Summer Stock Mediterranean Haven

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Porquerolles is the largest, most westerly of the three islands in the Îles d’Hyères. It is a beautiful island I went there for the day on a very sunny April day.

Robin at around the island has created a new meme: Summer Stock Sundays.

Share your barbecues, your beaches, your cannonballing kids, that island sunset, an old pair of flip flops, anything that says summer to you.

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Traveler’s Frustration

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I don’t usually regret being a woman rather than a man except for two or three things. I was reminded of one yesterday as I read a traveller’s book.

I picked this book on my friend’s bookshelves because of its unusual format (it was a paperback which had the size of a graphic novel) and a book cover that caught my attention (a watercolor).

Bernard Ollivier, a former French journalist and a widower, decided ten years ago to embark on a long hike that would take him from Istanbul to XI’an. For those taking part in Treppenwitz 10K Challenge and who have recently become interested in counting steps, this is 18,000,000 steps.

With only a backpack on his back, he set off and walked on his own for several months in a row on the Silk Road. He tried to carry only a minimum so that his bag would not be unbearable. He only had a few dollars on him – and a credit card to withdraw cash in towns – and would stay with the people who invited him for the night or in cheap hotels.

This is when the sex factor comes into the picture. It is totally impossible to imagine a woman walking on her own and not only through Turkey and Iran, like Bernard Ollivier, but in most countries of the world.

Even though Ollivier’s itinerary was not one I would have chosen, it is the sort of experience I believe must be very enriching but also know I would never dream of undertaking.

Early Weekly Review

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Since the festival of Shavuot starts tonight, I won’t be blogging for at least two days. That’s why I am posting this early roundup.

On My Blog

Photo memes:
Get Well Flowers (and Card) for Today’s Flowers
First Cherries for Ruby Tuesday
Combining Old and New for Window Views

His Father’s Paradise, a book review

Local Jewish Community: Chalon

Weekly Recipe: Bulgur Chili

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

This month’s edition of KCC (the Kosher Cooking Carnival) is online

Shavuot When One Learns All The Jews In One’s Town Were Killed, Leora introduces us to S. Y. Agnon’s through a few extracts related to Shavuot

Shimshonit writes about a very special wedding in Efrat

The cheesecake above was made yesterday following Mom in Israel’s 7-Minute Low-Fat Microwave Cheesecake recipe

Bulgur Chili

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4 servings
This nutritious dish – otherwise known as chili sin carne – can be served plain or topped with grated mozzarella or cheddar. It is a fine vegetarian alternative to chulent.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 green peppers, seeded and diced
1 pound white mushrooms, fresh or in a can
1 can (15.5 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 ounces) tomatoes with juices (squeeze tomatoes by
hand)
1/2 cup whole grain bulgur (cracked wheat)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme petals
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan and cover. Add
garlic, onion and green pepper. Simmer over low heat until
onion is tender.
Wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel, trim ends
as needed and slice. Add to saucepan with remaining ingredients,
plus 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil. Cook very slowly,
covered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Season to taste.

First Cherries

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It has been warm and sunny for a while in the most Southern half of France so the first cherries are available on the local markets.

On Tuesdays, just post any photo you like (it must be one of your own) that contains the color RED and then link to this blog.

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Local Jewish Community: Chalon

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The first mention of a Jewish community in Chalon-sur-Saone (Burgundy) dates back to 1075. In the Middle-Ages, what is now known as the main street was called Rue des Juifs. In 1306, the Jews were expelled from France by Philip IV but they were allowed to stay in Burgundy. They were “invited” back to France 9 years later.

In 1394 the Jews were expelled again (by Charles VI also know as Charles the Mad) and all the communities left France this time. Only after the French Revolution did they start coming back.

Local archives show that in Chalon one of the city cemeteries had a Jewish corner in 1836. Local Jews must have met in their homes for a while since the synagogue was only built in 1882.

It is the same synagogue which is still used today by the 21 Jewish families who live there.

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The whole building belongs to the community. The cellar is where kosher wine is stocked. the door at the top is the entrance to the shul common room and kitchen. The firt door, on the right, alsmot at the top is the entrance of the synagogue itself.

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The synagogue is still exactly as it was in 1882, except for paint work. The benches were modelled on those of the Grande Synagogue de Paris.

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The mechitza, on the left, is typical of French shuls of the late 19th century or early 20th century in that the separation is minimal.

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His Father’s Paradise

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Before asking my readers for advice on books I should read, I visited Jew Wishes, a Jewish-themed blog kept by a friend of mine. She has a page entitled Books read in 2009 which contains thorough book reviews. Her review of My Father’s Paradise caugt my attention.

The book seemed to be exactly what I was looking for: Jewish history mingled with personal stories, family relationships, Middle-East history, the making of Israel and languages (the family spoke Aramaic).

In addition, the raving reviews on Amazon.com seemed promising. So I decided to order the book and started it last week.

When he became a father himself, Ariel Sabar suddenly became interested in his father’s past; a past he had tried to ignore when growing up in L.A. He decided to stop working as a journalist and embarked on a journey through memories, photos and interviews as well as trips to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ariel Sabar’s book follows a chronological line: it starts with his grandparents Rahanim and Miriam, then focuses on his father Yona (the last boy to be bar-mitzvaed in Zakho – their hometown) and ends a few years ago. When Ariel Sabar was not sure what had happened, he relied on what he understood of what people had told him to fill the gaps.

This book is a tour de force in that it skilfully combines factual information on the Jewish community of Kurdistan and its fate with Yona’s individual destiny. It is certainly the best book I have read in the past few months and one I highly recommend.

For another great review of My Father’s Paradise click here.