Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sick Bay

I've learned so much over the past year but in particular I've learned my way around the local hospitals. Most recently, Jess spent 2 1/2 weeks at 'Hotel Hadassah,' a lovely environment, replete with bad lighting, mediocre food (but a decent selection of food in the, yes, mall near the parking lot), and even worse accomodations (try 5 in a room, with the 5th kind of parked by the window). The care was good, actually decent nursing care and reasonably pleasant floor doctors, except for a few that were brusque and lacked bedside manner.

But by comparison, where Sarah had her heart surgery was downright luxurious - little vases with flowers on your breakfast tray, 2 in a room with pleasant looking sheets although no designer hospital gowns. Sarah went the 'private route' for her surgery, an increasingly popular method for people with good agreements with her 'kupat holim'/medical plan. She had to cover various aspects of the surgery, like the cost of the valve but not the surgical fee (go figure) and decided that she wanted a quieter environment and what was ultimately, excellent care post-surgically. Jess, already a patient of this well-regarded fertility specialist at Hadassah Ein Karem, a leader in such care, ended up there because she was having an unexpected complication and it wasn't an 'elective' situation like Sarah. Not that Sarah wanted to have a valve replacement and double bypass but she had a minute to decide on where and when - within a range of a few days.

Hadassah did have a less, 'fah'kneytched'/very religious feeling then Sha'arei Tzedek, where I've also spend lots of time this year with my Father (from his hospitalization to his chemo Sundays). Demographic at both hospitals is everyone - religious, secular, Arab, Jew but Sha'arei Tzedek has a decidedly 'haredi/ultra relig' feel because it's more centrally located to downtown. Both hospitals (HadassahEK and ST) have shuls with minyanim at all hours of the day, kosher food, Jews walking around giving out sandwiches to family members spending hours at the hospital or offering meals on Shabbat to all who need - separate seating only or course - and the requisite rabbinical types appearing with a few words to the ailing person and his/her family.

I decided though, that the hospital took on a particular air over Shabbat. For those who have read Harry Potter, I was reminded of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Friday night, while Jessica was being tortured by a variety of well-meaning doctors, I noted the presence of full families - all haredi - for Shabbat at the hospital. As this was a women's floor, there were many women on bedrest due to pregnancy complications. In Jessica's room, earlier in the week, there were the 2 haredi women who yelled across the room to each other in Yiddush much of the day and didn't deign to speak to anyone else. One of those women had an older daughter with her on a different day, with baby in tow, stroller, stuff - this in the 5'er room - for the whole day! Hospitals are not places for babies but it's just the way it's done here. There was the guy in his full Shabbat regalia - long coat, fancy hat, and such, singing down the hallway, as well as the young, not more than 10, year old girl, clearly left in the hospital overnight to keep her mother company and assist in whatever way she could. She mostly walked around goggle eyed, especially near Jess's room as she was the hot ticket with the most action on Fri night that week. She also always caught me on the telephone, as I was most of the weekend with nervous family members checking in, as if to make sure that I knew that she had seen me speaking on the telephone on Shabbat. There was the guy who showed up to make kiddush on Fri night, and havdalah on Saturday night - albeit it a bit late for the rest of us who had already decided that Shabbat (probably the longest one in my life) was over. It was truly a bizarre place.

Today we walked out of there - Jess, a newly freed woman - and it was a good feeling and I'd like to hope that this is a pause, a breather, from the hospital gigs of late. My Dad is holding his own for the moment - back on chemo but looks alright despite being easily fatigued - so, we attempt to go back to normal over here.

As Seen on Janglo

Can't tell if this is real or not. Could be real or could be making fun of the whole Janglo problem and Jerusalem - people with too much time on their hands and this sort of religious/frugal/let's just share all we have attitude. Normally these ads even have prices of a few shekels for this or that. I sound mean but it can be surprising. On the other hand, Janglo is where we've gone to find all sorts of things like the 5th season of 24 which we just went and drove to Ma'alei Adumim for. But I confess it was a lovely drive and we visited an interesting little health food store that I think you'll be hearing more about if you read The Honey. Read on...

