Category Archives: Judaism

Never Forget

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It’s a week of armies and war and soldiers and remembrance and the childer’s have reacted in a what I can only call a big muddle.

Their Dad is spending the week in the miluim which is the army service that all males do until around the age of 40 to 45.  He’s training which means in essence walking a lot, usually at night with a huge backpack.  To be honest I don’t know what he’s doing but I know he is carrying a gun and wearing army fatigues which in itself turns my blood cold.  The childers, sorry rephrase that, the male childers in our family think this is rather cool.  Daddy in uniform, with gun – yay.  Hmmm maybe not. Unfortunately for hubby he also turned 40 this week and what better way to spend a landmark birthday than tramping in the desert with a load of other nearing middle age sweaty men.

This week was also Holocaust Day in Israel where at sundown all stores, restaurants and places of entertainment close as a mark of respect for the millions of lives taken in the Holocaust.  The following morning businesses re-open but at 10am a minute siren is sounded throughout Israel and the country comes to a stop.  Everyone stands in silence, where ever they are.  Cars on highways pull over and drivers stand by their cars, buses stop, streets are silent.  It is a moving and awe-inspiring experience that I often believe should be replicated on war remembrance days around the world.

The government and Yad Vashem released new guidelines to teachers on how to answer children’s questions about the siren and what the Holocaust was and for the first time the recommendation was that State nurseries should also be included. So that is where my almost 6-year-old and twin 3-year-olds learnt a little about Hitler, Germany, anti Semitism and remembrance.

In reality when they came home and I asked them what they did at nursery this is snippets of the conversation we had:

Number 2 son (age 3) – we know about Eeeetlerrrr.  He drank poison and died.  He’s dead.

Daughter (age 3) – yes and he drank poison and he was a baddy and he was called Eeeetler.

son (age 3) – and and and and Joan (not her real name) the nursery teacher’s grandpa and grandma had to hide in the woods and he got shot in the leg and there was lots of blood.

daughter (age 3) and they didn’t have any plasters

son (age 3) – and they were on the roof

Me – who was on the roof?

son (age 3) – the soldier who shot him and they  tied his leg with material and they ran away

Me – and then what happened

both – he’s dead, he drank poison.  he was called Eetler.

other son (age 6) – who’s Eetler?

Yes indeed.  That is what happens when you try to tell history to children too young to even begin to understand.   I did  tell them that their teacher’s grandfather was not Hitler, at least I am presuming he wasn’t. I then let the subject drop rather than try to right the story.  I will wait for any questions to explain more.  Right now it seems like they think it’s an adventure story. There was no mention of remembrance or the siren, or paying our respects.

One day later number 1 son had been taught his teacher’s version of the government’s guidelines.  This is what he told  me:

‘Israel was at war with Germany and they used to be the baddies but now Israel is good friends with Germany. Germany put the Israeli’s in the prisons and some of them died and then the English decided to help and they opened the prisons so that the Israelis could go to Israel.  Some of them died and that’s why we have a siren and stand in silence so we can remember them.’

I have paraphrased as it was told to me in Hebrew but the particular use of Israelis and the English ‘deciding’ is word for word.

Since Holocaust day we have had 3 nights.  All 3 nights number 1 son has screamed out and shouted in his sleep – what he is dreaming about I don’t know.  He has told me he doesn’t want me to get old, he doesn’t want me to die, that he doesn’t want to grow up, that he loves his life and his family and he wants it to stay the same forever.  He has told me that when he finishes school he will have to go to the army and he wants to because soldiers have guns.  He also asked what do soldiers actually do and that there are bombs in the ground that blow tanks up. To say his brain is muddled is an understatement.  I think that Daddy is  a soldier at the moment added to the bits and pieces of what he learnt about Holocaust Day have merged and he is trying to make sense of it all.  Interestingly when he asked me why we need soldiers and an army I told him they were there to protect us and keep us safe and he said yes we need to defend ourselves from the baddies. “Who are the baddies?” I asked him (dreading the answer) and he looked at me like I was crazy and said “the other States who want to kill us and the robbers, the baddies” – duh silly Mummy.

