Category Archives: Israel

“Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel” by Alon Shaya— Survival and Discovery

Shaya, Alon. “Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel”, Knopf, 2018.

Survival and Discovery

Amos Lassen

“Shaya” is a moving, deeply personal journey of survival and discovery; the story of the evolution of a cuisine and “of the transformative power and magic of food and cooking. This is no ordinary cookbook. It is a memoir of a culinary sensibility that begins in Israel and makes its way from the U.S.A. (Philadelphia) to Italy (Milan and Bergamo), back to Israel (Jerusalem) and then comes together in the American South, in the heart of New Orleans. It’s a book about how food saved the author’s life and how Shaya’s cuisine from his native Israel with a Creole New Orleans touch came became the basis of award-winning New Orleans restaurants that were ranked by Esquire, Bon Appétit, and others as the best new restaurants in the United States.

     These are stories of place, of people, and of the food that connects them; “a memoir of one man’s culinary sensibility guiding his personal and professional decisions, punctuating every memory, choice, every turning point in his life.” The book contains full-color photographs and illustrations that follow all of the flavors Shaya has tried, places he’s traveled, things he’s experienced and lessons he’s learned. There are more than one hundred recipes–from Roasted Chicken with Harissa to Speckled Trout with Tahini and Pine Nuts; Crab Cakes with Preserved Lemon Aioli; Roasted Cast-Iron Ribeye; Marinated Soft Cheese with Herbs and Spices; Buttermilk Biscuits; and Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta.

This is a candid, compelling ‘autobiography’ about his culinary sensibility and how he found his way to becoming an award-winning chef. Shaya writes of identity, memory, and the power that food holds in our lives.

Shaya shares a story of not only recipes, but the path that led him to success in New Orleans. It is not only recipes and a personal narrative in this book, but the story of the magnetic and “gumbo” quality of Israelis varied cultures and faiths; and Shaya’s Israeli, Romanian, Bulgarian strands of heritage that have been his muse.

Section One: ECHOES OF ISRAEL begins with “My Grandmother’s Pepper and Eggplants” and tells the story of her influences on him and has five recipes for items such as Lutenitsa (peppers and eggplants); Watermelon and Feta Salad with Harissa; and Bulgarian Lamb Kebabs. At age five, he moved from Israel to Philadelphia to join his father, and then to Narberth, as his parents separated. A month-long visit from his mother’s Bulgarian-Israeli parents brought with them the smells of affection of family unity. His grandmother, a pharmacist before escaping to Israel in 1948, took care for him, and he would cook with her and learn to use the C-clamp kitchen grinder. There are four recipes that recall a story of second grade show-and-tell, bullying, and a failed cooking demonstration. In (3) Solo Hamantashen remind Alon of his first solo cooking adventure and a sense of independence at the age of nine. Recipes includes ones for Peach and Mascarpone Hamantashen; Israeli Salad; Schmaltzy Potatoes; Bulgarian Leek Patties; Labneh; and Yemenite (marinaded) Stewed Chicken. In (4) Fishing With My Father, Chef Shaya writes the dates with his Romanian/Hungarian born father, bowling or fishing, that were redeemed when they cooked the fish they caught. Recipes include those for pan-fried fish; turkey sandwiches that are so much better than those of his youth; Hungarian Paprikash; and Tarragon Dumplings.

In Section Two: REBELLION AND REDEMPTION, Shaya writes of his first job at thirteen, at a butcher shop. He told them he was 16. Recipes include those for Kibbeh Nayeh; Malawach; Spicy Scallop Rolls; Yogurt Pound Cake with Cardamon-Lemon Syrup; and Blueberry Rugelach. The recipes recall his teenage job at a bakery in contrast to his home-life that was a life of weed, vandalism, shoplifting, drug dealers, and chasing trouble. A recipe for… Shakshuka came out of an arrest and then the realization that he knew very little about Jewish food.