I have the following items which i don't need:

1. 15" monitor: You can see something but it's not clear enough to use
for work. It can probably be fixed by a technician.

2. Plastic case for 3 x 5.25" floppies.

3. Stainless steel shoe horn

4. Dust covers for a keyboard. Other dust covers still in the bag. I
think they're for a computer, maybe screen as well.

5. Mini-LED torch, keyring size. Works but the plastic casing is ripped.

6. Cloth for cleaning galsses.

7. String that people attach to their glasses to hang them round their neck.

8. Men's watch. I can't remember if it works or not but the light
brown strap is in good condition.

9. Vanish stick. Pre-wash stain remover. Not much left.

10. Do people still use handkerchiefs? I have 7 or 8 (off-)white men's
handkerchiefs to give away.

11. Two self-adhesive suede heel grips.

Pick-up Rechavia-Katamon, preferably Friday morning.
E-mail for more info.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Foodie Adventure

Now I know what it means to 'have a press pass,' or feel like you do. For a future Honey, I wanted to interview Moshe Basson, the charismatic chef of the recently reopened Eucalyptus, in downtown Jerusalem. Basson, is the Steve Brill of Israel. If you don't Wildman Brill, he's the guy you'll notice foraging in Central and Prospect Parks, bringing home delicacies such as burdock root, ginko berries (yes, I did this once but only had to go outside 409 Pacific to forage), sarsparilla bark, dandelion greens, etc. Basson, who is also a member of Chefs for Peace and is part of group of local chefs starting up a Slow Food chapter here in Israel, is someone who lives and breathes ancient cuisine as well as the importance of knowing, eating and ensuring the sustainability of local, indigenous plants.

I called the restaurant and in typical fashion, when I listened to the machine, got both the new phone number and Basson's cellphone number - which I called. I told him that I was a writer for an internet based e-newsletter and I was curious to talk with him about reopening, his new menu, what he's been doing, etc. He invited me to come to the restaurant with a 'ben zug'/partner at 7:30. I informed Ira that we had a gig for some tastes of this and that, shouldn't take long - he had a gig with Len Wasserman and a friend for a beer night downtown.

We arrived. Empty restaurant. Smiling staff. Nice space on Horkonos in the Russian Compound area. We sit, then move as we're told we'll need a bigger table for all the plates. Moshe, introduces himself to us shortly after we arrive and proceeds to wine, dine and educate us over the next 3 hours of eating. I haven't spent this long at dinner since a meal many years ago with Ralph and Lisa at the De Puys Canal House, where we ate and ate and ate and then staggered back to the Thunderbolt (or something like that) Motel to sleep off the excess of delicious food. We started with a big fresh laffa style pita with some assorted salads. Essentially fresher, more sophisticated versions of the regular stuff. Next, a trio of soups - a fab lemony red lentil, tomato with min (refreshing and good) and Moshe's specialty grain, 'geresh ha'carmel' in soup form - a young spring wheat, served in the spring as well as the following year, once it's been dried (then it has a slightly smokey taste). We punctuated our eating with lengthy discussions of different herbs and grains and Ira and I sniffed and tasted and nibbled at the many things that Moshe showed us. Moshe was suitably impressed at our ability to recognize certain plants and recognized us for the foodies that we are. The meal continued with some different salads which we only nibbled at, knowing there was more ahead - particularly liked his take on taboule and this very creamy, whipped kind of potato salad. Everything is always beautifully seasoned with lots of fresh herbs.

When Moshe, or his talented sous chef, Sofyan, cook, people talk about food, it's culinary and emotional history as well as the political history of this part of the wold. Moshe has cooked with Jews and Arabs alike and feels that knives should be used for chopping, not killing. That might sound simplistic but for a guy of his background (Iraqi), it's revolutionary. He has friends on both sides of the fence and they are people who care about the land and its future and want to preserve the plants, grains and foods of the people of this part of the world - proper stewardship even in the face of war. Moshe said that he has contacts who show up at his kitchen bearing their unusual offerings - ancient grains and plants cultivated all over the country that Moshe enjoys using in his cuisine.