I don’t know if his new fascination with death and old age is related to what he learnt.  I don’t know if the fascination with soldiers and armies and wars is due to the absence of his Dad or what he learnt.  I don’t know what he dreams about that makes him sit bolt upright shouting in his sleep.  I do know that it started this week and as a parent I have little or no control over what he has been taught or told in pre-school.  I hope what he told me is all he heard.  As for my babies I can categorically say that I think it is wrong that they were even taught about it at such a very young age.  I think personalizing it with tales from her own family was wrong of the teacher and the fact that they mixed her grandfather and Hitler rather suggests that it was too big a tale to tell.  At the very least the guidelines set down should have been adhered to more strictly and the same amount and type of information should have been given to all nursery aged children.

I didn’t grow up here, I am not Jewish so I have no point of reference by which to navigate the waters of Jewish history. I can only hope that I have dealt with their questions well. To remember and to respect and to never let the facts of the Holocaust be forgotten is incredibly important for everyone, Jewish or not. However, at the tender ages of 3 to 6 children’s imaginations are wild and the difference between fact and fiction isn’t clear.  As they grow they will develop the emotional intelligence to understand, for what purpose do they need to be taught about it now?

 

In remembrance of all those who perished in the Holocaust and during the Second World War.  We must never forget.

Holocaust Day

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this tricky subject.  Was the government unfair to the teachers? Are the children to young?

 

 

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Temporary Home

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It’s Sukkot which in Israel means a number of things.  Firstly it usually heralds the change in the weather.  Hooray.  The humidity goes down, the wind picks up, we even usually experience a few drops of rain (literally a few drops).  Sukkot also means that people’s balconies and gardens and kosher eateries gain an odd looking, temporary structure; covered in palm fronds and decorated with what I would refer to as Christmas decorations.  Of course they are only Christmas decorations if you come from a country that celebrates Christmas.  Sukkot in our house also means lots of children, open front doors, neighbourly kid-swap and a general raise in noise levels.

Cue quick explanation (Jewish friends look away now). Sukkot is a Jewish festival that commemorates the Jews 40 years of travel in the desert after their exodus from slavery in Egypt.  The structure or Sukkah is a reminder of the temporary dwellings they erected to live in during this time.  The word sukkah means booth or tabernacle and the roof is made from schach (try to say that after a drink) which are palm fronds or evergreen leaves.  During Sukkot people eat in the sukkah and some even sleep in the sukkah but as you know from previous postings about our garden, you would have to pay me A LOT of money to catch me lying out there in the dark.  The holiday is a week-long starting and culminating with special meals with friends and family.

(For a more in-depth explanation of the customs and religious importance of Sukkot http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm)

In our building we have a lot of kids.  Our 3 plus another 11.  8 of them are under 6  and by the way there are 5 sets of twins – yep, go figure – so you can imagine the excitement when the sukkah goes up in the gardens and behind the building in a communal area.  Don’t think you can have an invite only dinner as you are to be assured at least 4 small people will appear at some stage, joined later by parents.  I love it.

Husband built our sukkah and another one in no. 1 son’s kindergarten with a choice selection of bits of wood and old sheets.  Precarious was not the word to describe them, until they were tied to every available solid structure.  We are 4 days in and so far so good, as long as high winds stay away.  I intend to be out when he takes it down.

A little ram-shackled but we like it

A little ram-shackled but we like it

The roof is a bit more tricky because come a week before sukkot the council starts pruning the palm trees (of which there are thousands) and people  who look like they haven’t seen the light of day since last Sukkot come out of their houses to claim their share of branches.  Traffic jams ensue as elderly women, dazed by the sunlight, bent double, wander blindly across the roads oblivious to traffic ‘must get palms, must get palms’, cars randomly stop in the middle of the street and open their car boots all whilst the men up the cranes chopping the palms yell for people to ‘GET OUT OF THE WAY’.  I should mention that one palm frond is bloody heavy.  Surprisingly so.  A few years ago I stopped (in a layby) at the side of the road and claimed a couple of branches to bring home.  Problem was they were too big to fit in the car and in the absence of a roof rack I clung to one at a time on the roof with one hand on the steering wheel.  Not terribly safe and I almost broke my wrist but at least I bagged two beauties for free.  Yes, there’s the rub, if you don’t have your own (plus a tree surgeon to cut them down for you) or you don’t manage to catch the annual council chopping then you have to buy them!!!  At around 5 shekels a frond (£1 or $1.50) that makes for an expensive roof.

