Where’s the Jewish Food?

You’ve heard “Where’s the beef?”  (Not from me, of course.)  Well, making a stir in the last week or so is a BBC article http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170607-why-isnt-there-more-jewish-food-in-israel asking why there isn’t more “Jewish” food is in Israel.

Hmm….  what’s wrong with that question? Israel is FULL of “Jewish” food, and plenty of vegetarian food, from countries all over the world.

Perhaps the question should have been, “Where’s the Eastern European, Ashkenazi food?”

For those of you who are not “familiar,” following is an explanation of “Ashkenazi,” lifted from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Ashkenazi, plural Ashkenazim, from Hebrew Ashkenaz (“Germany”), member of the Jews who lived in the Rhineland valley and in neighbouring France before their migration eastward to Slavic lands (e.g., Poland, Lithuania, Russia) after the Crusades (11th–13th century) and their descendants. After the 17th-century persecutions in eastern Europe, large numbers of these Jews resettled in western Europe, where they assimilated, as they had done in eastern Europe, with other Jewish communities. In time, all Jews who had adopted the “German rite” synagogue ritual were referred to as Ashkenazim to distinguish them from Sephardic (Spanish rite) Jews. Ashkenazim differ from Sephardim in their pronunciation of Hebrew, in cultural traditions, in synagogue cantillation (chanting), in their widespread use of Yiddish (until the 20th century), and especially in synagogue liturgy.

Today Ashkenazim constitute more than 80 percent of all the Jews in the world, vastly outnumbering Sephardic Jews. In the early 21st century, Ashkenazic Jews numbered about 11 million. In Israel the numbers of Ashkenazim and Sephardim are roughly equal, and the chief rabbinate has both an Ashkenazic and a Sephardic chief rabbi on equal footing. All Reform and Conservative Jewish congregations belong to the Ashkenazic tradition.

So, yes, Ashkenazi food is basically Eastern European food, without certain animals like pork and shellfish, which we don’t eat anyway.

Obviously, the authors of the BBC article had their blinders on when they were looking for “Jewish” food, because Israel is overflowing with “Jewish” food.  Not just the matzoh ball soup and potato latkes, but food that was brought in from countries other than the Eastern European countries.

Immigrants from Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia, India, all over Asia, Morocco, Mexico, South America, Vietnam. and others, have all been integrated into the “Jewish” food scene.

Yes, even Vietnam. Did you know that Israel was the only country to pluck a boat full of Vietnamese refugees out of the ocean at the end of the war?  If you haven’t heard the phrase “Vietnamese Boat people” its easy enough to look up.  (Here, I’ll make it easy. http://www.aish.com/jw/i/Vietnamese_Boat_People_in_the_Promised_Land.html ) But the Israeli cargo ship, Yuvali, was the only ship to pick up desperate refugees escaping the Communists when the war ended and after being refused by one country after another (sound familiar? Read up on refugees fleeing Eastern Europe) they were brought to Israel, as were hundreds of other Vietnamese afterwards.  So, surprisingly most “Chinese” food in Israel is actually Vietnam-based!

“Jewish” food is not just matzoh ball soup, latkes, falafel, and hummus.  Its Indian curry, Ethiopian injera and vegetarian platters, Yemenite malawach and jachnun, “Chinese” food, “Japanese” food, “Thai” food, all of which include multiple vegetarian delights, and too many more to list here.

So, for those looking for “Jewish” food, branch out.  “Jewish” food is much more than just Eastern European Ashkenazi food.

Explore.  Eat.  Enjoy.  Go #veg.  Ta’im!  (Delicious!)


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