Pomegranate Mint Iced Tea, photo and recipe by Adeena Sussman.
If you speak to a new immigrant in any country, they will undoubtedly have much to share regarding the challenges they have faced on their journey. From learning a new language to adjusting to a new set of cultural norms, new immigrants need time to acclimate and begin to feel at home.
Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel in the 1930s found that adjusting to the realities on the ground was no simple task. For the newly immigrated housewife who, while caring for her household and cooking for her family, encountered a new set of ingredients, limited resources, and different cooking methodologies, the adjustment to the Middle Eastern kitchen proved to be particularly challenging.
Dr. Erna Meyer, a veteran immigrant to the Land of Israel at the time and a teacher of cooking and nutrition at the WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) Domestic Science School, understood these challenges and set out to create a guide intended for the fresh-off-the-boat housewife on how to navigate local ingredients and cooking techniques. “How to Cook in Palestine” introduced local ingredients like eggplants and mint leaves in an approachable and unintimidating manner as Dr. Meyer explored their uses and developed several methods of preparation for each ingredient.
“There is an inexpensive green on the market used to a great extent by Arabs and English people, the fresh green leaves of which if added to a salad give it an entirely different taste,” wrote Dr. Meyer. “It is also excellent for spicing vegetable and meat sauces. The Arabic name is ‘nana,’ English ‘mint.’”
Dr. Meyer encouraged her readers to dive into the wonder that is Middle Eastern cuisine and invited the newly immigrated to let go of their expectations of recreating their European kitchen and embrace the beauty of local custom and cuisine.
The modern Israeli kitchen draws its inspiration from the same local ingredients and bright, sunny flavors explored by Dr. Meyer in “How to Cook in Palestine.” Adeena Sussman, a professional recipe developer and renowned food writer with a passion for soulful home cooking lives just a few steps away from the bustling market of Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv. Adeena recently released her debut solo cookbook, “Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen” (Avery, September 2019), a book which features 120 recipes that showcase local ingredients prepared with a wide-reaching embrace of global influences and immigrant traditions, all adapted for the home cook.
Starting with basic Middle Eastern ingredients combined with her unique flair, Adeena’s book inspires the modern home cook to venture forth and discover the unique flavors that stem from the Israeli kitchen.
In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the National Library of Israel has embarked on a journey to bring some of the oldest and most interesting recipes from the Library collections back to the forefront. Inspired by “How to Cook in Palestine,” Adeena Sussman, who moved permanently to Tel Aviv in 2015 and experienced life as a new immigrant herself, developed a modern and fresh recipe utilizing the same local ingredients that inspired Dr. Meyer.
“I loved looking through the Wizo cookbook and seeing the throughlines that connect the cookbook’s origins to the present time,” said Adeena. “The huge impact women have had on Israeli society on every front; understanding the importance of cooking as a way to connect to a land and a culture, and a celebration of the luscious bounty Israel has always provided.”
Using mint leaves and pomegranate juice, this iced tea recipe brings with it a pop of color and freshness that belongs at your holiday table. Starting with a base of brewed tea, Adeena adds pomegranate juice, a nod to the custom of eating pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah as they symbolize righteousness and fruitfulness. The bright sprigs of mint serve not only as a beautiful garnish but add that unique twist to what is surely going to become a staple at your dinner table.
Pomegranate Mint Iced Tea
2 herbal tea bags of your choice, such as lemon verbena, mint, or green
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
3 cups of water
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish
1 lemon, cut into thin rounds
1 bunch mint
Fresh ginger, sliced
Brew the tea bags in 1 cup of hot water until room temperature, 15 minutes. Transfer to a large pitcher and add the pomegranate juice and water. Drop in the pomegranate seeds, ginger, and lemon rounds, then fill the pitcher with ice and tuck in a generous amount of the mint, leaving some for garnish
To serve, fill glasses with ice, then add 1 lemon round, a sprig of mint, and some pomegranate seeds to each glass. Fill with tea and serve immediately, Shana Tova!
When was the last time you put ketchup on your food?
I am not talking about hot dogs, burgers, French fries or any other form of sustenance that is really just a cleverly designed excuse to ingest that spicy, sweet tomato sauce from a bottle. I’m referring to a nice, sit down meal where you take one look at the food before you and immediately squeeze a dollop of this delicious red paste onto your plate because clearly, everything is better with ketchup.