Since having the childers, Sukkot is by far my favourite holiday; a social butterfly such as myself who spends way too much time alone, really appreciates the many visitors, invitations and the comings and goings of the neighbours.  I seem to spend way more time outdoors, protected from bugs by our sukkah (although a large cockroach did fly on to me the other night) and there is something so holiday-like eating outside and (almost) under canvas.  Only a few more days to go until it’s over for another year and life goes back to normal after the holiday-fest which is August and September in Israel.  Better get back to the garden and enjoy the rustle of the drying fronds overhead.

Christmas decs sorry Sukkot decs

Christmas decs sorry Sukkot decs

It’s oh so quiet

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Imagine your city, town or village without traffic, with all the stores closed.  No buses, trains or even planes overhead.  No open 24hr corner shop, no open petrol station.  Just quiet.

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Welcome to Yom Kippur in Israel. A 24 hour period from sunset until sunset the following day when the whole country falls silent.  Oh apart from the bike bells, the odd ambulance, the shouts of children as they race down the traffic free roads and invariably crash into each other, the calls for dogs that, left off their leads are prowling the bins in the neighbours’ gardens and running wild in a frenzy of new-found freedom. It’s now my 10th Yom Kippur I think so I am not as amazed as I was on the first year.  I remember it well.  We were pre-childers but had our lovely dog still and we walked down the 4 lane highway through the centre of Tel Aviv with the dog off the lead and no other people save from a few cyclists.  We had walked down to the beach in the morning and revelled in the quiet and the clean air (Tel Aviv is particularly bad with air pollution).  It had been a revelation to see that it truly is possible to turn off ‘modern’ living, at least to a degree, for a day.

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I soon discovered that for secular people Yom Kippur falls into certain routines, dependent on your situation.  Single 20 somethings use the time to sleep, go for a walk and watch as many films as they can squash into one sitting.  New parents use the quiet to sleep, one parent walks the baby for hours while the other rests and then they swap.  Parents of young kids teach their kids to ride bikes, scooters, roller skates and after the novelty of the first evening  wish that they too could sleep through the heat of the day and watch a movie that wasn’t animated.  Parents of school age kids hang around with other parents whilst their kids race off on adventures with an emergency mobile phone in their backpacks and the promise of keeping in regular contact. The teenagers are out all day or inside with their computer games and the adults enjoy the quiet, read a book, go to synagogue, think.  The day culminates (in my neighbourhood) with everyone appearing fresh-faced and smelling of shower gel, dressed in white shirts and either going to or standing outside the packed synagogue to hear the shofar being sounded.  A crazy mix of religion and secularism which still takes me by surprise and yet warms my soul.

So what is Yom Kippur? (as always if you already know/are Jewish I apologise and look away now).  Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is the day in which Jewish people fast, confess and ask for forgiveness for their sins and misdemeanour’s from the previous year and for ones they may inadvertently commit in the new year.  It falls 10 days after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and traditionally is said to mark the day that Moses received the second part of the Ten Commandments from God.  Unlike many of the Jewish fasts many secular Jews fast on this day – fasting is to concentrate your mind and soul on your atonement and not on earthly pleasures.  Wearing white represents the purity of confession and in basic terms the rules are: no eating, drinking, bathing, sex, no use of lotions or perfumes, no wearing of leather shoes.  As with all religion there are those who follow all the rules to the letter and others follow them to a degree.  For example the riding of bicycles etc is of course forbidden so only the secular kids take to the streets on wheels.

