Israel news

Herbal Krembo, Anyone?

Without doubt, the culinary trends of recent years are those of ever-more weird combinations of food along with increasingly wacky and bizarre ingredients that most people, until now, would not have even considered to be food.For example, take British chef Heston Blumenthal and his restaurant, the Fat Duck (it sounds great in Hebrew, Barvaz (duck) Hashamen (The Fat) – ברווז השמן). Named the best restaurant in the world in 2005, the Fat Duck delights in serving such delicacies as mustard ice-cream and snail porridge!More recently, there’s the Danish restaurant Noma, current holder of the Best Restaurant in the World title. In 2003, chef Rene Redzepi decided that he wanted to put Scandinavian cuisine on the map and, as such, vowed only to use ingredients from the region. This left him rather short on many more traditional foods, olive oil, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and so forth, so instead he serves pickled roses, beach cabbage, and scurvy grass (weeds to you and me).But now, here in Israel, we’ve got the Shakuf restaurant in Jaffa (Shakuf – שקוף in Hebrew means clear or transparent, all though it’s not immediately apparent if the name has any bearing on the restaurant). Chef Elad Shem Tov is avowedly seasonal, so, for instance, he won’t have anything to do with tomatoes and cucumbers during the winter but will concentrate on root vegetables such as candy-striped beets instead. Fancy some beet ice-cream? Or maybe a herbal Krembo? All this and more is on the menu at Shakuf’s.To some, it could seem like Shakuf is simply jumping on the weird-food bandwagon, but it might, nevertheless, turn out to be a positive development. While there are some really outstanding restaurants in Israel these days, most Israeli food is not uniquely Israeli. Jews from Russia, Poland, and Germany imported traditional Eastern Europe fare, and the Jews who came to Israel from North Africa and the Middle East brought over the food they had cooked and grown up with.There’s not too much we can say is authentically Israeli. Krembo, for sure, is a pretty good addition to world cuisine, and these miniature bombs of marshmallow in their chocolate shells are certainly an important gastronomic development (they are also very seasonal — they are sold only during the winter, which is presumably why they’re on Shakuf’s menu at the moment).Other than Krembo’s, though, there’s not too much to shout about, so perhaps we should all be brainstorming for ways to put Israeli cuisine on the map? If you can have mustard ice-cream in Britain, then why not hummus fondue in Israel? If eating Danish weeds is alright, then how about a nice fresh salad of anise shoots and cyclamen petals (both native to Israel)?So, get thinking! All culinary suggestions are welcome, and if you want to learn the Hebrew words for all the wacky recipes you come up with, Ulpan-Or will be happy to indulge your taste for the language, no matter what you throw at us (no rotten tomatoes, though — they’re not in season!)

Strangers No More

This year at the Academy Awards, “Strangers No More,” an exceptional documentary whose central narrative revolves around the Hebrew language, won the Oscar for Best Short Documentary this year.Strangers No More is an incredibly-moving film about children from 48 different countries who have found political-asylum in Israel and now attend the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv.In recent years, Israel has become a primary destination for many refugees, especially those from Africa, who have fled from violence and persecution in their own countries. The refugees come from some of the most war-torn nations in the world including Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea and then cross into Israel from Egypt.In “Strangers No More,” children who have escaped these countries tell truly heart-rending stories of the violence they experienced in their homeland and how the Bialik-Rogozin School has helped them gain an education many of them could never have imagined.The Hebrew language is at the heart of this story. The children, having arrived from such a diverse set of countries, naturally could not communicate with each other or with their teachers. But out of necessity, they soon picked up the language, which helped them forge a bond between each other, the school, and their adopted country, Israel.The film focuses on three of the students: Johannes from Ethiopia, Esther from South Africa, and Muhammad from the Darfur region of Sudan. Their accounts of the suffering they experienced in their home countries are appalling, but the manner in which they were so lovingly educated by the staff of the Bialik-Rogozin School is uplifting.And having learned Hebrew, they are now eager to integrate into Israeli society, get jobs, and build new lives for themselves here.