In Section Three: FINDING HOME IN THE SOUTH, recipes include ones for Roasted Speckled Trout, Crab Cakes with preserved Lemon Aioli, Israeli Couscous, Red Beans and Rice, Buttermilk Biscuits (in Chapter 16: Manischewitz for Willie Mae), Za’atar Fried Chicken, Date Pancakes with Rose Tahini, Smoked Chicken with Harissa, Schmaltzy Cornbread with Gribenes, and Banana Bread with Carob Molasses Butter.

In Section Four, Chef Shaya ventures to Italy in “AN ITALIAN SOJOURN.” Here he shares stories and recipes for Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Spiced Couscous, Tortelli d’Erbetta, Fresh Pasta, Blackberry Torta della Nonna, Chocolate Hazelnut Semifreddo, Pizza Enzo, Pita, Sea Bass Cartoccio, Piemontese style Bagna Cauda (hot bath/dip), Chocolate Espresso Cookies, and more. In Section Five: HOMECOMING, readers are greeted with Sous Vide Turkey, Brussels Sprout Salad, Smoked Goat Tacos, Curried Sweet Potato and Leek Pie, Charoset, (reluctantly), Whole Roasted Cauliflower, Tahini Chicken Salad, Moroccan Carrot Salad, Matbucha (in Chapter 26: An Israeli Restaurant in New Orleans), Muhammmara, Avocado Toast with Smoked Whitefish, and more.

Shaya opened his namesake restaurant in New Orleans in 2015, which won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant the following year. Shaya now opening two new restaurants: Saba, in New Orleans, and Safta, in Denver.

The book incorporates traditional cookbook elements—recipes are paired with gorgeous photos, notes on cooking, and tips for spice stocking. Shaya shares his move from Israel to Philadelphia at the age of four, describing what it was like to grow up in a household that struggled to make ends meet. The one thing that kept him happy was food. As a young adult, cooking turned his life around when he began working in kitchens at Las Vegas casinos. He stopped getting in trouble with the police for drugs and theft, or spending time with the wrong crowds. The stories of Shaya’s childhood and upbringing are filled with simple Israeli recipes such as his Israeli salad, Bright Green Falafel, shakshuka, and his wonderful pitas. Also included are American-influenced recipes from his childhood. The photographs capture the essence of Shaya’s love for food, and each chapter includes captivating watercolor paintings of scenes from his life by artist Frances Rodriguez.

Shaya explains how inspired he is by his Jewish and Israeli roots through recipes and stories. He also shares Italian, Southern American, Bulgarian, and Romanian recipes into his book. He has created delicious and vibrant cuisine that is accessible in kitchens everywhere.


 “The Assassination”— A New Documentary


 “The Assassination”

A New Documentary

Amos Lassen

A new documentary by Avi Weissblei investigates the unsolved case of the murder of a Zionist leader in 1933.

On Saturday, June 16th 1933, at 23:00 while vacationing with his ‬ wife Sima near the shores of Tel Aviv, Haim Arlosoroff was shot ‬ dead at the age of 34, by two unknown assailants. Arlosoroff was ‬a promising leader and a rising star in the Zionist movement. The assassins quickly fled through the side streets of the city, taking ‬‪with them the answer to a question which is unresolved to this very day: Who killed Arlosoroff? ‬‬

After all these years the movie reveals what happened during those minutes, what caused the fatal shot and how it affects us until today.

“Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor” by Yossi Klein Halevi— Through Israeli Eyes

Halevi, Yossi Klein. “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor”, Harper, 2018.

Through Israeli Eyes

Amos Lassen

Writer Yossi Klein Halevi makes an attempt to end the impasse between Israelis and Palestinians in “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor”. We are immediately aware that he with Palestinian suffering and longing for reconciliation and he explores how the conflict looks through Israeli eyes.

In a series of letters, Halevi explains what motivated him to leave his native New York in his twenties and move to Israel and take part in the renewal of a Jewish homeland. He committed himself to see Israel “succeed as a morally responsible, democratic state in the Middle East.”

