Monday, May 30, 2011

Sefer Torah Dedication in Katamonim

I promised i would write about the events of Katamonin, specifically the Sefer Torah procession of last week.  In Jewish tradition, when a new Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) is dedicated to a synagogue, before it is placed in the Ark of that beit knesset (synagogue), there is a procession down the streets - escorting the Sefer Torah to it's home. It's a lovely tradition, colorful, meaningful, and fun.  The Sefer Torah is carried by various honored individuals and under a canopy. It is escorted by songs, dance, brachot (blessings) and usually the young boys carry torches.  Here in Jerusalem, at least the procession last week, the real fire torches were replaced with torch like lights.

I don't know what beit knesset was receiving this new Scroll, although by the sign on the side of the van with the loudspeakers apparently this and other beit knesset are assisted by an organization which provides the equipment and coordination for the procession.

Actually I was in my apartment at my computer and heard the music and the loudspeakers. Of course, I had to investigate, and when i ran up the terrace to the street where the music was coming from, I discovered the parade.  People filled the street and sidewalk, walking along with the procession.  Twice the van broke down, the loudspeakers stopped functioning, the lights were out...and people waited. Most importantly, cars and buses also waited, as this is a busy but very narrow thoroughfare and bus route.  At one point I counted 8 buses lined up waiting for the procession to pass so they could get through.  All I could think was how glad i was that i wasn't ON one of those buses in a hurry to get somewhere !!  It was however, coordinated with the police as there were police vehicles at the front and back of the parade.

I've been to many Sefer Torah dedications and each one is special for its own reasons.  This one was special because it was in my neighborhood, an unexpected simcha (happy event) to enjoy and join in.
For a few more pictures of the procession on Rh.Yosef ben Yozer click here

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Shesek

I've always said my Jerusalem neighborhood is colorful - full of rich mizrachi tradition and wonderful neighbors.  This afternoon as i came home, one of my neighbors called me over and presented me with a sakit (bag) of shesek (loquat) from his tree.  As i thanked him i realized the tree in my own yard was brimming with ripe and unpicked fruit. It got me thinking about the fruit of this Land.

Not long after my neighbor's gift i heard a great commotion on the street above me, with brachot and singing emanating from the loudspeakers, blanketing the neighborhood. A Torah scroll dedication was in progress. I ran up and took several pictures as the Torah was being escorted to it's home in some nearby beit knesset (synagogue). I will share about THAT and the pictures in another post.

..but first the shesek.

The Shesek tree bears it's fruit in late spring and the little oval orange shesekim are sweet and juicy and a favorite amongst Israelis. (both people and birds !! ).  Shesek trees are all over Israel, in yards and home gardens and have deep green large broad leaves that protect the clusters of fruit. When you pick the shesek you have to clip the stem above, otherwise the inner fruit is already exposed ready to peel the skin (if you wish) or eat !! Inside are 3 shiny large seeds..(which..of no importance - float ! when dropped in water)

Here are a few shesek recipes from Liz Steinberg from her Tel Aviv based food blog Cafe Liz . Note: Even though some shesek can be slightly tart (depending on the variety), they can usually be substituted for apricot or peach in recipes.

Liz's recipes include among others:
Loquat Peach Waffles
Creamy fruit dessert with loquat and strawberries
Savory roasted loquat and plum

These pictures here on the blog are mine, but because others must agree it is such a pretty fruit i have also included a rather fun Flicker Photo link celebrating the shesek !

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lag B'Omer 2011

Motzei Shabbat began the semi holiday of Lag B'Omer in Israel (and elsewhere too for that matter).  It is the 33rd day of Counting the Omer from Pesach to Shavuot... (intended to link Pesach - remembering the Exodus from Egypt to Shavuot - the Giving of the Torah).  During the first 32 days of Counting the Omer, some prohibitions are in place and a semi-mourning period exists due to a plague that occurred during the Rav. Akiva's lifetime.

At any rate, on the 33rd Day, the semi-mourning period ends and observant Jews throughout the world celebrate by lighting bonfires, singing and dancing throughout the night.  In Israel, non-religious Jews don't usually participate, but all over Israel, bonfires light the night, smoke fills the air, and partying, singing and dancing continues until the wee hours of the morning, as thousands of traditionally and religiously observant Jews delight in the lifting of restrictions and the end of the mourning period.     

My neighborhood, a richly traditional mizrachi community, was no exception.

Coming home late from coffee with a friend, I discovered the Party a few meters from my front any good neighbor, i went out and joined the merrymaking about lasted til 4am...