Tel Tzion: “There. Was. Sugar. In. The. Fish. I’m traumatized. ” Ruti N. of Ashdod sobbed. “Also, the rice was just plain and white…. is there a nationwide turmeric shortage?” Ruti’s Sephardi family is among the many evacuated from the South of Israel due to the war and placed with host families around Israel….. many of them who are Ashkenazim.
Grief counselors and social workers have been sent to help the displaced families deal with their trauma. “I thought they would want to talk about the rockets and sirens.” said social worker Adi S., “But when I ask them to open up about their fears, all I hear is complaints about the food.“
“My children haven’t seen a bowl of couscous in days! It’s a human rights violation.” cried Ruti. “And why is there mayonnaise in everything…. and four different kinds of herring???!”
We caught up with Shevy, who’s hosting Ruti’s family, as she peeled potatoes in her kitchen on the yishuv of Tel Tzion. “It’s been a pleasure to have them!” she exclaimed. “Poor things, stress from the war must be affecting their appetite … at lunch they hardly touched their gribenes.“
As we left Shevy’s house, we asked about any plans after her guest family leaves. “I’ve been offered a job with the Shabak.” she replied. “They’re setting up a prison for captured Hamas terrorists and they want ME to cook the prisoners’ meals!“
Jerusalem, Katamon: “Find me a Sephardi boy… that’s all I hear this time of year. Nobody asks if a boy is a serious learner, has good middos or if he has job prospects. All these girls want is for me to find them a Sephardi boyfriend before Pesach.” explained Malka A, known as the best shadchanit in Katamon. We had come to Malka’s with our friend Shevy, who was newly single.
“Nu? What happened with this last boy…the Moroccan?” Malka inquired. “I didn’t have feelings for him.” Shevy explained. “But it was so hard to break up with him before Pesach….I kept hearing about this delicious rice pudding his mom serves at the Seder….and the amazing Mimouna his sister always hosts. Do you realize how I spent every Motzeh Pesach growing up??? Standing in line at the pizzeria for undercooked slices!”
Malka comforted Shevy on the breakup, brought out her book of shidduch résumés and assured her that she would soon find a boy with everything she was looking for… and who would bring her favorite flavor of Doritos on Pesach Tiyulim. “What about this guy? He’s cute! What is he, Tunisian?” Shevy asked as she flipped through the book.
“Him? No, he’s not for you.” Malka replied. “You’re a brunette and he said he only wants to date blondes.”
“Disgusting!” Shevy yelled as she slammed the book shut and stormed out. “How can men be so shallow?“
Tel Aviv: “It’s a hate crime! Ethnic discrimination! Racism!” cried Mindy R. “These stores and their discriminatory practices that make the food I like more expensive. It’s just because I’m Ashkenazi, isn’t it?“
Mindy, a Passaic native who now lives in Tel Aviv, tearfully described her experiences shopping for food at her local AM:PM supermarket. “These cultural micro-aggressions have got to stop!”
“They’re charging 21 Shekels for a tiny bottle of McCormick’s seasoning, and like 10 Shekels for a kilo of some random yellow spices I’ve never heard of.” Mindy complained. “Their motives are pretty obvious; they think they’re better than me and are trying to force me to be like them…. maybe I don’t want to serve yellow chicken and yellow rice and yellow vegetables for Shabbos like every Israeli I know? That’s why they made the jars of duck sauce so expensive, because they don’t want me to buy them! And yeah, I tried Amazon and Target but they don’t ship here.”
We headed to Mindy’s corner supermarket with her typical shopping list: jarred gefilte fish, duck sauce, and cream of mushroom soup (You know, the essentials!) in order to get the whole story from Rami the manager. “Am I racist against her? No way! That girl is one of my best customers; she easily spends 4000 Shekels every month!”
We asked Mindy why, if she felt uncomfortable at her local grocery store, couldn’t she just go to another store like Osher Ad? “I would need a car to get to a supermarket like that.” she said. “I would totally buy one, but groceries are sooo expensive.”
UPDATE: Stay tuned for tomorrow when this crisis migrates to Facebook and morphs into an angry rant on the popular page “Living Financially Smarter in Israel”!
Jerusalem: A recent spate of COVID-19 infections has drawn suspicion of health department officials as several young religious men infected with the virus are insisting that they have not been participating in illegal minyamin, shiurim or attending weddings, but have in fact, caught the virus at a local gym.