We kept eating through a lamb course - lamb and vegetables topped with a pastry, Moshe's signature dish of figs stuffed with chicken in a tamarind (tamar hindi) sauce and some beef with eggplant that was meltingly tender and lovely. We tasted his Magluba - a one-dish casserole, served with great fanfare, of chicken, vegetables and rice. Sephardic hamin/cholent, but thankfully not as abused as the Ashkenazic variety. Eventually, too stuffed to take another bite, we finished with a simple semolina cake with tahini and honey decoratively arranged on the plate and Moshe's homemade liquors. It was all wonderful, including the moment where Moshe went across the street to the parking lot to show me local caper berries and how they grow everywhere - I've since found them on my way to shul.

We took Barat Ellman and Jay Golan back there last week and they as well enjoyed a meal and the attendant food education. We didn't eat as much but we let Sofyan (who was behind the stove that night), choose the menu and set the pace until we told him we'd had it and then finished with a sahlab pudding which was great and a bit of liqueur.

He's only been reopened a couple of months but if you're going to be in town, make time for Moshe and tell him that Beth sent you.

Wings - We got wings

There are retarded people here in Israel. They're on the street, in the parks, out in groups, on their own. I see a guy regularly when I go to Shira Hadasha. He keeps, Ilan, the guard, company. There's a young woman who works at Aroma at the Hadar Mall and a few people at the local supermarket. Whether or not attitudes to the retarded here are perfect or not (as noted in an articles from today's Haaretz - read your link), at least people with disabilities are visible. I've mentioned this before but I guess I still find it amazing after the invisibility of life in NY for the special needs community.

As seen on The Honey (just scroll down that issue a bit), we noted a cultural offering last week at Ha'maabada/The Lab, a local performing arts joint - actually, really not a joint. A cool space, lovely for smaller venues and a nice bar/cafe right outside with beer on tap and of course, espresso. We went to see, Amutat Kna'fay'im/Wings, a theatrical performance by disabled adults about their lives and their work - in a spoon factory. I don't know what we were expecting, really, but despite some last minute excitment (Jessica needed to be stitched and glued in 2 fingers because she spaced out while cutting watermelon but it should be added that she had 1/2 of Danie's TRY students at a barbecue at home. Of course, Daniel couldn't leave because of the TRY students so Ira, who loves blood, had to take her to the local emergency clinic - he said he didn't look), we managed to get there - me, Lisa Smith and Ira (who was a bit late).

Full house, included 2 other families that we know locally with children with special needs and Akiva's principal from Feuerstein, who really looks like a smurf. Stage was set, lighting came on and we were absolutely held in thrall for the next hour or so. About 18 adults - some with physical disablities, some with emotional and all appeared to be developmentally delayed in one way or the other. They spoke, they danced, they talked of their lives - their wishes, hopes and dreams. The good thing was that it wasn't sweet - in some cases, especially the women, it was downright angry. Two women spoke of being treated poorly on the street by others, especially men, and one spoke of being taken advantage sexually by men in her neighborhood. Most of the women spoke wistfully of wanting to have homes, families and their was a poignant but well staged section of most of the women, veiled, dressed in elements of bridal finery, pretending to be brides.

Everyone expressed some kind of thought, feeling or opinion - some actors were harder to understand than others but they all had something to say and it was cool to watch the actors work together, encourage each other and clearly show how they knew what they were doing. It was a well-rehearsed and well thought out piece and we were all impressed and excited with the evening.

We clapped and cheered and the actors bowed and smiled and cheered for themselves. The performance was free, which surprised us as we all thought it was good theater, better than alot of 'paid' theater that we've seen - it was not about "let's go see the retarded people and clap for them."