A Few Final Israel Moments

My last post mentioned some of the meetings and educational tours I had during my last Israel trip, and here are a few of the food and location shots that didn’t make it in…

One of my favorite meals during my recent Israel trip was this outdoor lunch at Cafe Greg at the Old Port in Tel Aviv:

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Cafe Greg is a chain around Israel, but I actually really love their salads and, especially, their version of Israeli breakfast.

The group also took a spontaneous trip to Cinema City:

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Besides playing with the new lifesize Star Wars figures, I also snagged lunch at Moshe Burger (see my post here for pictures of their food). The burger was great!

I spent a nice afternoon at the Tahana Rishona – one of my favorite Jerusalem spots!:

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While it was hard to saw goodbye to Israel at the end of the trip, I was so happy I was able to visit so many favorite spots (and favorite meals!) during my trip. It also helps that I know I’ll be back there again next winter. 🙂

 

Back in the Holy Land

I was fortunate enough to have a glorious two-and-a-half weeks back in Israel this December! I spent the first week relaxing on my own in Jerusalem, seeing friends, eating at favorite restaurants, and re-exploring my favorite neighborhoods. It was wonderful. On my first evening there, I went to Caffit (one of my favorite Jerusalem restaurants) with a friend. I had a cappuchino, the famous Oreganato Sweet Potato salad, and my friend ordered a bulgur and mushroom dish:

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The next morning, I went for a walk around the neighborhood and checked out Noah’s and my old street and apartment. It looks like they finally finished the construction that had been going on for most of last year!

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I enjoyed a lazy Friday morning with an Israeli breakfast, sitting outside at my favorite Jerusalem cafe – Kadosh:

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Other highlights from my week included running along the rekevet:

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Israeli produce (!!!):

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A good old-fashioned fry fest with some of my classmates from last year (reminiscent of last year’s Chanukah fry fest):

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Many trips to Aroma:

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And, of course, just generally walking around the Jerusalem streets and alleys:

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Emek Refaim has some interesting new decoration in the form of these spandex decorations:

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Slightly bizarre, but okayyy.

And a few final tidbits…

Star Wars dominates the holy land too:

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And when I saw this baby playing (sans parents) in the hall of Hadar Mall, all I could think was, so Israel.”

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More about the rest of my trip coming soon!

 

 

Quick Trip to Montreal, part 2

If you missed the first Montreal post, check it out here! The first full day in Montreal was Monday, and we woke up bright and early to grab breakfast at the hotel and then set out for a full day of exploration. The hotel restaurant was very cute, and we snagged a table right by the window:

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Breakfast included coffee, juice, bread, fruit or yogurt, and a choice of eggs, omelette, crepes, or french toast. I got the vegetable omelette and Noah ordered crepes:

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After breakfast, we set out for a walking tour of Old Montreal. Noah was the guide, using the guide book borrowed from his parents. We visited the Montreal Bank (the oldest one in the city!):

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The red building on the left side of the picture below was Montreal’s first sky-scraper, called the Ediface New York Life:

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While its eight stories were a wonder at the time of its being built, it’s now been outdone by the Ediface Aldred on the right (resembling the Empire State Building – both of which were completed in 1931).

The tour also included Montreal’s Notre Dame:

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And City Hall:

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Unpictured tour stops include the Old Courthouse, some street markets (which were pretty deserted on the drizzly morning of our adventure), and a few more churches. Noah and I were excited to see a cycle track bike lane on one of the roads:

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We finished the tour by the Old Port on the waterfront. We could see Habitat 67 across the water, a distinctive housing project built for the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal:

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It’s pretty far away in the photo above, so here are a couple other pics (not from me) that give you a better idea of its look:

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We also had a good view of some grain storage along the water:

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After a busy morning of exploration, Noah and I were excited to recharge with lunch. We headed to the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood for food and some additional exploration. Plateau Mont-Royal is an area full of shops, restaurants, and hints to the immigrant influences in Montreal. One such hint is an abundance of Jewish-style delis, restaurants, and smoked meats. Noah and I went to Beauty’s for lunch, a luncheonette opened in 1942 by Jewish immigrants in what was – at the time – the heart of Montreal’s Jewish garment district. 70 years later, Hymie (the restaurant founder in 1942) is still there, showing customers to their table himself! Noah and I had a wonderful lunch there before heading out for more exploration:

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In the afternoon, we explored Montreal’s Underground City – a system of tunnels that connects buildings across the city. In reality, it’s partially underground and partially above, but it’s a fun/useful way to help city residents escape the cold throughout the winter! Some parts of the tunnel system are fairly sparse:

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But in other areas the tunnels open up into shopping malls! We found this cool water fountain display in the middle of a mall area while we were exploring:

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Our day ended with a trip to a Montreal movie theater to watch the new Hunger Games movie (seriously, SO GOOD! Probably the best movie in the series) and a quick dinner of pizza and salmon:

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Montreal was the perfect vacation to celebrate the end of my semester and to spend some quality time with Noah before I headed to Israel for 2+ weeks. Speaking of…I am actually writing this from a Jerusalem cafe! It feels great to be back in Israel and this beloved city of gold. 🙂 More posts about Israel coming soon!

 

Closing a Chapter

It’s now been almost two months since returning from my year in Jerusalem, but it doesn’t feel as though I’ve really ended that chapter yet. This may be due, in part, to the fact that I was only in Boston for one week before heading to California for 5 weeks and then coming back to Boston only recently. Since I haven’t really felt settled anywhere else and I haven’t had much time to make a new “home,” I feel like I need a little closure (I’m thinking of Friends now, for anyone who gets the reference).

As a step along the way, here are some memories and pictures that I didn’t get a chance to blog about during the year…

On one of our Friday adventures, Noah and I visited the Bible Lands Museum (across from the Israel Museum) where we learned a lot about archaeology and the connections between archaeological finds and the historic time period of the Bible…

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on our way home, we walked through the Wohl Rose Garden – flowers weren’t really sprouting yet, but we still got some great views looking out on the city!

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I passed this little piece of ‘graffiti’ everyday on my walk from home to Pardes – always a good reminder in the morning. 🙂

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Secret from my past: I used to be a total RENT-head, and I’ve seen the show 17 times. ❤ As fate would have it, dreams were realized when an amateur production of RENT happened in the holy city last spring, making it my 18th showing and Noah’s first!

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My excitement before the show was immense, and I made Noah this nifty chart to help him learn the characters beforehand:

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In our final weeks in Jerusalem, Noah and I wanted to go back to the Old City to do some last-minute touring and also to take advantage of being only a 30 minute walk from so many amazing/holy/important/fascinating places. On our last trip to the Old City, we visited the Hurva Synagogue, a historic synagogue in the Jewish Quarter that is still used for worship and study today:

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For our last Israeli meal, we went to a lunch restaurant in the shuk that we’d wanted to try for a while. The restaurant is called Azura, and it’s a meat restaurant serving various types of traditional Middle-Eastern meat dishes and a killer hummus:

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And there you go…final moments from a year to remember. 

אם אשכחך ירושלים תשכח ימיני – if I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget.
Psalms 137:5

City of David tour and Hezekiah’s Tunnels

Noah and I are back in the United States now! Wow, what a year in Israel. I’m going to try to put out a post or two about the first days back in Boston soon, but for now, here’s a final recap of the last days in Israel.

A couple weeks before we left, Noah and I finally took a much-anticipated tour of the City of David. We had been wanting to do a tour there since last fall, but schedules were always busy and we wanted to reserve a spot on an English tour in advance. Eventually, the end of our time in Israel was approaching so we knew we needed to go! We went on a Friday afternoon tour through the city and the water tunnels. In total, the tour was about 3 hours long. We got there early to look around the area before the tour started:

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The tour started with an overview of the area (which has a great overlook into East Jerusalem) and explanations about some of the ruins found in the area.

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The highlight of a tour to the City of David, however, is a trip through the water tunnels. King Hezekiah built these tunnels as a way to defend the city from the approaching Assyrian army in the 8th century BCE. Today, the tunnels still have some water (about knee deep, sometimes a little higher).

