Tiyul to the Negev

This post is a bit belated, but two weeks ago I spent three days in the Negev on a Pardes tiyul (trip).

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Southern Israel is essentially completely composed of desert. This area, called the Negev (lit. meaning ‘south’ in Biblical Hebrew and from the word nigev, meaning dry), comprises more than half of Israel’s land. In addition the Negev, Israel also has a second, much smaller desert called the Judean desert. The Judean desert lies east of Jerusalem and descends south towards the Dead Sea.

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The focus of the tiyul was hiking (the Negev is known for hiking), and we did our first trail in an area called Nahal Peres. Nahal means river in Hebrew, and the term refers to the common geological feature in the Negev of a canal created by a former river. In the present day, a nahal may fill a few times a year after heavy rainfall and flashfloods but most of the year it lies dry. Nahal Peres is located in the north-eastern part of the Negev. We hiked for about five hours, and the terrain was relatively easy with some scrambling. The views along the hike were gorgeous; we saw gorges, locations of former waterfalls, and water cisterns that filled with water from floods.

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After a long day hiking, the group went to the inn where we were staying for the week, Shvilim Bamidbar – Hatzeva. The inn was similar to a lodge with several smaller rooms surrounding a central communal area. The communal area included lots of seating, cushions, and recreation tables. Shvilim Bamidbar also has a kitchen and serves breakfast and dinner each day (they also provided food for us to pack lunches with in the morning).

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On the second day, we did a more technical hike through another nahal, following the steps of the Palmach (Israel’s defense forces before the creation of the state). The Palmach used the Negev for training and strategic advantage over the British, and the present-day Israeli military has continued to utilize the Negev for their purposes as well.

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Along the hike, Noah took the lead in charging up some sand dunes:

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Eventually the steps of the Palmach led us to the end of the nahal with only steep ledges on all sides.

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Historically, a group of Palmach fighters did find themselves stuck here, being pursued by the British. They scaled the walls of the valley at great peril and survived. Now, the area is call Ma’ale Palmach (ascent of the Palmach), and ladders and horseshoe holds have been added along the ascent to help hikers. Nonetheless, it’s still a pretty scary climb up!

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On our third and final day, we stopped by the site of the Biblical city of Beersheba whose archaeological ruins are a few kilometers east of modern day Beersheba. According to the Torah, Abraham and Isaac dug the wells here. Based on archaeological evidence, Beersheba is believed to be the first planned city in the region – including a grid system of pathways and an elaborate water system.

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This tiyul was a lot of fun, and hiking in the Negev was unlike any other trip I’ve done. The terrain is so unique, and witnessing the barrenness of the Negev firsthand makes it impossible not to marvel at the Israeli efforts (and success!) of “making the desert bloom.”

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Made In the City and WAFFLES

A couple weeks ago, Jerusalem had a “Made in the City” Festival. The festival was intended to showcase various forms of music and art from the different sectors of life around the city. The festival highlighted both Jewish and Arab cultural contributions to the city, and exhibits/shows were intended to draw people from both groups.

Noah and I went to one of the festival’s events called Just Singing. Just Singing was a concert featuring Jewish and Arab performers. In addition to music, the big appeal of this particular event was a FOOD TRUCK! Remember food truck days back in the lovely state of Minnesota? See here and here. The food truck at Just Singing was advertised as having been imported (?!) from the USA and having a menu created by Jewish and Arab chefs.

The event was held on Shushan Street. Shushan Street is located near the Ben Yehuda area, and the street is lined primarily with bars. This was my first time to that area, and it was definitely a different feel from the other parts of the city I usually spend time in! Check out some of this crazy graffiti/art:

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Of course, stopping by the food truck was essential.

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In addition to the food truck, several of the bars along the street were open and serving drinks:

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Eventually, we made our way to the stage area. At first, there was hardly anyone near the stage, but as soon as the performers came out, quite a crowd gathered:

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We stayed for about an hour of the music and then headed home, passing this great mural on the road:

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The mural shows a map of Jerusalem as the center of the world, and it’s based on an actual map from the 1500s, depicting the belief of the medieval time period that Jerusalem was, in fact, the center of the world. Even though our maps have changed, I sometimes think the notion remains.

In others news…WAFFLES!