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Yom Kippur for me is obviously not religious at all.  It is instead a day of quiet.  When our family is together with no distraction from chores or outings, no television (although I confess to watching Peter Pan with the kids for the first time ever this year). Our Yom Kippur this year saw no.1 son gain enormous confidence both on his bike and from being set free on his scooter, no. 2 son learnt how to ride a bike (with stabilisers) and Princess daughter after a morning of bombing around on her push along bike retired to her throne on wheels (the stroller) in the afternoon so she could view her subjects from a reclined position.  We all slept in the afternoon – what joy during the fiercest heat and humidity to be cool, fanned and sleeping. As the sun went down husband and the childers went to hear the last prayer and the blowing of the shofar in the makeshift synagogue that appeared in the neighbourhood to contend with the masses who couldn’t fit into the local synagogue.

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So, when is she going to tell us what a shofar is? Well, its a ram’s horn that is blown on Yom Kippur to mark the end of the fasting after the last prayer.  It’s also used throughout the year at other religious ceremonies, not least New Year when it is blown 100 times on 2 days (no easy feat as to get a sound out of the horn takes practise and a lot of puff.).

Imagine your town without  TV and radios broadcasts,  no alarms going, no phones ringing.  Voices travelling down the street as there are no cars to drown them out.  Imagine a day when you pull the puzzles and books down from the highest shelves and have time to sit on the floor with your kids and play, when you chat to your family or friends without interruption from pinging emails, phone calls or text messages.  A day when you don’t cook (even if you don’t fast its not fair to have the waft of cooking smells spilling into the street), when you don’t dash out to get milk or petrol.  When the pace of life slows and the juggling stops.  Just for a day. And then it all starts again.

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Bonfire Night Israel style.

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As the smoke clears from a slightly damp Independence Day barbecue the important task of collecting wood in shopping trolleys begins for the next fire friendly festival in Israel, Lag BaOmer.  You would be forgiven for thinking that it’s just one big festival over here at the moment but in actual fact Jews are currently in the period of mourning which is Omer, the 50 day period between Passover and Shavuot.  Lag Ba’Omer is the one day (the 33rd day) that is a day of celebration during this time.

Here goes with the 39 & Counting rundown of the reasons for this holiday (Jewish readers look away now):

The Omer period is counted from the exodus from Egypt at Passover to the giving of the Torah at Shavuot

The Omer period of mourning is for the victims of a plague in the time of Rabbi Akiva, the Rabbi from the time of the destruction of the 2nd temple.

The mourning is lifted and celebrations occur on Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of Omer) because the dying of the plague victims ceased on this day.

It is also the day that marks the death of 2nd Century Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author and first teacher of the Kabbalah book, the Zohar.

It also marks the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire led by Bar Kokhba

The holiday is marked with bonfires symbolising the light of the Torah (other reasons are also given here) and in more modern interpretations, to celebrate the heroics of Bar Kokhba in leading the revolt.

As you can see it’s a confusing one.  As ever you can read more about it here and here.

For many Israelis Lag BaOmer means a few things in their modern lives.  Firstly it’s the only day between Passover and Succhot that you can get married, secondly it’s a time when children of all ages gather and make bonfires, everywhere and anywhere.  For me it’s the night 9 years ago that my husband proposed.

At least a week before, the hunt for the best bits of wood starts with none too ethical tactics being used by some older children to bag the best haul (didn’t we have a fence yesterday?) .   In the run up to the actual day the organised nursery and school fires take place culminating in the busiest night for the fire brigade when older kids try to outdo each other with the most enormous mountain of a fire possible.  Not the safest of holidays.

Luck is on the emergency service’s side this year because shock horror it has been raining, a lot, for a week.  This is pretty much unheard of at this time of year, it’s certainly the latest in the year that I’m still rocking my winter boots since I moved here.  The ground is damp, the wood is wet and instead of having a week of smokey smog it looks like it may only be a couple of days. So be safe kids and we’ll be wrapping up warm a la Guy Fawkes night when we’re huddled around the fire tomorrow night.

