For the Jewish News February 18 2021
This week, with Pesach thundering towards us at a rate of knots (I know, I know, we haven’t done Purim yet but Pesach is definitely on the horizon), I got to thinking about food. Well, the truth is that, like everyone in lockdown, I rarely stop thinking about food, but this was particularly Jewish food-related.
It seems to have become an unexpected theme of recent real-life situations and some rather heavy-handed fantasy. We all know the old joke that there is one abiding theme running through many of our festivals – “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat”.
The foodie stories that caught my eye this week don’t quite fall into the “this way death threatens” category – but one comes fairly close. It was the idea of almost inspired genius that led someone in Israel’s Bnei Brak municipality to lure previously dithering citizens to get themselves vaccinated by offering free food – specifically, warming bowls of cholent. Take-up for vaccination has previously been as low as 17 percent. If you can’t get the strictly Orthodox to sign up for the vaccine any other way, ran the argument, offer food.
And lo, it worked, and the bearded ones did indeed turn up in droves, attracted by a free bowlful of Shabbat’s finest, except in the middle of the week. There were bread rolls and juice on offer, too, but only once vaccination had taken place.
There were reports this week that Tel Aviv is determined to go better than Bnei Brak by offering choice of humus or knafeh to potential vaccinees.
It strikes me that if Britain is concerned about low take-up of vaccines in areas with large ethnic minorities, then food is the way to go – although probably not cholent.
Elsewhere, some in homeless shelters in London may well have been surprised to find “100 pieces of falafel” on offer, courtesy of the Israeli embassy.
Apparently this was to do with an annual commemoration made by a Holocaust survivor, David “Dugo” Leitner, who eats falafel each year in memory of his mother.
The Israeli embassy in Warsaw got into the act as well, handing out 350 falafel boxes – that’s more like it, Warsaw! – to patrons who posed with an “Operation Dugo” sign outside an Israeli restaurant in the city. While I applaud both initiatives, I do feel that 100 falafel balls won’t have gone very far. London needs to up its game.
For foodie ingenuity, we must look to Aleph Farms, an Israeli tech company that claims to have produced the world’s first 3D-printed, non-slaughtered rib-eye steak (no, please don’t ask me to explain it, either) and to have fed it to the prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu’s deathless comment was that a) he couldn’t tell the difference and b)it was “guilt-free”, which
I guess falls into the “takes-one-to-know-one” category. But still: printed steak!
And finally, for – to my mind, general queasiness – there was the “oh-so-humorous” offering from a blogger, calling itself “PreOccupied Territory”, with a singular take on the news.
This was the alleged story of an Israeli woman who “always has cookies baking in case of Hamas tunnel infiltrators”.
Sophia Barnea, it was claimed, bakes every day “in case a terrorist shows up to slaughter civilians and wants a muffin and maybe a cup of tea”. Ho, ho, not very ho. I’ll stick to the real food, thanks.