Bak’a Business

Monday the 13th marked the first day of the next 5 months in Israel. After resetting in Tel Aviv for the past week I was ready for a new start. Perfect timing considering the time of year in Israel. Bags packed, I pointed at a taxi. We don’t hail or flag taxis here. A point seems to do this trick. 10 minutes later I’m in Bak’a. This is a great area and very popular amongst young Americans, French and olim (new Israeli immigrants). Cafes, restaurants and shops are all walking distances. The next area to the south, Talpiyot, has malls and more industrial offerings. All in all a very convenient area of the city.

Dropped off on my new street I’m faced with a similar feeling from my first day at Jewel. Where in the hell is the front door to this place? Luckily no dead birds this time. Instead, another poster to mark the way. “Welcome to WUJS Fall 2010”. The building is much like every other around this city. Jerusalem Stone. Second floor with 3 other girls. Nikka, 26, from San Francisco. Rachelle, 26, from New Jersey. Carolyn, 22, from New York. Each are amazing with really interesting stories and backgrounds. Nikka is doing the art track on the program while the rest of the apartment will be on the internship track. Being the creative people we are, we’ve arranged the apartment so that we each have our own single room. I’m in the room that would have been a double. Now there’s just one bed and the common area couches on the other side. Seems to be working out so far. Once my room doesn’t look like a room at a mental institution (right now the walls are completely bare with florescent lights above) I’ll post pictures. It took a few days to unpack and settle in between the many orientation and info meetings for the program. We ended our first week together with a hike at Ein Gedi. An oasis located west of the Dead Sea near Masada. If we weren’t already dead tired we skipped over to the Dead Sea for a float. In preparation for the hike I ventured out to the local mall to find some sandals for the water part of the trek. Camping in the Kinneret last month was lesson enough. Flip flops just would not do. On the search for some Teva sandals. The fates played a cruel trick on me and the next thing I know I’m making a purchase I never thought would happen. Crocs. Please judge me. I judge myself. I’ve been hating on these crazy “shoes” since they first came around in the States. Desperation is to blame. Hey, I can understand their usefulness here. People need to be able to go from water to land in a moment’s notice. No time to change shoes. They are actually great for around the apartment too, call me a hypocrite!

Ein Gedi. Ain't gettin' any easier.

Ein Gedi. This easy hike luckily didn't take 40 years.

Ein Gedi. The water part of the hike made up for the heat.

Cue the Crocs. Never thought I would see the day. I'm so Israeli now.

Ein Gedi. WUJS group pic. Where's Waldo (Olivia)? Blue Israeli stripes give me away.

The day following the hike was free. I took off for my other apartment in Rechavia where I would be meeting up with friends. Our plan was to have a big healthy dinner in preparation for the Yom Kippor fast. If you know me well, you have the unfortunate knowledge that I don’t operate well without food and therefore have never made it through a fast. Well seeing as though I’m in Jerusalem I thought I should give it a real effort this year. We met at Liora’s place also in Rechavia. Her place has an AMAZING view of the surrounding neighborhoods. It was really an overwhelming view. Double rainbow all the way across the sky status.The meal was fantastic too. All vegetarian and super healthy while being very tasty. Sweet and sour tofu, roasted potatoes and carrots, pasta salad, tabbouleh, lentil stew, and sweet potatoes. I made some roasted eggplant with olive oil and garlic, recipe to follow below.

View of Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem. Just before sundown to begin Yom Kippor.

The Knesset. Basically Israeli Capitol Hill equivalent.

Eggplant, or aubergine (yes like the color) as it is called here, is only good when prepared properly. Like you, I’ve tasted some awful attempts at cooking this finicky food. After years of careful observation of my mom’s techniques I believe I’ve got something to pass along:

2 eggplants

4 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped


Cut eggplant into 1/4 inch or thinner slices. Not thick slices, trust me on this. Lightly salt. In a few minutes the salt will draw out some of the water. Meanwhile, put the chopped garlic in a non metal bowl with the olive oil and microwave until the garlic cooks. 40 secs should be enough. Because the excess moisture is removed by the salt the eggplant slices will absorb the infused garlic olive oil when you either brush it on or toss it together. Grill, pan fry, or broil the slices while flat. Cooking time should be about 10 -15 minutes or until golden and caramelized. The finished product is great for antipasti, as a side dish or with hummus as we enjoyed before the fast. I used a few slices for a simple dinner of toast, bresaola (Italian cured beef much like prosciutto), egg, topped with minced garlic. Very versatile vegetable.

Eggplant. Aubergine.

Cooked Eggplant

Final product