Jerusalem has a thing for waffles. Restaurant chains called Waffle Bar and Waffle Factory abound, and dessert waffles are on the menu of many other restaurants. While you could probably find a savory waffle or two if you really tried, the basic Jerusalem waffle formula is as follows:

ice cream + whipped cream + delicious sweet waffle + toppings of choice = GET IN MY BELLY

I have partook in two waffles during my time in Jerusalem so far. The first was a banana/white and dark chocolate sauce/vanilla ice cream waffle from Waffle Bar:

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The second was a nutella/chocolate and vanilla ice cream/POUND of whipped cream waffle at Landwer Cafe at the Tahana.

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Waffles are pretty dang good. I think they are best enjoyed, however, as a ‘sometimes’ food. 🙂

Malcha Mall and lunch at ‘Greg’

Last weekend, Noah and I went to Jerusalem’s largest and busiest mall: Malcha Mall. The mall is located in the Malcha neighborhood, southwest of central Jerusalem. The mall is HUGE with nearly 300 stores and, according to their website, 400,000 square feet of shopping area and another 32,000 square feet of office space.

The interior of the mall looked fairly similar to any typical American mall, and there were tons of familiar American-brand stores (American Eagle, H&M, Gap, etc.).

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There were, however, some telltale signs that we were still in Israel. For example, there were several ‘shuk‘-like stands scattered in between kiosks and many stands selling challah (we went on a Friday before Shabbat):

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There were also some (ultra) religious folks walking around handing out Shabbat candles to the women (to make sure they lit that night!) and asking the men they saw if they had already put on tefillin. If the answer was “no,” there was a handy-dandy table set up with several sets of tefillin for men to put on and say the appropriate blessing. Side note: tefillin are cube shaped boxes worn on the head and left arm that contain the words of the Shma – the central faith statement of Judaism. It is considered a mitzvah for men to put on tefillin each day, typically during the morning prayers.

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candles I was handed while eating lunch – intended to be lit that night to welcome Shabbat (I was already planning on lighting)

 

I was theoretically looking for boots at the mall, but the sheer number of shops and my indecisive attitude preventing that initiative from making much progress, so I ended up mainly just window shopping and oohing and aahing at the size and eccentricities of the mall.

After enough walking around to work up an appetite, we went to a restaurant called Greg for lunch. IMG_5620

One thing that we noted while walking around the mall was that there were a lot more sit-down service restaurants than what you might find at a typical American mall.

At Greg, I ordered an Israeli breakfast (I know, I’m getting predictable). The breakfast, as usual, came with eggs, bread, spreads, salads, and drinks. For my drinks, I ordered a carrot juice and a special coffee drink made with date syrup and soy milk. Noah ordered the shakshuka and a grapefruit juice.

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Yum!

 

‘Get Better’ Chicken Soup

Last week, Noah wasn’t feeling well, so I decided to flex my chicken soup muscles and try making the ultimate “get well” food. There was no point doing it if not to do it well, so I started from scratch.

Just some water, a whole chicken, and veggies.

*full recipe below

First, I put a whole chicken into a pot with chunks from 1 1/2 onions and fronds from about 4 stalks of celery. I covered the chicken with cold water and set on the stove, brought to a boil, and simmered for slightly over 2 hours:

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After about two hours, I fished out the chicken from the pot and separated the meat from the bones/yucky stuff. After that long in the hot water, the meat was literally falling off the bones and the water had turned into a nice broth:

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To the chicken, I also added 3 chopped parsnips, 4 chopped carrots, 4 stalks chopped celery, and one bunch chopped parsley tops:

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I added the chicken and veggies back into the pot, brought to a boil again, and simmered for about 10 minutes until the veggies were all tender.

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The soup came out really well! The broth had a lot of flavor, and I left salt on the table to season to taste rather than adding directly to the soup. AND, it must have worked…because Noah isn’t sick anymore. 🙂 The soup made a huge quantity, so I ended up freezing about 1/3 of it and plan to defrost it in a week a two for more soup then!

"Get Better" Chicken Soup, serves 10
Ingredients
- 1 whole chicken, bones and all!
- 1 1/2 white onions
- 4 stalks celery, plus fronds
- 4 carrots
- 3 parsnips
- 1 bunch parsley
Method
- rinse chicken in cold water and set inside a very large pot
- cover the chicken with cold water and add onion (chopped
into large chucks) and celery fronds
- bring water to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours
- turn off heat and remove chicken from pot
- separate meat from bones and other yucky stuff
and place meat in a separate bowl 
- chop carrots, celery, parsnips, and parsley
- add chicken and chopped vegetables back into
broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes until
veggies are tender
- keep warm until serving

I served just with bread (challah, to be exact!), but you could definitely make noodles or rice on the side to serve the soup over.