This is the first time this has been done by an Israeli author. Halevi directly addresses his Palestinian neighbors and describes how the conflict appears through Israeli eyes. Halevi looks carefully at the ideological and emotional stalemate that has defined the conflict for nearly a century. He is both provocative and lyrical and as he brings together the ideas of faith, pride, anger and anguish that he feels as a Jew living in Israel and he uses history and personal experience as his guide.

Halevi’s letters speak to his Palestinian neighbor and to all concerned global citizens, hopefully helping us understand the painful choices confronting Israelis and Palestinians that will help determine the fate of the Middle East. He does not shy away from the difficult questions and these include the ideas of people hood and choseness the Holocaust while at the same time acknowledging his neighbor’s “darkest biases.” The letters are filled with faith as expressed through sincerity, humility and gorgeous prose. We do not have to agree with any thing that is written here but we must allow ourselves to disagree when feeling necessary to do so. Halevi demonstrates that there are those who are willing to listen, “if only we’d talk.” It is important, of course, to understand why we returned home to Israel after the proclamation of the State.

Halevi lives with the hope that one day both sides come together in peace. He wants us to better understand the Israeli side and therefore perhaps humanize Israelis in their minds and convince them of his arguments of the necessity for peace. This is a wonderful idea that is not new and the real problem is in the execution. The letters primarily give a short history of the State of Israel and a number of arguments to justify her existence and actions over the years.

We go back to the story of Israel that we are all familiar with— the same story that Jewish children have learned in religious school— the centuries old connection to the land, the exile and the return. Halevi admits that the haganah expelled and massacred a handful of Arabs during the independence war, and he laments the Hebron massacre in the early 90s. Each concession he makes is always carefully rationalized in a way that leaves the basic Israeli narrative intact. It is as if he was saying that he Jews may have a few bad players but they are generally good while the Arabs are intransigent and even their children are bloodthirsty for Israeli blood.

Halevi is brutally honest about Israel’s obstacles to peace with its Palestinian neighbors. Jews have yearned to return to Zion for two millennia and now here, they’re staying.

I call you “neighbor” because I don’t know your name, or anything personal about you. Given our circumstances, “neighbor” might be too casual a word to describe our relationship. We are intruders into each other’s dream, violators of each other’s sense of home. We are incarnations of each other’s worst historical nightmares. Neighbors?

“Moment of Truth” edited by Jamie Stern-Weiner— Whose Truth?

Stern-Weiner, Jamie, editor. “Moment of Truth: Tackling Israel-Palestine’s Toughest Questions”, OR Books, 2018.

Whose Truth?

Amos Lassen

It has been more than a century since the Balfour Declaration and more than 50 years since the Six-Day War in 1967, and a full decade into the siege of Gaza (as this editor prefers to call it but then she also names her book “Moment of Truth”— I guess that means which side you are on since no one is neutral) and the Israel-Palestine conflict rolls on. Now pay carful attention to the construct of this next sentence: “Amidst a growing sense that the Palestinians’ long struggle for self-determination has reached a crossroads, if not an impasse, this volume takes stock, draw lessons from experience, and weigh paths forward.” (This “volume draws lessons”— from whom? When a book is one-sided the question of research and honesty is paramount. What I see as paramount here is milking a situation to make a few coins quickly.)

Here is a list of contributors to this volume so please carefully note the names and count the number of Israelis to the number of Arabs and yes, do not forget scholar Norman Finkelstein who has been run out of every school h has ever held a position with and is a self appointed Jewish anti-Semite who denies the Holocaust which his parents survived:

Musa Abuhashhash, As’ad Abukhalil, Mkhaimar Abusada, Gilbert Achcar, Ghaith al-Omari, Ghassan Andoni, Usama Antar, Nur Arafeh, Shaul Arieli, Arie Arnon, Tareq Baconi, Sam Bahour, Sari Bashi, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Suhad Bishara, Nathan J. Brown, Diana Buttu, John Dugard, Michael Dumper, Hagai El-Ad, Richard A. Falk, Norman G. Finkelstein, Neve Gordon, Ran Greenstein, Yoaz Hendel, Jamil Hilal, Khaled Hroub, Amal Jamal, Jan de Jong, Leila Khaled, Raja Khalidi, Rami G. Khouri, Lior Lehrs, Gideon Levy, Alon Liel, John J. Mearsheimer, Jessica Montell, Rami Nasrallah, Wendy Pearlman, Nicola Perugini, William B. Quandt, Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Glen Rangwala, Glenn E. Robinson, Nadim Rouhana, Sara Roy, Bashir Saade, Robbie Sabel, Dahlia Scheindlin, Daniel Seidemann, Michael Sfard, Muhammad Shehada, Raja Shehadeh, Sammy Smooha, Mark Tessler, Nathan Thrall, Ahmed Yousef, Ido Zelkovitz.

What a fine well-balanced group. Now since the book dispenses hate so well, I’ll just quote it all:”


“Moment of Truth seeks to clarify what it would take to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, to assess the prospects of doing so, and to illuminate what is possible in Palestine. It assembles an unprecedented wealth of expertise—encompassing political leaders, preeminent scholars, and dedicated activists from Israel, Palestine, and abroad—in direct critical exchange on the issues at the heart of the world’s most intractable conflict. Has Israel’s settlement enterprise made a Palestinian state impossible? Can the Palestinian leadership end the occupation? Is Israel’s rule in the Palestinian territories a form of apartheid? Could the US government force Israel to withdraw? In a series of compelling, enlightening, and at times no-holds-barred debates, leading authorities tackle these and other challenges, exposing myths, challenging preconceptions, and establishing between them a more sober and informed basis for political action.”


Jamie Stern-Weiner, the editor of Moment of Truth: Tackling Israel-Palestine’s Toughest Questions, publishing next week says “Two million people have been herded into one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, denied the prerequisites for a functioning economy, pummeled with the most sophisticated military equipment on earth, and left to rot. 

Yesterday, May 14, as many as 80,000 people in Gaza marched upon the perimeter fence to protest their imprisonment. 

Their motivation was eloquently expressed by Olfat al-Kurd, a 37 year-old mother of four who works in Gaza as a human rights activist:

Israel has been holding Gaza under blockade for more than ten years. Some of the young people participating in the protests, and being wounded or even killed by soldiers, do not know what it’s like to have running water and a steady supply of electricity. They have never left Gaza and grew up in a prison. 

There is no real life in Gaza. The whole place is clinically dead. 

The younger generations are crushed by the hopelessness and death everywhere. The protests have given us all a spark of hope. They are our attempt to cry out to the world that it must wake up, that there are people here fighting for their most basic rights, which they are entitled to fulfill. We deserve to live, too.” Did I see her mention that Caza has become an incubation rook for terrorism? Did she mention how many terrorists from Gaza have killed innocent Israelis? Yet she maintains this is a balanced picture.


“The demonstrations were overwhelmingly nonviolent, as they have been since the Great Return March began some seven weeks ago. Israel responded with a massacre: 52 dead, including five children, and some 2,500 wounded. A senior Human Rights Watch official described their murder:

This is about individual snipers safely ensconced hundreds of feet, even farther, away, targeting individual protestors and executing them one at a time.”

“As the Red Cross warned that Gaza’s health system was ‘on the verge of collapse’, straining to cope with the mass influx of casualties, President Trump tweeted: ‘Big day for Israel. Congratulations!’ 

Today, May 15, will likely see Gazans in unprecedented numbers attempt en masse to break free of their cage. The danger of further slaughter looms large, demanding that supporters of justice and international law around the world take action to restrain Israel’s bloodletting and educate themselves about solutions capable of ensuring that such atrocities do not continue.”








“BIBI: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu” by Anshel Pfeffer— Understanding Israel/Netanyahu

Pfeffer, Anshel. “BIBI: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu”, Basic Books, 2018.

Understanding Israel/Netanyahu

Amos Lassen

Anshel Pfeffer’s “BIBI: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu” is a “deeply reported biography of the scandal-plagued Israeli Prime Minister, showing that we cannot understand Israel–its history, present, and future–without first understanding the life and worldview of the man who leads it.”

Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself involved in scandals that are all of his own making, and may soon be ousted from the office he has held longer than any prior Israeli Prime Minister aside from David Ben Gurion. Bibi is no stranger to controversy. For many in Israel and elsewhere, he is “an embarrassment, a threat to democracy, even a precursor to Donald Trump” yet he continues to dominate Israeli public. He may survive his current crises, the most challenging of his career.

Pfeffer argues that we must see Netanyahu as “representing the triumph of the underdogs in the Zionist enterprise.” Born in 1949, Netanyahu came of age in a nation dominated by liberal, secular Zionists. His grandfather and father left him with a brand of Zionism that integrates Jewish nationalism and religious traditionalism and he identified with the groups at the margins of Israeli society including right-wing Revisionists, orthodox, Mizrahi Jews, and small-time professionals living in the new towns and cities of Israel. He carefully cultivated each faction individually and then brought them into a coalition that has frequently proven unstoppable in Israeli politics.

Netanyahu also spent many years in America where he learned the techniques of modern political campaigns as well as the necessity of controlling the media cycle. He is product of the affluent East Coast Jewish community and the Reagan era whose politics and worldview were formed as much by American Cold War conservatism as by his family’s right-wing Zionism.

It appears that Netanyahu’s influence will endure even if his career soon comes to an end. The Israel he has helped make is a mix “of ancient phobia and high-tech hope, tribalism and globalism–just like the man himself.” Pfeffer brings together stories from Netanyahu’s time in America and Israel, and from his family history, military service, and political career to show that Netanyahu is the indomitable outsider who became Israel’s three-time prime minister. We see the ways in which the prime minister is both a product and a beneficiary of the divides that have shaped the nation’s politics from its earliest days. He is the changing face of his divided nation. Pfeffer explores the complex ideological and familial foundations that continue to shape the thinking and governing of the man who might become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minster.

Benjamin Netanyahu is haunted by scandal and is a controversial figure at home and abroad. He makes headlines and arouses strong feelings because he deals with big and enormously divisive issues (war and peace in the Middle East, the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the future of the Palestinians and the fate of the Jewish people. He has a strong sense about his in making history.`

His identity as someone who has always stood outside the mainstream might just be the key to understanding the man who sees to be beyond understanding. His grandfather and father were members of the right-wing “Revisionist” movement at a time when Zionism was dominated by the left in Eastern Europe, America and Palestine. There is a theme in the history of Israel. The country’s founding fathers and their sons behaved very differently. In the case of the Netanyahus, it was because they were not allowed to become part of the establishment and this made for unusual continuity between the generations.

Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv in 1949, a year after Israel’s independence and what Palestinians call the Nakba (“catastrophe”) forged one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. While attending high school in Philadelphia, he saw his views as out of sync with what was Israel’s collectivist ethos. By the early 1980s, after studying at M.I.T. and working as a management consultant, Netanyahu was rising quickly at Israel’s Washington embassy. It was there, and later as ambassador to the United Nations, that he perfected his public relations skills by becoming friendly with columnists, talk-show hosts and influential and wealthy Jewish and other Americans, including the then real-estate entrepreneur Donald Trump. In 1988, he went home to join the Likud Party.

In 1995, before the trauma of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination by a Jewish extremist, Netanyahu was widely accused of “incitement.” Yasser Arafat paid Rabin’s widow a condolence call; Bibi was not welcome but he still won an election by a tiny margin soon afterward.

Pfeffer focuses on Bibi’s attitude toward the Palestinians. In his first term of office in 1996, he inherited Rabin’s Oslo agreement with the P.L.O., which the Likud opposed, but grudgingly complied with it. Back in power in 2009 after a period that encompassed the second intifada, Arafat’s death and Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, he came to appreciate how Oslo maintained Israel’s security while allowing settlements to expand as the American-led “peace process” was not going anywhere. Initially, Netanyahu was seen as committed to a two-state solution while simultaneously demanding that Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. However, just a few years later things changed. Pfeffer says that the only peace that Netanyahu will consider “is one where Israel bullies the Palestinians into submission.