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Unfortunately, our trip through the tunnels wasn’t the greatest. We were behind a group that was singing very loudly and, it turned, included several blind people. It was great that the group was enabling some blind people to walk through the tunnel, but it made the trip through the tunnels very slow and I started to get sort of frightened after being in the small space for so long! I was definitely glad to see the sunshine when we got to the end!

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Besides the City of David tunnels, there were some other final activities and restaurant visits that we wanted to make sure to get in before leaving the holy city. A few highlights include…

birthday dinner at my favorite Jerusalem cafe, Kadosh:

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a final trip to the Old City to see the Tower of David Night Spectacular:

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a waffle from Waffle Bar:

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Saying goodbye to our beloved Jerusalem apartment:

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And a 4:00am trip to Ben Gurion airport for our departure flight:

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Goodbye, Israel. I will miss you so dearly. 

Life Needs Frosting

I was walking by the [relatively] new Cinnabon on Emek Refaim last week and took a quick glance at their outdoor seating area…

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Yes, Cinnabon, I agree. Life does need frosting.

Here’s a quick recap of some of my [relatively] recents adventures with frosting dessert happiness sweet things.

YOLO is taking Jerusalem by storm. I bought a couple containers of YOLO at the store a while ago because I thought it was hilariously named. When I bought it, I thought it was just a coincidence that the name of this pudding-like dessert cup was the same as the trendy hashtag acronym ‘you only live once’. #YOLO. Hence, why I found this pudding cup humorous.

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Little did I know it was even more funny than I originally thought…

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Not a coincidence. 

Noah and I weren’t a huge fan of YOLO, but it seems to be on quite the marketing campaign as we saw hundreds of YOLOs being handed out for free last week at the Tahana Rishona.

The more exciting “frostings” in my life, however, have come in the form of waffles! I’ve posted about the dessert waffle situation in Israel previously. For those who missed it, basically warm waffles covered in ice cream, whipped cream, and various candy/chocolate/fruity toppings are a popular decadence around these parts. These sorts of waffles can be found on many dessert menus at various restaurants (such as the waffle we had at Landwer), and there are some big chains that focus on waffles (but still serve other foods). One of such chains is Waffle Bar which I talked about in my last post, and the other major chain is Waffle Factory which Noah and I visited more recently:

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I think I liked the waffle at Waffle Factory a little better than the one at Waffle Bar (and Waffle Factory has a really fun menu where you can custom order your waffle by choosing a certain number of components from the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ toppings categories).

Any waffle covered in sweet sauce and ice cream will most likely be delicious, so I don’t know that there’s too much sense in ranking them….
That said, people still often talk about Babette near Ben Yehuda as being among the top waffle options. It’s a small, independent, one-location shop, and I think those factors contribute to the favoritism over some of the other waffle restaurants.

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Like Waffle Factory, you could choose exactly what you wanted on your waffle at Babette, although you could also select from a menu of suggested waffle-types. The thing that I really liked at Babette is that you could order your waffle ‘half and half,’ meaning two people could share a waffle and each order exactly what they want on their own half. This was particularly good for Noah and me because Noah is more of a fruit person while I’m partial to [as much] chocolate [as possible]. Somehow we manage to stay together. 😉

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This waffle was good but difficult to eat because it did not come on a plate (only the flimsy cardboard sheets that people eat pizza off of here) and the only utensil was a spoon. A+ for waffle quality, C- for ability to not get waffle all over your face.

Ethnic food in Jerusalem

While Israel likes to stay true to its hummus and falafel roots (and I often hear people joke that you know you’ve accepted the Israeli lifestyle when you are willing to eat hummus for any meal of the day), there is also a smattering of ethnic restaurants around. Some of these restaurants are jokingly belittled for sub-par attempts at ethnic cuisine, but others are actually quite good. Here are a few non-Middle Eastern food restaurants from around Jerusalem that I’ve tried:

1. Kangaroo

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Kangaroo is a Georgian restaurant near the Ben Yehuda area. The menu is comprised of various meat stews and other traditional Georgian dishes. I ordered a salad sampler plate with various types of salads and spreads:

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I don’t think I had ever had Georgian food prior to Kangaroo, and it’s always fun to try something new! I don’t think it’s a new favorite though, and I would probably prioritize other types of food…or, let’s be real, just eat more hummus.