In my house – and I am sure many cooks will agree with me – putting ketchup on your plate is kind of insulting to whoever made the meal. The cook worked to create a certain flavor palette for their dish and here you are, adding a mass-produced condiment to mask the taste of the food. The nerve!
While some of you may think I am crazy and my feelings towards ketchup may spark some serious emotional debate, I want to take a step back to a time where adding ketchup to food was considered a stroke of culinary genius.
In the 1930s, a wave of immigration to the Land of Israel was underway from Europe and North America. Families packed their bags, boarded ships and made the journey to the Jewish homeland with the hopes of carving out a better life for themselves and for the Jewish people.
For the European or American housewife, the shift to running a household in the Land of Israel was drastic. The creature comforts they had known in their home countries were significantly reduced and many aspects of life needed to be adjusted to fit in with their new reality. Life in their new country was hard – there were people to meet, houses to build, land to cultivate, a language to learn and an incredible number of challenges to overcome.
When looking for comfort and familiarity in a new place, one of the first things people do is turn to the foods and flavors that have brought them that feeling of home over the years. Be it mom’s meatloaf or grandma’s chicken soup, those ingrained food memories bring comfort during difficult times. For these new immigrants, however, achieving those flavors was not so simple as the local produce and cuisine did not lend themselves to the recipes they were accustomed to in their native countries.
Enter Dr. Erna Meyer, an author and a teacher of cooking and nutrition at the WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) Domestic Science School, who had already written and published several works on running a household when she immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1933. Armed with the knowledge she had gleaned after several years of living in the Land of Israel, Meyer wrote a guide for WIZO intended for the fresh-off-the-boat housewife on how to properly run her household in her new homeland.
“How to Cook in Palestine” is essentially the housewife’s bible on acclimating to the Land of Israel. Printed in English, German and Hebrew side by side, the book was made to be as accessible as possible and even includes helpful elements such as measurement conversion, serving sizes and a small dictionary of important words translated from English and German into Hebrew. The book serves as a guide on how to use local produce and products in creating new homey flavors without trying to replicate the ones they left behind.
“The differences in climate and the necessary adjustments arising out of these differences compel the European housewife to make many drastic changes, particularly in her cooking – a change not so easy to achieve as it would seem,” wrote Dr. Meyer in the introduction to the book.
Faced with these changes, Meyer was concerned that an average housewife would find herself overburdened and overwhelmed with the task of keeping her family healthy, happy and well-fed. Her solution? Leave Europe behind and embrace the new world of cooking in the Land of Israel.
“We housewives must make an attempt to free our kitchens from European customs which are not applicable to Palestine. We should wholeheartedly stand in favor of healthy Palestine cooking.”
The book includes full chapters on cooking with vegetable oil in place of butter, how to navigate the world of exotic local spices and how to properly cook with electricity. Only once the housewife understood the changes she would need to make in her cooking would she arrive at the recipe section of the book. Dr. Meyer included a wealth of recipes for main dishes, sides, desserts, and drinks specifically tailored for local produce and protein options to help the housewife “to become acclimatized to our old-new homeland.”
Now, you may be asking yourselves what does this have to do with the great ketchup debate?
Interestingly enough, Dr. Meyer proved to be a big fan of ketchup and in her book, she strongly suggested women consider adding the condiment to their recipes as a way to complement the spices in the dishes and because “the rich red color is pleasant decoration to many foods.”
According to Dr. Meyer, “Tomatoketchup is made of a spicy seasoning and the pulp of boiled tomatoes. In this, the housewife has many spices combined in one and not only means of seasonings but also the tomato is one of those few vegetables which retains their vitamins after being boiled.”
It did help, of course, that Assis, a local ketchup and condiment producer, assisted with the publication of the book.
So, for those of you on the side of ketchup, it appears you have the full support of an expert homemaker – especially if you are living in Israel and are looking to dress your meat or fish. If that is the case, Dr. Meyer suggests, “One tablespoonful is enough but if a stronger seasoning is preferred, two or three tablespoonfuls may be used.”
Get a taste of “How to Cook in Palestine” with these recipes (one of which includes ketchup)!
Egg Plant “Liver”:
5 small egg plants, oil for frying, vinegar, salt, onion, ground pepper, fried onion. 1 hard-boiled egg. Cut the unpeeled egg plants into thin slices, fry in boiling oil and pass through meat mincer. Add the raw fried onions and the egg, salt and vinegar.