Netanyahu has always seen the Palestinian issue as a diversion and terrorism and unchanging Arab and Muslim hostility were and are what he prefers to emphasize. In recent years he has been obsessed with the danger from Iran whose plans to acquire nuclear weapons threaten a new Holocaust. Barack Obama’s support for the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement and his efforts to halt Israeli settlements gave the two major leaders a reason to hate each other.

Bibi has had to deal with investigations into bribery and corruption — accused of accepting gifts of cash, champagne and cigars and by the behavior of his wife, Sara, “whose tantrums and lavish sense of entitlement at public expense made for damaging leaks.” Nonetheless, Netanyahu wins standing ovations from supporters, in particular in the United States. He sees himself as not just Israel’s premier but as the leader of the Jewish people and he seems to have little or no concern for the problem that challenges Zionism 70 years after the birth of the Jewish state and that is what to do about the other people who live on the contested land. It seems, according to Pfeffer, that the greatest achievement of Bibi’s career can be seen as a negative one, “trying to ensure that Israel did not have clearly defined or internationally recognized borders.”

By the time this book was published and hit the stores, it was already out of date and we still have more Netanyahu to deal with.



An Israeli Comedy

Amos Lassen

The Israel Defense Forces were in Lebanon for 18 years.  They finally left the area in May 2000 – except for Shlomi, Asaf and Kobi, three members of a military rock band who woke up the morning after and discovered that they had been left behind. 

Mixed up in a major drug smuggling scheme orchestrated by their corrupt commander, the three are stranded in a “no man’s land” between Israel and Lebanon and are clueless. With a gang of Hezbollah fighters on one side, disgruntled members of the South Lebanon Army on the other, and no combat experience, the three soldiers must find a way to return to Israel with a guitar as their only weapon.

It has just been announced that an American version of the film is in the making.

“LONGING”— Being a Parent


Being a Parent

Amos Lassen

In “Longing”, Israeli director Savi Gabizon looks at “what happens when a well-off, childless man of 55 gets a phone call from his college girlfriend and meets her at a fancy restaurant where she suddenly bursts into tears and tells him that when they broke up 20 years ago, she was pregnant? She is truly sorry she never told him but she always knew he didn’t want children. A lovely boy, a bit like him, she says. Two weeks ago the boy took her car, drove it through the railings of a bridge into the river below and died. She didn’t know what to do… she feels she has to tell him about it – after all, he is the boy’s father, isn’t he?

What can he do now but to keep on going, despite a certain sadness?  And what tectonic forces rumble beneath the surface and suddenly burst, sending him off to Acre (where his son lived and died) to stand there at the unveiling of the tombstone, looking down on  the grave of the son he never knew? What makes him stay in Acre to discover who this boy was?

As he meets his son’s friends, teachers and lover, he gradually finds himself identifying with his boy and for the first time in his life, he experiences fatherhood. 

This is a story about parenthood, about the desire to be a parent and the involvement  that comeS with it: identification and honor. This is a journey that creates near-laboratory conditions for the examination of hidden aspects of parenthood. “

“DRIVER”— Lost Childhoods


Lost Childhoods

Amos Lassen

“Driver” is the debut fiction film by Yehonatan Indursky. It is set in Bnei Brak, an important centre of Judaism. The “driver”, Nahman Ruzumni (Moshe Folkenflick), is a father who earns his living by begging at night in the neighborhood at some of the wealthiest members of the community. He also teaches others how to beg and he appeals to thepity and the wallets of the wealthy with his stories. We watch as Ruzumni teaches one of his clients (since they give him a commission on what they earn) how to skillfully play his cards as a beggar and make the most of a sad story. Religion is inseparable from social life of the city. The heart of the story is between Ruzumni and his daughter (Manuel Elkaslassy).