Tiyul to Hebron

As I mentioned briefly in a post at the end of last week, I went on a tiyul (trip) to Hebron with Pardes last Wednesday. Hebron is one of the most hotly contested locations in Israel. It has great significance religiously, and it has been the site of much violence and contention between Palestinians and settlers (or, “settlers,” depending whose narrative you are listening to).

Biblically, Hebron is where Abraham spent most of his life and where four important Biblical couples are buried: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. All of these burials are believed to have taken place inside the same cave. The site today is not a cave but a large building over the cave, called the Tomb of the Patriarchs or Machpelah. In the Bible, Hebron comes under Israelite rule when Joshua enters the land of Canaan and the villages there are assigned to Caleb. Later, King David rules from Hebron for seven years.

The historical understanding is that Jews were exiled from the area after the destruction of the first temple, returned briefly, but were then exiled again when the area was under Byzantine (ie, Christian) rule. The return of the Jewish community was, ironically, following the Islamic invasion of the 7th century. At this point, Jews were allowed to return to Hebron and started to build a small Jewish community. While control over Hebron continued to be held either by Christian and Muslim forces over the next several centuries, Jews consistently maintained a small presence inside the city.

From the 12th century onwards, Muslims had authority in Hebron. While a Jewish community persisted in the land, no Jews were allowed within the Tomb of the Patriarchs during the entirety of this period. In 1917, the British occupied Hebron, but Jews continued to be barred from visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs. In 1929, there was a violent massacre of Jews by Arabs that resulted in about 70 deaths and the destruction of Jewish homes and institutions. At this point, the Jewish community fled Hebron, marking the first time in about 1300 years that no Jews resided in Hebron.

Immediately following the creation of the state of Israel, Hebron was under Egyptian authority. After the six-day war in 1967, Israel gained control of Hebron along with the rest of the West Bank, marking the first return of the land to Jewish authority in 2,000 years and the first time that Jews would be allowed to enter the Tomb of the Patriarchs in over 700 years. At this point, some Israelis began to move back to the land (some of whom still felt a personal and/or family claim to the land from before the 1929 massacre). First, the Jewish community developed in Kiryat Arba, just on the outskirts of the city. In 1979, however, a group of settlers moved into the center of the city.

Today, Hebron is split into two sections, as determined by the Oslo accords: H1 and H2. H1 comprises 80% of the land of Hebron and is controlled by the Palestinian Authority. There is no Israeli military presence in these areas, and, under Israeli law, it is illegal for Israeli citizens to go to these areas. H2 is controlled by Israel. Within the 20% of Hebron that is considered H2, 15% is land monitored by the Israeli military but lived in by Palestinians. Ie, the army controls the roads in these areas but the homes and villages are Arab. The logic of this system is that it allows the military to control the roads to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, thereby insuring it will remain open to Jews. The remaining 5% of land is what is owned and lived in by Israelis. This area is heavily controlled by the military and restricted – and in some cases, forbidden – to Palestinians.

The recent situation in Hebron is, sadly, one that includes a lot of violence, persistent debate about who ‘owns’ the land or ‘should’ be there, and highlights the incredible impact narrative can have on a group’s understanding of and connection to place. With such different narratives of ownership and who has done injustice to whom, it is little wonder that the Jewish and Palestinian communities living side-by-side there have had little to agree on.

And now enough history, let’s get to the trip! We went to Hebron on an armored bus – as has been the practice of all visiting groups for many years:

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To get to Hebron, we drove past Bethlehem along the ‘wall’ or ‘security fence’ (again, whose narrative?).

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When we reached Hebron, we went to the city center to see the location where the first settlers came into the city proper in 1979. The original caravans are still in the same location and settlers continue to live in them (although today they have two caravans on top of each other and reinforcements built around the windows in response to a terrorist attack).

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Near the city center, we climbed up a tower on Tel Rumeida for some great views looking out on the city:

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Looking down from the tower, we could see the Israeli military base that is located in Hebron:

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The base is on Shuhada Street, a street that causes some of the greatest controversy in present-day Hebron. The street transitions from an Arab residential neighborhood to a Jewish one, and the street itself lies within H2 control. Following several terrorist attacks on the street, the street was closed to Palestinians. The Palestinian homes bordering the street had any openings to the street barred shut, and it is illegal for Palestinians to walk in this area.

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We had the opportunity to speak with a soldier living and working on the base for about 20 minutes.

