Archive for the 'Israel' Category

Argan Oil: From Morocco to Israel

Jacob Levenfeld, who has spent extensive time in the Negev, writes about Orly Sharir’s project to grow argan oil in Israel’s desert. Orly, a supplier of herbs and spices for Negev Nectars in the United States, writes more on the subject on the Negev Nectars blog.

Isn’t it frustrating when you eat something delicious but you can’t quite put your finger on that little ingredient that pulls everything together? In Moroccan cuisine, that extra spice could just be a little-known delicacy known as argan oil. Used in all sorts of food recipes, lotions, and creams, this reddish oil is derived from argan tree nuts native to Morocco. Lately, though, a small number of farms in Israel’s Negev desert have also forayed into argan production.

Eggs in Knesset Eateries and The Free-Range Myth

Cross-posted to heebnvegan

Last week, YNet reported that Israel’s Knesset is considering using free-range eggs in its on-site eateries. YNet noted:

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin is considering banning the use of factory-farmed eggs at the parliament’s eateries and instructing them to use free-range and organic eggs instead ….

The Knesset speaker told Anonymous [an Israeli animal rights group] that he has instructed Dan Landau, the Knesset’s director-general, to check whether the change to free-range eggs can be made during the signing of the next contract with the owner of the parliament’s eateries.

Chief Rabbinate to Revoke Hechsher of Meat From Shackled-and-Hoisted Animals Because of Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim

Cross-posted to heebnvegan

A couple of months ago, I noted that the office of Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger in Israel had released an encouraging statement that seemed to mark the end of Israel’s imports of meat from animals killed by shackling and hoisting in South America. (The cruel slaughter method is no longer used in Israel or the U.S.) I was, however, skeptical because a similar forward-looking statement in 2008 was never enforced. This time around, it looks like the Chief Rabbinate’s plan will be enacted.

On June 18, Haaretz reported that “by 2011 the Chief Rabbinate will no longer certify [as kosher] meat from slaughterhouses that use shackle-and-hoist – a controversial method employed in almost all South American kosher slaughterhouses, which provide 80 percent of all the meat imported into Israel.” This is a major step forward, both because it means action will be taken within the next half-year and because business considerations (e.g., the fact that an overwhelming majority of Israel’s imported meat comes from the slaughterhouses in question) will not be allowed to determine what’s right.

Green Zionist Alliance Passes 4 Green Resolutions at World Zionist Congress

This post is  from Green Zionist Alliance, check out their website at

Photo from Earth’s Promise community garden at the Kalisher Absorption Center.

The World Zionist Organization took major steps to green Israel by approving four resolutions put forth by the Green Zionist Alliance at the World Zionist Congress. The resolutions address a wide swath of environmental concerns, including water, energy and food justice. All of the votes were near unanimous, uniting all religious and political streams of Zionism for the cause of Israel’s environment.

“The resolutions will play a major role in helping shift an environmentally imperiled Israel onto a sustainable path, and provide a greener Israel for future generations,” said Dr. Richard Schwartz, a GZA delegate to the Congress.

Tips for Vegetarians and Vegans on Birthright Trips

Cross-posted to heebnvegan

Birthright trips are a wonderful opportunity for 18- to 26-year-olds to travel to Israel for free. I sometimes receive e-mails from vegetarians and vegans who are going on Birthright trips and came across my old posts on heebnvegan via a Google search. Here is a compilation of the tips I give them.

Food Advice

  • First and foremost, you should communicate with your trip organizers in advance to let them know about your dietary restrictions or food allergies. You should also let your trip’s staff know when you meet them on the first day.

Do you want to have a say in Israel’s food policy?


The Green Zionist Alliance (GZA) is seeking volunteers to help write a food-justice resolution for the World Zionist Congress, scheduled to be held this coming June in Jerusalem. The Congress has jurisdiction over the spending and policies of the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (KKL-JNF). If you’d like to participate this year in writing a food-justice resolution, please contact David Krantz – chairperson [at] greenzionism [dot] org.

For information on the GZA’s work in Israel through the World Zionist Congress, click here.

For information on the resolutions that the GZA successfully passed at the last Congress, click here.

Post-Hannukah Chicory Fix

Chicory (cultivated)

After eight days of Hannukah holiday feasting, I felt like something was needed to cut all that oil in the system.  The edible wild greens that are now in season seemed  just the ticket.

Edible wild plants have been an essential part of the local diet here in the Galilee going back to the stone age hunters and gatherers.  I have learned from neighbors in the nearby Bedouin villages which plants are good to eat, where to find them, and how to prepare them.  One of the staples, which is considered a seasonal delicacy, is wild chicory – known in Arabic as elet, and in Hebrew as olesh.  It can be found around the edges of fields – a low-growing starburst of scalloped leaves.  And it is considered to be extremely healthy – good for “cleaning the blood”, as my Bedouin friends have explained.

Going out and gathering is not as commonly practiced in the traditional Arab cultures of the Galilee as it once was – yet the taste for elet remains.  Now enterprising farmers have started to cultivate elet and other edible wild plants, and sell them in the local Arab green grocers.

