Monday, December 22, 2008


Happy Hanukkah everyone!

Last night we caught the Steelers game on the satellite tv. The channel that airs the game picks up everything, including the commercials. It was wall-to-wall Christmas ads. Jeff and I looked at each other and said, 'guess it's coming up. When is it, next week?' Oh no, we forgot, Christmas is Thursday!

It's more than a little wierd being in this country and not knowing that it's Christmas. It's not like the stores are all decked out for Hanukkah, but you do see displays of menorah and candles and dreidels. I guess it's just not a very materialistic holiday. People still go into work and things are open as usual. I think that people might leave work a little early so that they can get home in time to light the menorah, but that's it.

Even though Israelis aren't consuming material goods, they are very much eating! The newspapers and tv news, though lacking ads for gelt and gifts, are all over the sufganiot controversy. What is sufganiot? They are simply small jelly-filled doughnuts that have replaced the latke as the chosen Hanukkah food. All of the stores sell them, and the bakeries can get pretty fancy with the fillings and toppings. The newspapers and tv all talk of excessive calories of the sufganiot, and the weight people gain as a result of eating them daily.

Ine article I read lamented the loss of the latke. Barry Newman wrote in the Jerusalem Post:
I have often wondered how sufganiyot, and not latkes, became the Israeli symbol of Hanukkah. Avi, the owner of an industrial bake shop recently clued me in. Sort of.

"It was the Histadrut guys," he explained. "They were bothered by latkes being homemade and not something that was sold at grocery shops or kiosks, and felt that something was needed to keep workers busy...So they began to look for an alternative, you know, something that you need oil for but also something that people -- and especially kids -- would spend money on. Someone real smart came up with the idea of making the sufganiyot a Hanukkah treat, and bingo, a star was born"

Now that's innovation!

Jews eat food fried in oil because it represents the miracle of the small amount of oil last for eight days when the Maccabees purified the holy Temple in Jerusalem. I also read this:
Some rabbis have taken the explanation of why we eat fried food on Hanukkah one step further. They say that oil is like studying Torah in two ways.

1) Oil is not a food we eat by ourselves and not necessary for out daily existence. It simply adds pleasure to our food and life, as does the study of Torah.
2) Oil has the potential to illuminate. If you stand in a dark room you can light oil to see the room around you. Study of Torah can also illuminate our world for us.

Personally, we'll be enjoying both sufganiyot and latkes here in our household. I bought our sufganiyot from a chi chi bakery down the street. No cheap supermarket ones for me...if I am going to ingest 400 calories it has got to be good!

And the latkes? Well, I bought all the fixins for them the other day and will make them maybe for Christmas, when Jeff plans to take the day off. I am also going to make another Hanukkah treat this week, a type of cheese pancake (wait til you hear the story of Judith, the symbol behind the pancakes). So look for a post about that coming up. And, like a good Jew, I plan to serve Chinese (my own, not take-out) for Christmas.

But I am not foresaking Christmas, and I'm not becoming Jewish. And I do not mean to blasphemy either faith. It's just fun to go native and absorb oneself into the culture. And if that means eating doughnuts and lighting candles, so be it! BTW, did you know that "amen" is Hebrew in origin and means, "so be it"?


Rachel said...

Yum - the sufganiot look delicious!

Mara said...


As an example of English names originating in Hebrew, my own name is the original form of Mary.

I'm enjoying your writings about your life in Tel Aviv. And am so glad Lucy is healthy now.

You're missing out on the biggest snow storm in the last 40 years. Multnomah County was/is listed as a disaster area.

I love the descriptions and photos - please keep writing.