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The soldier is 20-years-old, spent the summer in Gaza with Operation Protective Edge, and is now serving 6 months in Hebron before his unit is moved elsewhere. Someone in our group asked the soldier what he thought would happen if the military left Hebron. His response was to say something along the lines of, “In Gaza this summer, I saw that Gaza is not a city. It is a terrorist fort. If we left Hebron tomorrow, this would also be a terrorist fort.” Another interesting question was asked about the relationship between soldiers and Palestinian children. The soldier told us, “When they are younger, they come and talk to us and we have conversations. When they are 12, 13, or 14, then this is the age usually they throw rocks. Sometimes we ignore it, but if it is serious and we tell them to stop and they don’t, then we can detain them for up to three hours until the police come.”

After the conversation with the soldier, we went to the house of a youth organization called Youth Against Settlements. Immediately after entering the property of the group, there was a visible change in our surroundings:

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A female leader from the organization spoke with us. She shared many accounts of violence enacted by settlers towards Palestinians and spoke of most of these incidents as receiving little-to-no attention from police or the military. The organization uses non-violence to achieve its goals and commonly uses videos to garner support (she said that there are videocameras set up at all times around the house to record any possible violence from settlers).

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While the group does employ non-violence, many comments during the conversation (ex: Jews shouldn’t be allowed to pray on the temple mount, expressing an openness but not affiliation towards Hamas, assigning responsibility for change in full to Israelis) left me feeling as though the ultimate goals and methods of the group weren’t necessarily in line with mutual understanding, accountability, and change.

After the visit with Youth Against Settlements, we went to the center of the Jewish residential area. Again, the narrative visibly changed:

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We went to one of the community’s synagogues – a building originally built in 1893 as a Jewish clinic:

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There, we met with David Wilder, the spokesman for the Hebron Jewish Community. Essentially, his job is to meet with (often hostile) media and visiting groups to represent the perspective of the Hebron Jewish Community.

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Overall, David spoke about the Biblical and historical claim to the land by Jews, stated that a Jewish community in Hebron insures continued access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and cautioned against believing stories or videos at face value (stories can be untrue, videos can be misleadingly edited, etc.). While I expected David to speak in a way the inspired empathy for his positions, in reality, I found the way in which he spoke about Palestinians and expressed his opinions to often be disturbing and lacking in compassionate. In combination with the visit to Youth Against Settlements group, I left this session feeling as though each side was completely dismissing the narrative and perspective of the other as wholly illegitimate – a depressing outlook for the future indeed.

After this meeting, we walked through some more of the Jewish neighborhoods, passing by a memorial to a baby killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2001 during a period of heightened tensions:

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Eventually, we made our way to the Tomb of the Patriarchs where we took a few moments to look around. The site is divided into two areas: one for Muslims and one for Jews. Visitors/tourists are allowed to visit either (but the security guards try to size you up when you come in to see which side you should go to. Ie, if you’re wearing a ‘Free Palestine’ shirt, they probably won’t send you to the Jewish side). Inside the site, there are 4 rooms – one for each couple – marking where the burial sites are believed to lie below.

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After visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the group started to make our way back to Jerusalem with a quick stop in Gush Etzion (another area considered a settlement with a contentious history of ownership). In the Gush, we met with a group called Shorashim (roots). After an altogether VERY depressing day, this was the perfect end. Shorashim is a organization that embraces a life-style and ideology of non-violence (as opposed to simply using non-violence as a strategy to achieve an end goal). The group is run by a Israeli settler who lives in the Gush and a Palestinian man who formerly was an activist for Fatah. The two men both, through serious introspection, came to realizations of the humanity of the ‘other’ and started the group as an effort to increase dialogue and to help Israelis and Palestinians to realize that they DO have things in common – namely, roots in this land. They run their organization out of, essentially, a barn.

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As we met with the group, the sun was going down, and we ended the session by candlelight:

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I was extremely moved by many of the things that Ali, the Palestinian leader of Shorashim, said to our group. He pointed out that, right now, Israel’s position is based mainly on fear, and the Palestinian position is formed largely from anger. He said that “we must facilitate meetings and interactions with the other to reduce fear. We must end this competition for who has suffered more. Non-violence is creating joint interests for both sides.”

I was so appreciative to end the day with a little sliver of optimism, and I truly hope that groups like Shorashim are able to reach individuals from both ‘sides,’ building compassion, understanding, peace.