Seders I have known

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In 1997 in Wellington, New Zealand I attended my first Passover Seder.  I had absolutely zero idea what a Seder was, truth be told, I didn’t really know what Passover was.  I had vague recollections of being taught about this important Jewish holiday in a Religious Education lesson at high school but as my RE teacher was very suntanned, except under her chin which was pearly white, I spent more time staring at her neck and wondering how she didn’t notice, than what she was teaching. Shame on me. In a Wellington hostel we joined a group of other Jewish backpackers who, as far as I can remember were very disorganised and noisy and couldn’t decide what order to read the Haggadah, which is the guide and story for the Passover meal.  I also remember being given a cold hard boiled egg (my idea of hell) and being shown to dip some leaves in salt water.  To say that it was a bizarre experience is an understatement.  We left before the end when half the guests were concentrating on downing the full glasses of wine which are part of the ritual while others argued about whether to keep reading or eat.  Not the best introduction to the Jewish faith methinks.

16 years on (where did that time go?) and we are approaching the Passover Seder again and my mind has been mulling the memories of the Seders I have attended since that chilly evening in Wellington.

For those of you who, like I was, have no idea what a Seder is, here is the 39 & Counting guide – again if you are Jewish please skip this part for fear of a) being offended and b) choking on your tea with mirth at my lack of knowledge.

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The Seder is a ritual feast which is held at the start of Passover in which families and friends gather and retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt where they were being kept as slaves by the Pharoah.  The dinner is guided through the reading of the Haggadah which tells the story, includes blessings, songs and rituals (salt water on lettuce amongst others) to remember and symbolise the struggle of the ancient Jews in their escape (salt water represents the tears). The Seder  includes drinking four cups of wine (merry backpackers in Wellington), eating matzot which are crackers symbolising the unleavened bread they carried as they had no time to let the bread rise, eating symbolic foods placed on a special Seder plate and then reclining in celebration of their freedom.  This is very much in a nutshell and if you want to know more, click here.

One of the most notable things about a Seder is that give or take a few cultural changes depending on the nationality of the guests it is pretty much the same all over the world and has been for thousands of years.  Quite amazing if you think about it.

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a child size glass and grape juice – my glass is larger and full of the real stuff

When we lived in London we had one Jewish friend who went back to her family in Scotland for the holiday so my husband was resigned to doing it chez nous with just the 2 of us – which is odd and obviously leads to a lot of skipping of the text and a lot of wine drinking.  However, the first year we were there we were invited to the house of one of the congregants of the synagogue that my husband was working at as a security guard.  (So sad that a place of worship needs security). The house was in St John’s Wood and was gigantic.  They were hosting around 20 people, all of whom were a long way from their particular homes and were as an assorted a bunch as the Wellington crowd. We sat around a beautifully decorated table and I witnessed for the first time a ‘proper’ Seder.  The mood was friendly and welcoming – I had no idea what to do and was guided throughout – the food ranged from the usual (roast chicken) to the highly unusual (for me), gefilte fish (excuse me, what is that?) and when they passed a platter of chopped liver I must have looked horrified as my table mate quietly told me what it was and that it was delicious (still not my thing).  The reading was solemn, the songs jubilant and although the experience was way outside of my norm I found it moving and impressive.

The London Seders that followed were less impressive in our pokey flat but nevertheless we always had them, of varying lengths throughout our time there.

In Israel of course Passover starts the second the Purim costumes have been sold,  rather like the Easter eggs arriving on the shelves minutes after the Christmas decorations have come down.    3 weeks ago no. 1 son insistedIMG_0296 I bought matzot in the supermarket because he thinks them delicious.

We now do the Seder with my in-laws of course, once with a more religious member of the family which was a longer and more serious affair, once with no.1 son as a new-born where I spent the evening rocking and running between rooms as I tried to settle him enough to keep on reading (ah the foolishness of a first time mother).

One year my sister was visiting during Passover and we had the Seder in a tiny hotel dining room in a desert town with 6 other hotel guests.  That was bizarre.  My sister was the loudest singer at the table (Hebrew being her strong point – not) and the meal and reading was over in less than an hour.  Only we remained until the ritual was complete.  I really enjoyed that Seder in fact.

