Last night was my first Shabbat meal in Israel since last December. As usual, my wife’s parents and brother’s family were all in attendance for a lively night of excellent food and conversation out on our large palm-tree surrounded patio. With a warm breeze coming in off the sea and twinkling stars overhead, the Israeli night was cast in its very unique goldenish glow.
We began of course with the blessings over wine and challah and then quickly launched into the meal: a very delicious spicy fish appetizer made by my wife (using nesichat ha-nilus, ‘queen of the Nile’ perch, with extremely hot peppers!), mejadara (rice and raisins) cooked up by my brother in law, a crunchy onion pashtida prepared by his wife, a tossed lettuce and onion salad and regular rice (both courtesy of my wife), and fried chicken made by yours truly–all accompanied by the ominipresent humous and tahina. This was topped off as the evening wore on with avatiach (watermelon) and lots of wine, coffee, cake, and liqueur.
And what was on the conversation menu? The first thing my in-laws wanted to know was why President Obama had not permitted Jonathan Pollard to attend his father’s funeral. They, like most people in Israel and elsewhere, simply do not understand why Pollard has been singled out for such a long imprisonment (particularly since other spies who have done such damage to the U.S. are long since out of prison and living regular lives).
My brother-in-law was more interested in the economy (like many Israelis, he works two jobs, one as a contrabass player for a major symphony orchestra in Israel, and second, as a boat owner-captain who takes clients out into the Mediterranean on fishing trips). For his part, he cannot understand what has happened to the U.S. economy particularly since the Israeli economy is doing so well (it was announced yesterday that Israel has its lowest unemployment rate ever: 5.8%, and one of its highest growth rates ever: 7.6% in the last three months). Always speculating in currency, he wants to buy dollars from me this summer.
Of course there were a million other topics in between with the conversation going every which way, side to side, across the table, and down the table, but finally we turned to summer vacations and Turkey–and how Israeli tourists are showing their disgust with the current Turkish government by not traveling to Turkey any more (choosing Eilat or Greece instead–this summer’s hot destination is Rhodes). This disgust with Turkey was very pronounced at the table despite the news reports yesterday of a slight thaw in the relationship between Ankara and Jersusalem.
Anyway, as usual on Shabbat evenings, we talked and ate and drank until the wee hours of the morning, with the usual background shoutouts of Shabbat Shalom! to the neighbors’ large family eating out on their patio next door, and the sounds of teenagers meeting in the park after their meals were over.
It’s good to be back in Israel.