Fish and Vegetables:
Various root vegetables (bulbs of celery and parsley, beet roots, kolrabi) can be used. Ehred [sic] and boil the vegetables in a little saltwater until nearly done. Then put these in a deep casserole, which had been smeared with oil. And add any desired fresh fish, cut into portions and salted. Between the slices you can add some “Assis” tomato-sauce or ketchup. Stew over small fire, with tightly covered lid. For about 20 minutes.
This post was written as part of Gesher L’Europa, the NLI’s initiative to connect with Europe and make our collections available to diverse audiences in Europe and beyond.
Golda Meir votes in the 1969 Israeli elections. Photo by Gershon Elinson, the Dan Hadani Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel
Besides being the year of two elections, 2019 also marks half a century since one of Israel’s most peculiar and pivotal political contests, when David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Menachem Begin each led a faction into the country’s first polls after the Six Day War.
The elections for the Seventh Knesset were held in October of 1969. Just over two years after the miraculous victory of 1967, the country was coming down from its euphoria and the War of Attrition was taking its toll. The country’s “forgotten war” would claim the lives of some 1,000 Israeli soldiers in just three years, lost in numerous skirmishes and missions along its newly expanded borders with ever-belligerent neighbors.
While security and conflict with those neighbors were always hot election topics, 1969 marked the first time the political and geo-political ramifications of those expanded borders became campaign issues, which they remain to this day.
The 1969 elections came following the death of Levi Eshkol, the first Israeli prime minister to die in office. Golda Meir, who came out of retirement to replace Eshkol, led the country for more than six months despite not being chosen in a general election. She and her HaMa’arakh (The Alignment) faction would go on to win big in the ’69 elections, nearly securing a Knesset majority on its own with 56 seats – a feat unimaginable in today’s political realities. Even more inconceivable is the fact that the faction she led prior to the election held even more seats. Golda would remain prime minister for another five years, winning reelection just after the Yom Kippur War, only to ultimately resign a few months later once it became clear that she had lost the trust and support of much of the Israeli public and her own ruling party.
The Seventh Knesset elections would also be the last for founding father David Ben-Gurion, who was known to call Golda “the best man in government”. After serving as the young country’s prime minister for much of its first two decades, “The Old Man” had refused to join The Alignment as part of the Rafi party he had founded four years prior. Instead, he started yet another new party, HaReshima Hamamlakhtit (The National List), with former Mossad head Isser Harel. They secured a paltry four Knesset seats in the 1969 race and Ben-Gurion retired from public life the following year. Strangely enough, what remained of their National List would go on to become a founding faction of Menachem Begin’s Likud Party.
Following the October 1969 elections, Golda Meir set out to form a government. Though Ben-Gurion’s National List sat in the opposition, Golda and Begin joined forces for the common good, and a 102-member strong left-right-center, secular-religious-traditional, Jewish-Arab coalition was formed.
Robert Lachmann with his secretary (Jerusalem, ca. 1936)
The weather-beaten stone marker atop grave number 15, row 3, sub-section 8 of the Jerusalem community plot of the Mount of Olives cemetery appears neglected, as if it has not been visited for many years. The gravestone contains just three words: “Dr. Robert Lachmann.” The records of Chevra Kadisha list the name of the deceased as “Robert Lachmann”, date of birth: unknown; parents’ names: unknown; date of death: 20th of Iyar, 5699, May 9th, 1939.
Who was Dr. Robert Lachmann, who passed away in 1939?
Born in Berlin in 1892, Robert Lachmann was the second of three sons born to Dr. Georg Lachmann, a Jewish scholar who taught at the Humanistic Gymnasium in Berlin, and Jenny Hendler-Lachmann, who was born and raised in London and graduated from Queen’s College.
Lachmann studied violin and languages, English and French at the universities in Berlin and London and took lessons in Arabic with Prof. Mittwoch. During the First World War he served as a translator for prisoners of war from North Africa and India at Wunsdorf, where he was first introduced to and became fascinated by Arabic and other non-European music. This work made him decide to do more research of Arabic music and culture. Following the completion of his master’s degree in musicology, at the University of Berlin (Humboldt University) he decided to focus on the music of Tunisia, and thus he became one of the pioneers of the study of Arabic and Eastern music.