2. Sushi Rehavia

Sushi Rehavia is a popular sushi/Japanese cuisine chain in Jerusalem. There are a few locations around the city, and I know lots of people who like to use their delivery service. I’m not generally a big sushi fan, but a big part of that is that it’s very difficult to avoid non-kosher seafood at sushi restaurants in the U.S. So, it seemed like a kosher sushi restaurant in Israel would be my best bet for a good sushi experience!

I went to Sushi Rehavia a couple weeks ago with Noah and our friend Avi, and the food was really good! We ordered a few combo sushi plates and a ramen noodle soup (yes, ramen noodles are something besides highly-processed, 99-cent bags of disease-causing preservatives).

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The soup was soooo yummy (as was the sushi, but I mainly ate the soup). I would definitely recommend a visit to Sushi Rehavia.

3. Ness Cafe

The intersection at Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu has recently undergone some changes. The main storefront previously occupied by Marvad Haksamim has now been taken over by Ness Cafe. But, Marvad Haksamim fans, do not despair. Marvad has simply moved a couple storefronts over on Rachel Imenu to the small shop previously occupied by Ness. Basically, Ness used to only sell coffee and take-out desserts while Marvad had a full restaurant and ran their famous Friday, prepared food for Shabbat business from the restaurant. Now, after swapping spaces, Ness is offering a full restaurant menu and Marvad is only doing take-out food. The interior of Ness is bright and friendly with lots of full-length windows:

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I had bought some desserts from Ness Cafe when it was only a bakery, and everything was quite tasty so I was excited to try the restaurant. As a bakery, Ness had promoted itself as a French establishment (presumably owned by Frenchies). It has kept its same French spirit after becoming a full restaurant…perhaps most notably evidenced by the fact that it had no English menu – only French and Hebrew. WUT?????? This is unheard of in Jerusalem restaurants. Seems like they’re making a statement that the gentrified German Colony area isn’t only American turf anymore (which is already pretty evident from the ever-increasing presence of French language on the streets in these parts. It’s no wonder really, I don’t think I would want to be Jewish in France).

Noah and I chose the Hebrew menu and I was pleased that my Hebrew skills were sufficient enough to enable us to order a salad and pizza:

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The food was good, but it didn’t stand out as particularly different or noteworthy from many of the other cafes around Jerusalem. I think Ness’s main draw remains in its dessert and coffee options.

4. Moshe Burger

*the following three sentences are written with a slightly sarcastic tone
Why is America always getting overlooked for its contributions to world cuisine? Seriously, who doesn’t love a good burger?! Sometimes all you need is a juicy hunk of perfectly-shaped and grilled ground beef, dripping with [insert favorite sauce here].

I fulfilled this basic human need for a good burger a few weeks ago at the Moshe Burger inside Cinema City. Why yes, we went to Cinema City again. 🙂 Moshe Burger had a very sleek ambiance, but the menu and atmosphere was still goofy and fun.

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I ordered a classic burger with a combo of beef and lamb meat, and Noah ordered a set of three sliders (their menu includes lots of creative burger toppings as well as a rotating menu of burger specials):

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Yum yum yum. This was probably the best burger I’ve had in Israel…no doubt in large part because it has been near impossible to get a fully-cooked burger in this country. Holy COW (pun intended to reference the practically living raw meat that has been smushed between two halves of a bun in my previous burger-ordering attempts). Bottom line, go to Moshe Burger and you will be happy.