The Driver takes his daughter on his nightly journey, exposing her to the more questionable members of this pious society. In the dark alleys of Bnei Barak they each find, even if for a short moment, their lost childhoods.

Those he teaches give him a cut of the money and he records their stories in his notebook. He spends the rest of his nights in makeshift casinos and dining halls with the more questionable members of this pious society. When his wife leaves suddenly, Ruzumni is faced with the responsibility of his nine year old daughter. Now Ruzumni takes his daughter on his nightly journey exposing her, for the first time to his world.

Getting to know his daughter Ruzumni remembers  the only story he could never tell…his own.


“The Israel Bible” edited by Tuly Weisz— God’s Focus on the Land and People

Weisz, Tuly. “The Israel Bible”, Menorah, 2018.

God’s Focus on the Land and People

Amos Lassen

I have been hoping to see a Bible centered book about Israel and it is finally here from Menorah Books. “The Israel Bible” is centered around the Land of Israel, the People of Israel, and the relationship between them. It was designed for both Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike and is a unique commentary explaining God’s focus on the Land of Israel. The commentary is alongside the original Hebrew text and the New Jewish Publication Society translation. The chapters are highlighted by verses that relate to Israel, including relevant quotes and perspectives from prime ministers, as well as maps, charts, and illustrations. For the 70 years since of its existence, the State of Israel has been at the forefront of the world’s attention . Today, there are efforts to vilify the Jewish state and take her to task. Nonetheless, there is also an ever-expanding movement of biblical Zionists who stand with Israel as an expression of their commitment to the word of God. It is very difficult to understand the clash between the conflicting ideologies, while at the same time trying to understand what the modern world thinks.

Rabbi Tuly Weisz helps to draw the reader in to the Torah, and to the Land of Israel. In this bible, we are witness to the land and the people as one. It is almost impossible to read the Bible without thinking that the Bible, the land, and the people of Israel are one. It is so important to know about the past of Israel and its significance of Israel past, present, and future. In 1948, the prophecy came to fruition and today no one can disconnect the people from their land. Jews and Christians share a biblical heritage, and The Israel Bible shows clearly shows us that this is the land God chose for the Jewish people.

At its core, the Hebrew bible is a description of a love story between a people and its land, between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. From its earliest history, the land has been central to Jewish living and Jewish destiny. The Jewish people lived there were exiled from it, mourned it, returned to it and went to war over it. Now with the return, Israel regains its place at the center of Jewish life.

“The Israel Bible” has clear translations, introductions and incisive commentaries written by a team of impressive scholars. There are also transliterations and maps thus making this a fine study especially for those who understand and appreciate the absolute fundamental importance of Israel for the rest of the world.


“Uprooted: How 3000 Years of Jewish Civilization in the Arab World Vanished Overnight” by Lyn Julius— The Jews from Arab Countries

Julius, Lyn. “Uprooted: How 3000 Years of Jewish Civilization in the Arab World Vanished Overnight”, Vallentine Mitchell, 2018.

The Jews From Arab Countries

Amos Lassen

“Uprooted” is the result of ten years Lyn Julius’ studying Jews in Arab countries and why they left. There has been a Jewish presence in the Middle East and North Africa for some 3000 years and it is fascinating and quite sad to realize that over the course of just the last 50 years, indigenous Jewish communities have all but disappeared. Many were able to get to Europe, Australia and/or North and South America. It is estimated that 650,000 went to Israel and now over 50 percent of Israel’s Jews are refugees from Arab and Muslim countries, or their descendants. Today we se the same thing happening to non-Muslims living in Arab countries of the Middle East. Those Jews who went to Israel did not have an easy time integrating into Israeli society. Some are still fighting for recognition.