A GYM in Jerusalem? What’s next? Actual Nightlife? At first, we thought it was an urban legend (much like the affordable apartment in Nachlaot or all those high-paying jobs where you don’t need to speak any Hebrew). But upon further investigation, we discovered that indeed there was a gym and that it has been a hotbed of COVID-19 infection.
We asked Yossi D, a young Charedi man from Bayit VeGan, how he found himself in a gym in the first place. “My Hebrew isn’t so good, I saw a sign that said “חֲדַר כֹּשֶׁר” and thought it was something religious… kosher room, right?”
Yossi described how he had the virus for days but didn’t realize. “I was a bit tired, feverish, and the food had no taste. It took a long time for me to notice because I’m Ashkenazi and I’m kinda used to it.“
In order to get all sides of the story, The Daily Freier stopped by the gym (which is now closed but somehow doing classes over Zoom. It’s complicated.) and we were greeted by Sasha, the burly ex-Soviet fitness coach. “Yossi? Yes, he is good kid. But I had to yell at him when he smoked cigarettes in between sets on the incline bench. Also, he kept asking where the coffee machine was.“
The Daily Freier asked Sasha if the Fitness World could accommodate a group of people who had their own lingo, were distrustful of outsiders, and strictly observed a long list of rituals.
Sasha put down the kettle bell, thought for a moment, and replied: “You mean like CrossFit?“
Jerusalem: According to Israel’s Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, Jews should not leave their homes in order to kasher cooking utensils or burn hametz (foods deemed unkosher for Passover), which religiously observant Jews do every year the morning before the holiday. As part of the national effort to fight the spread of COVID-19, Israel’s Chief Rabbis ruled that Jews must instead gather all such products in their kitchen and eat them down to the last crumb.
“In lieu of our usual traditions, eating every last bit of hametz is the only way to guarantee both a safe and kosher Passover.” said Yosef at a meeting with leaders from the Sephardic and Mizrahi communities. “Drastic times call for drastic measures.”
According to Jewish law, no bread or leavened products may be eaten or kept at home during Passover. But some communities are finding this new ruling particularly difficult. Ashkenazi Jews, whose recent ancestors resided in Germany and eastern Europe, are forbidden from eating kitniyot, a term that refers to many grains and legumes. This made Rabbi Lau’s ruling particularly shocking.
“Drinking all my beer and eating all my bread is one thing.” lamented Yechezkel Abelman of Jerusalem. “But there’s 4 days left before the holiday. How are my wife and I supposed to eat five kilograms of rice and wash them down with twelve cans of lentil soup?”
“Instead of burning hametz, we must prepare ourselves to burn calories.” explained Yaakov Litzman, Israel’s Minister of Health and follower of the Ger Hasidic Dynasty. “Those who find it difficult should soften their bread by dipping it in water.”
Of course, not every religious leader is going along with the new ruling. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky of Bnei Brak is considered a high authority in the Haredi world, and has vowed to defy the ruling.
Some believe Rabbi Kanievsky’s headstrong approach is due to core disagreements over religious interpretation. Others believe it’s because he is yet to discard five jars of extra crunchy Skippy peanut butter he has stashed in his home. No matter the reason, some of his followers were more enthusiastic about his “live-and-let’s-get-sick” approach.
In mid-March, after ordering his hundreds of thousands of followers to defy the Health Ministry’s Anti-Corona directives, he changed his mind two weeks later. “If he’s going to change his mind again, I’d rather he do it in the next day or two, so I have time to digest.” said Yoel Friedberg of Bnei Brak. “Corona or not, if I show up full to the Seder, my mother might kill me anyway.”
Meanwhile, religious leaders across Israel and the Diaspora are already preparing other holidays for the impact of COVID-19. If the pandemic stretches into the fall, building a Sukkah may involve dismantling your living room furniture for the wood.
Tel Aviv, The Old North: A local man of Ashkenazi origin has decided that it would just be very, very convenient if he could finish digesting his late breakfast of jachnun some time before Erev Rosh Hashanah. Jachnun, the slow-cooked rolled dough pastry from Yemen is normally served with a hard-boiled egg and a spicy sauce. And the flaky breakfast pastry has a density greater than a Black Hole. So if Tel Aviv resident Avi F. could just complete the digestion process by some time on Sunday afternoon, it would be great.
Avi described his Holiday schedule to the Daily Freier. “I am going to a family dinner in Rishon LeTzion, so if we could just finish this by Erev Chag, it would make my plans a lot easier.”
The Daily Freier asked Avi to explain his jachnun meal. “It was quite good.” Avi explained. “Like eating buttered Kevlar, except with more layers. I plan on being finished chewing by the time I watch the news tonight.”