Next Monday there will be assorted members of our extended family sitting around the table.  I am thankful that although young, my children are able to sit at the table/occupy themselves/join in rather than cry and breastfeed as in previous years.  They will be dressed in their best bib and tucker – a great excuse for my daughter to wear one of the many party dresses that have been handed down by English cousins – and best of all there will be at least 7 other adults to help when we have to convince them that the party is over and its time to go to sleep.

The greatest part of Passover for me personally is that as a baker and pastry chef my husband gets to take a holiday.  For the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten so basically no regular bread,  cakes,  biscuits so hooray his bakery shuts and we get to see him.

Happy Passover and Chag Sameach everyone.

available at zazzle.com

available at zazzle.com

Yum, Treats for Purim

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Continuing on with the Purim theme I feel the need to introduce those of you not familiar with the treat that fills my local bakeries and coffee shops at this time of year; Oznei Haman or Hamantaschen.   Hamantaschen is Yiddish for Haman’s pockets and Oznei Haman in Hebrew literally translated means Haman’s ears.   Google it and there are a number of explanations as to why these delish biscuits are called this, none of which is the one I heard first and has stuck in my head – Haman (the baddy in yesterday’s story) was punished for his treachery towards the Jews by being hung from a tree by his ears.  This explanation doesn’t actually explain why the biscuits have 3 corners (maybe he had 3 ears?) and so obviously I heard it from someone even less informed than myself.  The real reason is either to do with the 3 cornered hat he wore, the 3 corners representing the 3 founders of Judaism, or more gruesomely because the tradition at the time was to chop off one’s ears before hanging (still not sure why 3).  Nice.

So to the biscuits.  Husband is a pastry chef and a pretty good one at that, so he is a reliable source for a recipe.  This morning he duly trooped number 1 son and his baking equipment to the nursery to demonstrate the making of said biscuits.  Poor man has had some worries about the demo, not least because there are 35 4 year olds in the nursery but also because there were nut allergies, milk allergies, gluten allergies a-plenty and he was convinced just a sniff of flour, butter or milk could have disastrous consequences.  Once the recipe had been altered to cater for all, he reported that it was a great success with no. 1 son on a high (not from the sugar but from the kudos of having his Dad at the nursery), and all the kids joining in with no casualties.  Judging by the state of his chef’s clothes it was a pretty messy affair.

I am assured they are pretty easy to make (so kid friendly) although I cannot attest to this – why bake when your husband’s a pastry chef? – what I can 100% verify is that they are yummy and once you start munching it’s difficult to stop – but you should because they are chock full of all the stuff that’s bad for you.  Here is the recipe (the original), courtesy of husband.

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photo:Tali Schiffer

Award winning Oznei Haman:

For the biscuit (makes 25):-
  • 500g plain white flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 350g butter
  • 2 medium eggs (120 grams)

Preparing the dough:-

Blend the dry ingredients in a mixer and add the cold butter gradually until mixture has a sandy texture.  Add the eggs and blend until a dough begins to form.  Take the dough and wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Filling suggestions:-

Traditional poppy seed filling:-

  • 200g of ground poppy seeds
  • 180ml milk
  • 125ml cream
  • 200g sugar

Preparing poppy seed filling:- Bring milk cream and sugar to the boil, add poppy seeds and re-boil, simmer until poppy seeds are completely soft.  Cool thoroughly before putting on dough.

Chocolate cream filling:-

  • 420ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 60g cornflour
  • 35g butter
  • 250g bitter chocolate

Preparing choc cream filling:- Bring vanilla extract, half the milk and sugar to boil and aset aside,  whisk egg yolks with other half of sugar till pale, seive in cornflour and whisk, add hot liquid to eggs gradually until 1/3 liquid is in egg mixture, pour all mixture back into pan and heat whisking all the time until it comes to boil (like custard).  Take off heat, add butter and whisk. Pour into bowl with chocolate in it, whisk choc into custard.  Cool with cling film on the top.  This mixture can be kept up to 3 days.

Assembling the biscuits:- Roll out refrigerated dough and cut out circles of about 7 cms in diameter. Add 2 teaspoons of the filling of choice and fold over the outside edges of the circle to form a triangle pocket, squeezing the three corners of dough to hold the shape. You should be able to see a little of the filling in the centre of the triangle (see picture).

