Kika and Rivka came by on Wednesday. They were in Jerusalem for a meeting at the Dept. of Education. As I’ve mentioned in the past, they run a beautiful Montessori Kindergarten. And they have had quite some success over the years. They thought they were doing well. They are recognized by the Montessori organization, etc. But now, after having been in business for years, and highly appreciated by parents, and teachers (they also give seminars for teachers at their school), they were informed by the Dept. of Education that they didn’t have the right license for their institution, and they are now forced to go through the bureaucratic wringer. But they have a very positive attitude, and great confidence in what they are doing, so they viewed the trip to Jerusalem as an opportunity to have a good time and a visit with me too.
When they told me about some of the things they had heard at the dept of education, I was reminded of some of the quotes of Wittgenstein that Kathryn has shared with her friends recently. I told them the story of what happened when he tried to have his paper, ‘Notes on Logic’ accepted as a thesis for his bachelor’s degree at Trinity College. But they refused, saying it wasn’t formatted properly; no footnotes, no preface, etc. That is a problem when people who are exceptionally gifted have to work within the framework of establishment institutions. We spoke of growing and learning, and how to deal with challenges, and had a good time together.
And then, because it was the middle of the day, we started thinking of lunch. Very often, Rivka prepares a meal for me when she comes and visits. At one stage of her life, she was a professional chef. But now, it was such a beautiful day outside, that we decided to go out. She told me about a relatively new restaurant that she had heard of, here in Jerusalem. Not quite a restaurant. More what you would call an eatery, which specializes in one particular serving, the sabich, which has a very special place in the culture of Jerusalem. Some of my readers might be familiar with the falafel, which is to Israel pretty much what the hamburger is to America. It is the all around most basic food we have. And it is vegetarian. Almost everyone loves it. When I was young, I used to eat one almost every day for lunch, and never got tired of them.
Of course, when I was young, there was less meat here in Israel, and a lot of people ate a vegetarian lunch, whether it was a cheese sandwich or a falafel. It was only later that hamburger joints became popular, and we’ve got better and better in that direction. And there is a hamburger place that I like to go to, that I think is far better than McDonalds. But McDonald’s is quite popular here. Still, after all those years, if I’m going out for a quick lunch, I will usually prefer a falafel to a hamburger. Falafels are balls of a chickpea preparation, deep fried, and served in pita bread with humus, which is also made of chickpeas, and tehina, and a number of other ingredients. It is served with different salads, and often chips as well. There are some very popular sauces associated with the falafel too.
The sabich is a little less popular, but it is also a small meal in a pita bread, like the falafel, and you can often find them in falafel restaurants in Jerusalem. The sabich includes humus and fried eggplant, and a hardboiled egg, which is usually sliced to thin slices. To this is added a number of salads (inside the pita bread), and some very special sauces.
A friend of mine who heard of our ‘lunch out’ thought it quite an extravagance, to go all the way across town to have a sabich. But that is what we did, and the traffic was heavy for parts of the way, and we had to put a little effort in finding a parking place. But I thought it a wonderful adventure, and thoroughly enjoyed it. For me, the adventure started from the moment we left the house. I drank in the sights and colors, and all kinds of things along the way, and almost bounced along the sidewalk once we had gotten to the neighborhood where ‘Sabich 52’ was located. It turned out that Rivka knew the two young men who owned the eatery, and they gave us the royal welcome as soon as we arrived. Of course, we waited in line for our turn to order, just like everyone does. But it wasn’t a long wait. And there was much to see.
For instance, there was a rabbinical certificate that the restaurant was at a high standard of kosher. Such certificates always amuse me when found in a restaurant like this. Because it’s completely vegetarian, and one would have to work at it, to find something non kosher in a vegetarian restaurant. But it reflected the mentality of those who run the place. There was also a religious inscription at the counter. The Coca-Cola refrigerator also contained light and dark beers, so Rivka and I had a beer with our sabich. While talking to Yinon, one of the owners of the place, I discovered rather quickly that I knew his father from way back, when Jerusalem was still a small town. He, the father, also worked in the photography business. And a little while later, the guy’s mother in law showed up for a bite to eat. It was very nice and easy going. I ate a whole serving; more than I am used to eating at lunch, but it was really good.
When the two owners joined us at our table, and Rivka and Kika complimented them on the quality of their food, they started discussing a get together, based on a custom that they had learned from a book they all read. They were talking of having a holy Berel evening. I couldn’t let that pass me by, and asked for an explanation. They told me about the book they had read, and then explained to me that when invited to a Holy Berel dinner, everyone, without any co-ordination, brings an ingredient that he or she particularly likes. And then they choose one of their number, and he or she cooks up a dinner using all these ingredients, but he may leave out one of the ingredients. Imagination and flare are called for, and it turns out they’ve had such get togethers before, and they have been eminently successful.