As I mentioned the other day, Iyar has arrived, bringing with it all the Israeli national holidays. When my friend Ilana Epstein thinks of holidays, she thinks of the special foods that accompany them. And if there isn’t a standard fare for a given holiday—think matzo ball soup, hamantashen, honey cake—she makes one up herself. The following is a guest post by her accompanied by her own special version of Yom HaAtzma’ut barbecue fare.
Recently we went to the Music Box Museum in Ein Hod just outside Zichron Yaakov. Nissan Cohen, a New Yorker who moved to Israel twenty years ago, had a museum dedicated to his favorite hobby: collecting music boxes. It was fascinating, truly, and not just the boxes themselves. What fascinated me most was the image I conjured in my head of Nisco (his preferred name), sitting in his living room with his newest acquisition, turning it one way and then the other, looking at it from every side, finding something new with each viewing, hearing something different each time. I’m like that with cookbooks and my Dad is like that with theories.
My dad collects theories—about thoughts, places, people. He mulls them over, asks others for feedback on his thoughts, expands on them until he is satisfied that they are complete. And his latest theory is that culture in Israeli society is not relegated to the secular alone. That theory states as follows: in Israel, even before the state became an entity, there had always been a struggle between religious Judaism and cultural Judaism. What was more important for the survival of a Jewish people in a Jewish homeland? What would keep this country on track? What was it that we would need to survive our chosen location and our fight?
You had every intellectual, every poet and every writer fighting it out. And I think as Israel celebrates its 62nd year, the truth is that we need both culture and religion. They go hand in hand, and while segments of the population may lean more heavily on one or the other, there are those of us in the middle who get to enjoy both. It is not lost on me what a unique position I am in. While popular sentiment would have you choose one or the other, I think those of us in the Modern Orthodox camp are able to enjoy the best of both worlds in Israel. After keeping a strictly traditional Pesach, we get to enjoy the cultural holidays that pop up every week in Iyar, from Holocaust Memorial Day, Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers, Jerusalem Liberation Day, and my favorite day, Independence Day.
I’m glad that cultural Judaism—read Zionism—at this point (like my father’s theory) is not relegated just to the secular. Because in a country where the fight is never finished, it is important to celebrate our victories.
Yom HaAtzma’ut is all about the barbecue. (For those of you who still remember your SAT analogies, barbecue is to Yom HaAtzma’ut what Christmas trees are to Christmas.) In that vein, a few years ago I created my own specialty for the holiday: the mish-kebab. This is not so much a recipe as a ‘good thing’ – though I think Martha Stewart would be appalled. (All the better.)
1 package big American hot dogs
1 package pre-made kebabs (I like the Tirat Tzvi ones)
2 boneless chicken breasts
Soak the skewers in cold water for at least half an hour before putting meat on them, as this will prevent them burning. Cut the chicken breast into two-inch squares and marinate with the olive oil and spices for half an hour. Now cut up the hot dogs into three pieces each, so you have three stubby, thick pieces. Cut the kebabs in half. On each skewer thread one piece of chicken, one piece of kebab, and one piece of hot dog. Grill until cooked.