“Reverse Osmosis” and “Solar Energy” in Hebrew

In keeping with the theme of a prior post about new Hebrew words in the field of environmentalism and general greenery, Israel’s clean-tech prowess recently received a strong commendation — so we thought we’d highlight it here.In a visit to Israel in late February, former New York Gov. George Pataki applauded Israel for “taking a long term look at innovation and growing its economy.” High praise indeed, and it’s true — Israel does have a blossoming clean-tech sector. This is important for the environment, the Israeli economy, and as a source of some new and funky Hebrew words (as well as lame transliterations).For a start, there’s Israel’s water-desalination program (מים התפלת – hatpalat mayim). Israel, chronically short of fresh water, has constructed some of the most-advanced desalination plants on the planet. Last summer, the largest reverse-osmosis (הפוכה אוסמוזה – osmuza hafucha – yes, osmosis has just been badly transliterated) facility in the world went online in the Israeli coastal-city of Hadera, and Israeli production of desalinated water is projected to account for nearly all household water-consumption by 2013.The counterbalance to Israel’s worrying dearth of water is its rather-large surfeit of sunshine (some think the two might be related). Seeking to make use of the natural resources, Israeli firms have led the way in pioneering solar-technology. The Israeli-firm Solel (ok, it was recently bought out by Siemens, but Israel still gets the credit!) is building what will be the largest solar-power plant in the world in the Mojave Desert in California. The facility will produce a whopping 553 megawatts of electricity (we’re told that’s a lot). Disappointingly, solar power in Hebrew has been rather unimaginatively transliterated, so it’s basically סולארית אנרגיה energiah sularit, or if you don’t mind being a bit long-winded השמש בקרינת שמקורה אנרגיה (energiah she’mekorah b’krinat hashemesh). However, if you use that expression with actual Israelis, they will likely ask you with a puzzled look on their face, “You mean enegriah sularit?”Such are the perils of trying too hard. Luckily, Ulpan-Or is here to help you out with these kinds of Hebrew-language pitfalls.

Hebrew Education, Neologism, and a Revived Language

hebrew educationContinuing with our theme of the formation of new Hebrew words in Hebrew education, we thought we’d highlight the publication of a fascinating new book about Israeli poet and neologist Yonatan Ratosh and discuss how Hebrew’s lexicon has broadened throughout the centuries.The Hebrew education taught and learned in schools today is very much an amalgam of different historical forms of the language: ancient Hebrew such as that used to write the Torah, Mishnaic Hebrew used by rabbinic scholars two thousand years ago, medieval Hebrew that was developed by the famous rabbis of the Middle Ages such as Maimonides (Rambam), and obviously the innovations of modern Hebrew.The modern neologist revival began in the lat- nineteenth century as a result of Hebrew education’s transformation from a written language to a spoken one as well as the consequent requirement to update the language for modern usage. One of the innovators in this respect was Haim Nachman Bialik, a Jewish poet from Russia who grew up in what is now the Ukraine and who coined many new words for the modern era through his prolific output of poetry and literature.Avraham Shlonsky, another Russian poet from the Ukraine, was also one of the great Hebrew-education neologists who created many new words for the re-born Hebrew language through his childrens’ books and Hebrew translations of Russian classics. Shlonsky’s work was so astute and incisive that he earned the nickname Lashonsky, a pun on his name and the word for language in Hebrew, lashon – לשון.And then, later, there was Yonatan Ratosh. Ratosh was first and foremost an ideologue, committed to the Canaanite movement. Canaanism was an ideological movement in pre-state Israel that began in the late 1930s and early ’40s, rejected Jewish nationalism and viewed Judaism only as a religion, and advocated a new Hebrew nation rather than a Jewish one. Ratosh was one of the founders of Canaanism, and because of this ideological embrace of Hebrew education and an abhorrence for using foreign words in modern-Hebrew education, he coined thousands of new words for the developing language.Undoubtedly, modern Hebrew education owes a great debt to linguistic pioneers such as Bialik, Shlonksy, and Ratosh. As we pointed out in our previous post, Hebrew, like other languages, is a living, breathing entity that continues to develop and expand.We here at Ulpan-Or love our reborn national language, and we know you’ll love our Hebrew education too. So come along, contact us for more information, and benefit from the Hebrew neologists.

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