And since I mentioned Cinema City and, I’m sure, piqued your interest…

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Noah and I are still as enamored as always with the ridiculous show of excess and American culture at this place:

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We saw the movie The Water Diviner in the Twilight Theater. Yes, you heard me, there is a Twilight Theater:

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Admittedly, it was a little hard to focus on Russell Crowe looking for his lost sons who were reportedly killed during the battle at Gallipoli during WWI (basic plot of The Water Diviner) when Edward Cullen was looking down on me…but somehow I managed.

Jerusalem Cafes: Round 6

I haven’t done a Jerusalem Cafes post in a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been accumulating visits to blog-worthy cafes! I have a lot to catch up on…but here are recaps from four cafe visits that I’ve really enjoyed! Most of the places are repeats of places I’ve been before (it’s nice to have been in Jerusalem for so long that I have favorites!), but there is a new cafe as well!

1. Caffit

An Emek Refaim classic, I’ve already blogged about Caffit once…okay twice. But it is oh, so delicious. Maybe I should really make a “best of” list instead of only honoring one “best breakfast in Jerusalem.”

Caffit has it all, but the assortment of dips/cheeses/spreads that accompanies their Israeli breakfast is the prime winner in my mind.

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2. Cafe Hillel

Cafe Hillel is a coffee/food chain around Jerusalem somewhat in the vein of Aroma. I’ve posted about Cafe Hillel before, but I gave a recap of some lunch items in that post. On my more recent visit, I ordered a breakfast dish: focaccia topped with 2 eggs. My dining companion ordered the Israeli breakfast.

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Everything was delicious! The focaccia was so tasty…probably because of the copious amounts of butter that seemed to be dribbled on top.

3. Kalo

Again, Kalo is somewhere that I’ve visited in the past – once and twice. Again, Kalo is so good that I want to show you more mouth-watering photographs.

Pictured below is an eggs benedict dish with smoked salmon (which I loved because they didn’t smother it in hollandaise as so often happens in the U.S…) as well as an Israeli breakfast.

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4. Cafe Yehoshua

Last but not least, Noah and I branched out from our typical digs and went for breakfast at the new-to-us Cafe Yehoshua in the Rehavia neighborhood. Friends had raved to us about Cafe Yehoshua for months, so we were eager to try it. They had a pretty extensive menu, serving all meals of the day. I went for the basic breakfast which was great (and even included a small piece of grilled cheese with a tomato soup shooter!), and Noah ordered a steak sandwich.

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The food was yummy, but the restaurant isn’t kosher which makes me feel less inclined to re-visit. If kashrut isn’t your thing, though, you would probably enjoy a visit!

If you missed them, check out my other Jerusalem Cafe posts here:

Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4
Round 5

Best Breakfast in Jerusalem

Breakfast in Israel is amazing. The Israeli Breakfast is double amazing.

eggs+cheese+bread+spreads+veggies+coffee+juice+other rotating goodies = yum/love

Noah and I have thoroughly enjoyed going out to breakfast at various locations around Jerusalem throughout this year (see here and here and here).

All of these breakfasts are delicious and – let’s face it – pretty similar. Yet, one cafe stands out as my favorite place for breakfast in Jerusalem.

The winner is….

KADOSH!

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Kadosh is located on HaMalka Street, relatively near to Mamilla Mall. It has the standard coffee/juice/bread/spreads/eggs/cheese/salad situation, but there is something about it that is unbearably delicious.

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Like other cafes that serve breakfast, Kadosh serves two eggs (cooked your way) with their Israeli breakfast. In addition to just choosing a simple cooking method though, Kadosh has a collection of egg dishes you can select to fill your egg order, ranging from omelettes to fried eggs within brioche:

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Another great thing about Kadosh is that they serve breakfast all day! I have been there 4 times now, and three of the times I was incapable of getting off the breakfast kick, but on my most recent visit I ordered a salad with poached egg, sweet potato, and tahini (Noah stuck with the breakfast!):

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Noah and I will be going to Kadosh for my birthday dinner next week – I’ll post about whatever our meal ends up being!

If you are in Jerusalem for breakfast – or, really, any time of day – I definitely suggest that you hit up Kadosh for a meal. You won’t be disappointed!

