Meanwhile back in Europe, the place that ejected the Ashkenzi Jews, the Dutch are running a political trial against freedom of speech. The Dutch! Not the Popish French, the Imperial English, the whatever-they-are Germans. The Dutch. Baruch Spinoza must be spinning in his grave. Robin Shepherd has the sordid story.


L. King said...

Can you make a recommendation of a book that does describe the effect of the Crimean War on Jerusalem?

Anonymous said...

Figes's book certainly covers the Jerusalem angle, and in great depth.

Michael J. Totten said...

"if you wish to understand Israel, English simply won't do."

How true is this, really? I don't know Hebrew, but I'm told by (some) Israelis that I have a decent understanding of the country. Obviously I would understand it better if I knew Hebrew, but do I really NEED to know it?

Lee Ratner said...

Yaacov, speaking of Ashkenazi cuisine in Isael, I recently finished Save the Deli. Save the Deli is about the current state of Jewish Delicatessen cuisine in the world. According to the author, delis don't really exist in Israel as they do in disaporal communities and most cuisine is Sephardic/Mizrachi in nature. I've only been in Israel once and didn't spend much time doing culinary exploration. Is this point correct or are there good restaurants in Israel that specialize in Ashkenazi cuisine?

Anonymous said...

I don't remember seeing 'delis' as they are understood in the US. Ten years ago I ate at a nice Hungarian restaurant and this year I tracked down a good Georgian one.
For 'fast food, there's falafels, but also hotdogs, with french fries thrown into the bun, bleh. The kibbutz store sold everything from German Vot Brot to Morroccan pancakes.
Maybe I just noticed it more, but various levels of Italian food seemed easily available. Pizza, pasta and gelato.
But then, most days I didn't have to worry about food.

Anonymous said...

In regards to Michael’s question:
I can’t speak much about Israel and Hebrew, but I can speak about Russia. It’s hard to think of a truly great commentator who doesn’t speak some Russian. With the commentators who speak only English, there’s always something missing. Things are slightly off-key. I’m not even sure I can properly describe it. Clearly, knowing a language is not enough, and I would always prefer an empathetic person to any number of analysts suffering from cognitive egocentrism. But, by the same token, I think empathy can only take you so far.
The internal conversations of a society aren’t always translated, especially if they don’t show a society in a negative light.
Also, people sound different when they are speaking their native language, rather than straining for a foreign tongue. It’s one thing to know that intellectually, it’s quite another to actually hear it.
I’m not so sure it’s true of Israelis, but Russians usually appreciate it when someone has tried to learn.
But even after you learn the language there are still some recesses where the Russians won’t let you go, because you didn’t experience events as the happened or were insulated by your citizenship.

Anonymous said...


what is German Vot Brot ???
Google doesn't know either

as to knowing Hebrew I remember Yaacov mentioning a couple of times that newspapers in Hebrew see things sometimes different than do those in English.

I don't know about Israel but when in Greece speaking the language opened up whole new areas of the village to me like chatting with the matrons at night and with those, mostly older men, who hadn't picked up some English because they hadn't been in merchant marine or catering to tourists.

I don't know about multilingual Israel but elsewhere it is also a class thing. Multilinguals tend to be the better educated but I find "lower" orders just as if not more interesting if you want to learn about living conditions.


Yaacov said...

L. King - not in English, offhand, but I'll look around.

Language thread: Michael does it well, but ultimately, no: it's impossible to truly comprehend the psyche of a society if you don't know its language. Languages instill mentality in ways that cannot be translated; many individuals and sometimes whole segments of a society don't express themselves in a foreign language; even at the top intellectual level, not all scholarship is translated (see my comment above).

Food thread: Israel is a diverse place, and I"m not certain there is a single "Israeli cuisine", but I think a plausible case can be made that to the extent there is one it is much more Mizrachi than Ashkenazi. Hummus, anyone?

Lee Ratner said...

Yaacov, the more Mizrachi than Ashkenazi was certainly my impression of Israeli cuisine, especially outside of the desert sphere. I think thats because a lot of the early Zionists had a tendency to adopt things from Mizrachi culture because it was viewed as more "authentic" than Ashkenazi culture.

Anonymous said...

I managed to mangle both foods in that example:
Correction -
'From German Vollk. (Vollkorn) Brot to Yeminite Malawach.'

the German is this stuff
I have an uncle who eats it with his breakfast sardines.

Anonymous said...

Mizrahi recipies also work better with the local ingredients. A friend who made akiya 30+ years ago credits the Russians with vastly improving the quality of bread available. She still bemoans the fact that most of her N. American baking recipies don't work due to most of the flour being made from soft wheat.

Lee Ratner said...

T34zakat, knowing the early Zionist thought process, I'd argue that it had less to do with local ingredients than their general tendency to throw out the good and bad parts of Diaspora culture.

Anonymous said...

Vollkornbrot (whole corn/Rye bread) or Schwarzbrot (black bread), as Volks call it who are uneffected by whole food fads, tastes really really good only in one piece from a bakery. All prepacked supermarket stuff, even the best, doesn't come up to it.

with sardines? I don't see it going well with oil unless there is a nice spread of raw onions on it. It is also said that just the bread and garlic is a delight, I can imagine that quite well, but where I live smelling heavily of garlic doesn't meet with much toleration.

It is lovely with butter, honey and a soft boiled egg on the side plus a big pot of coffee or just with butter and salt. Butter suits it well, it is dismal for dipping tomato sauce.

As to your moaning friend - in my experience food changes when it travels, it is not just the ingredients, it is the smell and other atmospheric stuff about the place where you eat them. Best to take stock and find out what combines best with the new surrounding.


Anonymous said...

after my time on "my" Greek island I have tried and tried and tried, the food just didn't come out right. So maybe the early Zionists were as smart as I was and adjusted ... . Even Aubergines in tomato/oil which I have eaten from cans down there and from cans here - Here they are OK, down there I'd would have loved to have them morning, noon and night.

I love white cabbage and greasy lamb cooked together when it's cold outside
- would it taste the way I like it in the mediterranean?
- I'd probably find it bland and even slightly off-putting