For best results refrigerate the unbaked biscuits for 2 – 3 hours before baking for 12 – 15 minutes in 170 deg oven until golden brown

Enjoy!

Just a brilliant disguise

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IMG_0156It’s Purim next Sunday and in Israel it is Purim week.  Purim is actually only one day, but as any parent of young children in Israel knows, the party starts now.  You could also ask any parent of a young child in Israel how they are feeling about Purim by Wednesday and they might possibly admit that they are a bit tired of it.  The reason?  Costumes.

Purim is a celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree by Haman, Prime Minister to King Ahaseurus to destroy them.  The story is from the Book Of Esther, where it tells of the plot by Haman against the Jews which was thwarted by Mordechai and his adopted daughter, Esther.  The full story should be told by someone far more knowledgeable than I so I will jump to the end of the story where the King discovers Mordechai has saved his life by foiling a plot to kill him, Haman’s true colours are revealed and is duly executed and Esther is the girl of the King’s dreams. In gratitude to Mordechai the King allows him to write a new decree which allows the Jewish people to preemptively destroy those who were going to attack them, thereby saving the Jews. Please don’t complain about my simplistic story telling – it is in a nutshell and I am no expert. (Follow the red highlighted links above to websites who are better informed than I)

The idea behind the costume is that the story contains many elements of disguise: The belief that God was disguised in the forces that brought about the safety of the Jews and the non-Jews disguised themselves as Jews when the new decree was made in order to save themselves.  As with most religious festivals the real reasons behind the customs are somewhat forgotten over time (Christmas anyone?) but the customs remain, so at Purim people dress up.  Or, if you are between the age of 2 and 10 you dress up for a week, in a different costume, every day, for a week, causing your parents aggravation and stress, for a week …for a week.

I had never heard of Purim when I first arrived in Israel and my first experience of it was seeing children in fancy dress on their way to school.  To see an 8-year-old dressed as Santa Claus in Israel in February was quite a surprise.  Before the children we celebrated Purim by going out in the evening dressed up in lame costumes.  I went to a party one year as Mary Quant.  I thought it was a great costume – but no-one knew who I was supposed to be.  They possibly presumed I was a hospital patient, pale pink lipstick is not for everyone’s complexion.

Purim is also celebrated with alcohol, in fact over indulgence is encouraged, apparently it is the only Jewish festival where you should drink  -until you forget who you are (there’s that disguise thing again).  Not one to be short of an excuse for alcohol I embraced this part of the celebration.  Now that I have to source multiple costumes for multiple children I will curtail my alcohol intake.

So costumes for today, number 1 son is costume-less and the twins have gone to nursery in their pyjamas.  Not as easy as you may  think, wake them up, wash, breakfast and out the door?  No, unfortunately due to rubbish nappies, yes Huggies I am talking to you, that meant full strip, full wash, full change into another pair of pjs.  Of course being the bad mama that I am I didn’t have the favourite pjs freshly laundered so no.2 son has gone in his brother’s dirty Thomas the Tank engine top (fresh from the bottom of the dirty washing basket)  and Princess no.1 daughter is sporting leggings and a too small pj top with fairies on it.  Of course they both took their sleep companions, teddy and dolly so God help us all come 7.30pm if bad mama has left them at nursery by mistake.

I am reliably informed that each day at nursery has a different theme but as my Hebrew reading is abysmal my little ones could well turn up as King and Queen on the wrong day.  Oh well, they won’t remember when they are 15, or will they?  The culmination of this dressing up frenzy is Friday when they will all wear their official Purim costumes, that’s 2 Spidermen and a princess for us.  We only have 1 Spiderman mask so I am gearing myself up for Friday’s meltdown already.  It will also finally make sense for no.2 son to run up to random people at bus stops and minding their own business walking down the street, shouting, ‘I’m Spiderman’, it’s been a bit difficult explaining to confused (and scared) people for the last month.

Happy Purim everyone.015