Bloomfield Science Museum and CHALLAH

A couple weeks ago, Noah and I took a trip to the Bloomfield Science Museum.

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We happened to go on the day of Jerusalem’s first big rain, so the trip there and back was a bit wet. When we arrived at the museum, we quickly realized that we were about three-times the age of the typical visitor. But…no bother!

The museum was extremely interactive with exhibits on a range of topics, but we went to the museum particularly for an exhibit called Captcha.

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Captcha is about the history and applications of computer science. I don’t know if Noah learned anything new, but I definitely learned a lot! The exhibit included an interesting theme about what constitutes a computer (hint: a meat grinder is NOT a computer). While a meat grinder has inputs and outputs, the grinder doesn’t adjust its processor to react to particular inputs. The exhibit also posed the question if computers would ever learn to love, and there was an interactive survey for guests to indicate if they thought yes or no (about 1,000 more people thought that computers WILL be able to love in the future).

Although we went to the museum mainly for the Captcha exhibit, we also visited most of the other exhibits. The exhibitions on levers and shadows were especially fun:

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In other news, I made the most amazingly decadent delicious challah recipe! I saw the recipe months ago and had been waiting for the right occasion to make it. The recipe was for a pumpkin chocolate challah (link to recipe), and I essentially followed the recipe as written. Overall, this was quite a process and took about 4 hours between making the dough, letting it rise, and baking. 

The magic of this recipe comes from the combination of two components: pumpkin dough and chocolate filling.

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Before braiding the strands of challah as you normally would, flatten the strand to put chocolate in the center and then roll the strand around the chocolate:

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Once all of the strands are filled with chocolate, braid together and bake as normal:

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Chocolate explosion in the oven!!

Seriously people, this was SO GOOD. Make it for a special occasion…like the next time Halloween coincides with Shabbat. Luckily, that happens more often than Thanksgivukkah. 🙂

 

Sweet Lentil Loaf and Shabbat dinner

Noah and I hosted dinner last Shabbat, and there were a few vegetarians coming, so I wanted to make something that would serve as a main dish for vegetarians but still a side dish for the meat eaters. I settled on making a lentil loaf, inspired by this recipe.

*full recipe below

I started by putting up 3 1/3 cups lentils with 4 cups water to boil and cooking for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I shredded 2 carrots and 1 apple in a bowl and then added 1/2 cup raisins and 1 cup chopped celery:

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On the stovetop, I cooked 2 small chopped onions and 4 cloves garlic in a little olive oil. Once the onion started to color, I added the veggie/fruit mixture:

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I cooked for about 10 minutes and then combined in a separate bowl with the cooked lentils, 1/2 cup oats, 4 eggs, and dried thyme:

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Once mixed, I put the mixture evenly in a baking pan and prepared the topping (the best part!!). Meatloaf is probably my favorite comfort food (although I hardly even eat it!), and I think the reason I like it so much is primarily because of the traditional glaze on top. For the lentil loaf, I made a glaze out of 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup honey, and 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

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I cooked for 45 minutes at 350º, and it came out great!

Sweet Lentil Loaf, serves 10
Ingredients
 - 3 1/3 cups dry lentils
 - 4 cups water
 - 2 onions, chopped
 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
 - 1 apple, grated
 - 2 carrots, grated
 - 1/2 cup raisins
 - 1 cup chopped celery
 - 4 eggs, beaten
 - 1/2 cup oats
 - 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
 - 1/2 cup ketchup
 - 1/4 cup honey
 - 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Method
- combine lentils with 4 cups water and
simmer for about 45 minutes
- cook onions and garlic in a pan until
onions begin to color
- add apple, carrots, raisins, and celery
cook for 10 minutes
- remove veggie/fruit mixture from stove 
and combine with cooked lentils, oats,
thyme, and eggs
- push firmly into a baking pan
- mix ketchup, honey, and balsamic vinegar
and spread on top of lentil loaf 
- cook for 45 minutes at 350º

For the rest of the menu I made hummus-crusted chicken, avocado potato salad, and Israeli salad. Guests brought challah, wine, salatim, quinoa, a veggie side, and dessert.

The avocado potato salad was really easy and would be especially good for a summer recipe and/or bbq. I chopped and boiled 5 potatoes for about 10 minutes until soft and then set in the fridge to cool. Meanwhile, I mashed 1 avocado and combined with a cucumber, tomato, and 1/4 red onion:

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I added the cooled potatoes to these ingredients along with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and served cold:

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The Shabbat table all set:

the Shabbat table!