As most of you who are interested in this subject know, there has not been much written—in fact I believe we can even say that the whole mater has been overlooked. Yet to understand what happening sociologically in the Middle East, this is compulsory reading. Quite basically, this is the history of Jewish refugees from Muslim/Arab countries. Here is a history of the treatment of Jews who lived under the governance in countries where the overwhelming majority was Muslim. In effect, this is also the history of anti-Semitism in the Muslim world and the total disregard of the Jews who also lived there. Muslim Arabs regarded Jews as being unclean and we can just imagine the effect that had on the victims. When this is expressed publicly, Jews become vulnerable. As far as I know and could find out, this is one of the first books that dares to challenge the idea that Jews were treated well by their Arab neighbors. The text goes into the very difficult areas of the likes and dislikes of Arabs and Jews and this often becomes confusing. Therefore some readers might find the complexity of likes and dislikes dynamics a bit confusing. I have often wondered if this is due to the Muslim quest to dominate while Jews not only see themselves as a religion but also as a people while in most cases except perhaps for ancient Palestine, they have been in the minority. They have the desire and the, shall we say, need to have good lives in their own country and on their own land. There were times in history when the two peoples got along beautifully yet Arabs tend to forget the good times. Both sides need to maintain an effective interaction.

I can only wonder why Jews stayed in Islamic and Arab countries where they suffered humiliation for long periods of time. Yet we must remember that it was not easy to leave especially after spending generations in these countries. Then there is the natural fear of staying where they have a general idea of how life will be or going and risk losing what they once had and not knowing if they would be accepted. Jews want to be sure that by leaving they will be gaining better lives and there was always the treat of expulsion from the Arab lands in which they live. We know that it is a human trait to be around others that are like you and share some kind of heritage and when there is oppression, the oppressed tend to stick together. The creation of the State of Israel as a refuge for Jews from everywhere shows that it is indeed possible to build a society that is democratic and takes in all who want to come without respect to a different origin or culture. Let me take a sidestep for a moment. When I moved to Israel in 1967, I began my life there at a facility known as an “Ulpan” where we were totally immersed in the Hebrew language. There were about 50 of us and no two people spoke the same language. Here we were adapting to a new cultural tradition in a language that was not our own and we managed. I believe that Israel has succeeded in the “ingathering of the exile not because of a common religion but in spite of it. It was the common past experiences that Jews had in intolerant communities that allowed them to form a new community in a new place.

I admire not only the research and writing of Lyn Julius but also the fact that she remains unbiased as she writes about Arabs and Jews and that is not an easy thing to do. Just as she criticizes the governments of Arab nations, so she criticizes the social and political dynamics in modern Israel and she looks at the dynamics between Jews from Europe and those from the Arab countries. She does not lose her unbiased feelings at any place here and it would have been so easy to do so. Arabs tend to think of Israel as a Jewish community in total harmony and we know that it is far from that. Arabs seem to have a hard time with difficult social issues. Going back in time to the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites constantly questioned Moses about where they were going an why. Muslims on the other hand, submit completely to what prophet Mohammad teaches them and those who did not had to deal with the Jihad. The basis for Muslim anti-Semitism comes from long ago when Mohammed fought Jewish tribes.

So much of what Lyn Julius shares with us is new—these are topics that were not discussed around the table after a meal, for example. what we have not been told. This is a story of Jewish exile, Jewish marginalization and Jewish loss of freedom. Through personal stories, writer Julius gives us the history of the Jews from Arab countries alongside historical facts. We read of the chaos of Jewish communities and lives that were totally changed by these experiences and that are still felt today.

It is already seventy years since Israel’s War of Independence when she was attacked by the Muslim nations that surround her. Even though they lost the war, Arabs still celebrate the “Nabka” as it has come to be called. The Arab nations will not forfeit their claims on Israel and there were more Jews driven from Arab countries than Arabs from Israel.

It is interesting to note that today the Jews who left the Arab lands and their descendants comprise over half of the number of Jews living in Israel today. Is it not interesting that until this book was published, we did not know their stories? There are questions and more questions but rest assured that Lyn Julius will answer them to the best of her ability.

The book is available in paperback@ $19.95 and in hardback@$37.95 and it is worth every penny. There is a 20% discount off “Uprooted” for orders direct from the publisher’s website Order code JULIUS17, offer ends 29th June 2018.