Meals and Memories on the Israel Sustainable Food Tour

I’m stuffed. Not from my Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family in the US – although everything on the table was delicious – but from five days of intellectual, spiritual, and gastronomical nourishment while participating in Hazon and Heschel’s first Israel Sustainable Food Tour. From November 15th though 19th, twenty-seven foodies and I explored Israel from the perspective of sustainable food. We met with farmers, chefs, community gardeners, a permaculture expert, a food scientist, volunteers at an innovative soup kitchen, the founder of a food co-op, an expert on food insecurity in Israel, and many other passionate people who shared their experiences working on sustainable food issues throughout the country.

More Sustainable (Mediterranean) Goodness Coming to a CSA Near You!

kibbutz Neot Smadar

Do you love your CSA (or Tuv Ha’Haretz) but also want sustainable products that are not found locally where you live?  Things like olive oil and dates are local to the Mediterranean Sea – not New England.  But for folks in the greater New York area committed to sustainable agriculture, some of our CSAs have recently partnered with a new company that supports small-scale farming and economic development in the Negev Region of Israel.

Negev Nectars, a new business that launched last week, will be bringing gourmet, sustainably produced foods to CSAs (and Tuv Ha’Haretz) to the United States.  Negev Nectars members will be sent olive oil, jams, chutneys, honey, dried herbs and other unique products (check them out here) three times a year just before Hanukkah, Passover and Rosh Hashanah.  Negev Nectars can be shipped all over the U.S., although your share can be picked up at participating sites.  Currently Negev Nectars can be picked up at the Tuv Ha’Haretz in White Plains, NY and Forest Hills, NY with additional sites coming soon in New York and New Jersey.

Photo Diary September 16 – at The Shuk


I took an excursion this week to the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market in Jerusalem to get a taste of the space days before a major Jewish holiday. Below you will find a sampling of pictures from this trip.  Perhaps for some of you it will be something of a trip down memory lane. For those who have never been there, these pictures do not do it justice.

Shana Tova,


Frankenstein Falafel? Israeli Consumers at Risk from GM Foods

Cross-posted from the Green Prophet

photo by The Rocketeer

Recent laboratory tests have discovered that consumers in Israel are eating Genetically Modified Organisms – whether they like it or not.

Tests by Milouda Quality Control Laboratories, which analyzes food destined for sale in the European Union, discovered GM soya in popular foods sold in stores across Israel, reports Haaretz. Food contaminated with GM included baked goods, packaged schnitzel and meat substitutes. Israeli favorites like falafel could also potentially contain GM if they are fried in soya oil.

Biotechnology research may be big business in Israel but, as far as I am aware, no GM crops are grown commercially in the country. However, it is clearly being imported and is entering the human food chain via processed foods or animal feed. In addition to denying consumer choice – and putting public health at risk – GM contamination could precipitate an economic disaster for the Israeli food industry.

Honey by Any Other Name…

Date Honey from the Galilee

Date Honey from the Galilee

Here in the Galilee, a modest but auspicious ease in the heat is rousing us out of our summer torpor.  That and the impending preparations for Rosh Hashana – with the questions that are on everyone’s lips: who is eating where and preparing what?

Our holiday table, like most, will be graced with a plate of sliced apples, and a bowl of honey to dip them in – to remind our tongues and the pleasure centers of our brains how sweet life can and hopefully will be in the coming year. This year, however, the honey we’ll be dipping into will have a darker hue and more complex flavor than usual.

The research I’ve been doing on the origins and history of the seven species of the Land of Israel (wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey) has changed the way I understand this last and sweetest of the seven.

Nogah Reuveni, one of the pioneering scholars of Israel’s biblical agricultural landscape, astutely observed that, of all the seven species, there is only one which is not a plant or plant product (guess which).  While today, we think of honey as what comes out of a beehive, in ancient times, it referred to any sweet syrup made out of boiled-down fruit.

Milk & Honey: Grown Across the Green Line

(Story excerpted from Tablet Magazine)


On the occasional Friday afternoon, a makeshift farmers market appears inside the popular soup shop Marakiya in Jerusalem’s city center. Israelis peruse the goods: dried figs, almonds, creamy labaneh, bottles of grape honey, and briny stuffed olives. It’s a familiar scene in a country known for its fresh produce and sumptuous food markets. But this souk aims to produce more than a good meal.

Behind one of the tables, Yahav Zohar, a 29-year-old tour guide and translator, chats with a customer about a bottle of organic olive oil. While his deep tan and scruffy beard might suggest otherwise, Zohar is not a farmer. Rather, he is something of an altruistic middleman—traveling once a week to the West Bank in search of growers and small-scale food producers whose products he buys and resells at a small markup. “The other day, I bought 500 eggs from a farmer at a shekel apiece,” he said. “In some cases, our purchases end up being a big share of a family’s income.”

A Kibbutz Style Wedding



It’s one of those things I thought I had sworn never to do again: prepare food for an event. But when a young couple on the kibbutz decided to get married and wanted a “kibbutz wedding,” I somehow found myself in charge of the hors d’oeuvres, (along with my sister, who “volunteered” me.)  

In the old days, a wedding meant that half the kibbutz spent the day in preparation. Our young couple was wedding in a different era: They had to pay for everything themselves; most members work in jobs outside the kibbutz (where taking a day off to work on a wedding is, for some reason, not a given); and there’s no central kitchen with all the necessary equipment, permanent staff and person in charge of procurement.