Women of the Wall: a historic Torah reading

This past Rosh Hodesh (Rosh Hodesh Iyar), Noah and I went to the kotel (the Western Wall) for a Rosh Hodesh service. Rosh Hodesh = literally, head of the month, refers to the beginning of a new month in the Hebrew calendar. 

Yes, in theory it would be nice to attend a Rosh Hodesh service at the kotel for any reason, but we were going with the particular aim to participate in and support Women of the Wall. For those who are not familiar with the political situation at the kotel, here’s the break down:

The kotel is divided into a men’s section and a women’s section, divided by a mechitza (a partition used to separate the two genders, customary at Orthodox prayer services). While many people who go to the kotel do not necessarily feel the need for a mechitza and are not necessarily members of communities that use a mechitza as general practice (including myself), the mechitza is generally accepted as a reasonable standard at the kotel to make it accessible to the most number of Jews possible. YET, the mechitza has enabled the development of discriminatory practices against women and their ability to worship freely at the kotel. For example, it is illegal to bring a Torah into the area of the kotel (for all genders in any circumstances). For men, however, this poses no problem because there are over 100 Torahs at the kotel for public use. BUT, all of the Torahs are kept on the mens side – not a single one on the women’s side. Traditionally, women do not read Torah, receive aliyot (recitation of the blessings before and after Torah readings), or lead services, and the set up at the kotel reinforces these traditional restrictions. YET, all Reform and Conservative as well as a growing number of Orthodox communities have adapted this traditional practice to be more welcoming towards women and their full participation in services and Torah leading. Thus, there are MANY, MANY women who regularly participate in and read at Torah services, but they are not able to do so at the kotel. WHY, then, you may ask, do women not have access to Torah at the kotel? Answer: The ultra-Orthodox (haredim) have political control over this area and they maintain the status quo.

Women of the Wall is a group that fights for Jewish women all around the world to be able to worship fully and equally at the kotel. Their hallmark event is a monthly Rosh Hodesh service at the kotel where they hold a complete service led by and participated in by women – including, to whatever extent is possible, a Torah reading. Prior to the first of Iyar a few weeks ago, the group (which has existed since 1988) has never successfully been able to read from a full size Torah scroll at the kotel. Full size scrolls had always been confiscated in the past, although there were successful instances of bringing in mini-scrolls.

So now that you know the background…

Noah and I headed to the Old City for Rosh Hodesh Iyar:

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The service went smoothly and interrupted for all of Pesukei DeZimra and Shacharit, but then it was time for the Torah service…

A male supporter (of whom there are many) got a Torah from the men’s side of the mechitza and handed it to the women by quickly opening up a space in the partition. The partition was quickly closed (and the man was thrown to the ground and injured by an angry ultra-Orthodox man).

Full size Torah in the women’s side – check! Celebration ensues:

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Meanwhile, one of the group leaders prepared the table to open the Torah scroll and read:

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As these events transpired, more and more ultra-Orthodox men were standing on chairs and looking over from the other side of the mechitza (there are also many Women of the Wall male supporters standing and looking over from the side and the back – where Noah was). When the Torah was opened and started to be read, a few ultra-Orthodox men opened the mechitza and tried to push their way into the crowd of women and take the Torah back. One of them was yelling, “zeh sefer sheli!” (this is my book!). The women reading tried to continue as naturally as possible while some of the male supporters tried to create physical blocks to prevent the ultra-Orthodox men from reaching the women. Other women tried to scare the men away by getting close to them and yelling, “I’m a woman! I’m a woman!” – utilizing the ultra-Orthodox practice of not looking at or touching women that they are not married to. Look at the center left in the photos below to see where the main action is happening:

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After some tense moments and an overall joyous Torah reading, it was time to wrap the scroll back up!

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And dance!

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It was a shehecheyanu moment (a prayer said to celebrate special occasions – particularly something happening for the first time):

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Who knows what will happen at the next Rosh Hodesh Women of the Wall service (which is coming up on May 19th). I’m not sure if I will attend, but either way I suggest you check the news afterwards! For a write-up in the Times of Israel about the historic reading outlined above, see here.