Lachmann was one of the founders of the field of comparative musicology that later evolved in the United States into what was called “ethnomusicology.” But even this term does not fully convey the scope of the field or the materials studied in it. Indeed, non-European music was initially at the forefront of comparative music research, which began in post-WWI Germany and the Weimar period. The idea was to find that which was common among different forms of music, as well as what was different – the ancient roots of each form of music. This kind of research was best conducted when it was possible to record and play back the music from recordings, and to isolate and analyze elements from the various musical languages. Lachmann and his colleagues were of course also aware of music’s social, psychological and magical contexts.
As mentioned, Lachmann was born in Berlin and lived there until 1935. He completed his doctoral dissertation in 1922 and published articles on the music of Haydn and Schubert. However, his most significant work as a comparative musicologist was presented in his book Musik des Orients and an expansive article on the music of non-European civilizations, which he published in 1929. That same year, Lachmann decided to leave the Jewish community as he considered himself a Universalist and felt that his relationship with the community was nothing more than a troublesome nuisance. It was around this time that he began writing his memoirs about his military service as an interpreter in a prisoner of war camp during WWI, which are today preserved in the Sound Archive in Berlin.
With the rise of the Nazis to power, and despite being an assimilated, educated Jew, who lacked any strong connection with Jewish culture, he was fired from his post as a librarian of the Berlin State Library in 1933 and was left with no source of income. His options were to immigrate either to the United States, as many musicologists did or to Palestine. He chose Palestine—not because of any Zionist or Jewish sentiment—but because he was a scholar of Eastern music who saw the many possibilities to continue his research in the Land of Israel/ Palestine, with its many cultures, especially in Jerusalem, as well as its proximity to Egypt and other Arab countries.
Ruth Katz, who studied the life and activities of Robert Lachmann, claims that Lachmann was “uprooted,” and believed only in research, choosing Jerusalem for that reason.
Lachmann spent over three years packing up his library and archive in anticipation of his move to Mandatory Palestine. Even after immigrating, he traveled to Berlin several times, copying recordings on wax cylinders, including recordings by Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, copies of which had reached Berlin from Vienna.
Among Lachmann’s recordings which he made in Jerusalem on tin records, which mainly consist of Eastern music, was one song, a German children’s song, which Lachmann himself sang and whistled:
Vöglein im hohen Baum (Bird in the Treetop)
Vöglein im hohen Baum Klein ist´s, ihr seht es kaum tausend zugleich Wenn ihr vorüber geht wenn ihr die Farben seht freuet ihr euch
Before immigrating to Palestine and prior to the Nazi’s rise to power, Lachmann presented his research on Arabic music at the World Conference for Arabic music in Cairo in 1932. He met many Jewish musicians there, including Jewish Iraqi musician and composer Ezra Aharon, who represented the music of his country on behalf of the king of Iraq. Ezra Aharon immigrated to Palestine in 1934 and became one of Lachmann’s principal subjects of research and a major figure in Eastern music circles in Jerusalem and the rest of the country. Palestine Radio began its broadcasts in 1936 with a musical segment featuring Ezra Aharon playing the oud. He established the Arab Music Orchestra and composed many songs and compositions. Ezra Aharon, like Lachmann, did not think that his immigration to Palestine would prevent him from ever returning to Iraq, but political and military developments would soon reshape the region.
Before leaving Berlin Lachmann sought to establish a research center for Oriental-Eastern music and contacted representatives of the Hebrew University. He received a reply from the president of the university, Dr. Yehuda Leib Magnes, who invited him in 1935 to establish an archive for Eastern music. The intention was to establish a sound archive that would record and analyze recordings, with a studio, recording equipment and a sound technician.
And so, in 1936, Lachmann arrived in Palestine with a British government certificate, bringing with him copies of recordings made in Tunisia which had been stored in the Berlin sound archive. These were recordings made by Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, “the father of Jewish musicology” who had resided in Jerusalem from 1907 to 1921. He also brought copies of other recordings he had made, and records of Oriental music from both the Near and Far East that he had acquired for the archive. In addition he obtained funding to employ a sound technician who would work alongside him. This man went by the name of Walter Schor.
Lachmann’s work continued for about three years. The university had difficulty dealing with his personality as well as his research and goals. The budget he was allocated was renewed annually, until the end of 1938, when he was informed that funding would be cut off.
The Hebrew University, founded in 1925, did not understand the importance of Lachmann’s research and although when he arrived in the country he began to study Jewish music as well, the university’s administration did not see any point in the continuation of his research at the time
Once in the Land of Israel, Lachmann made some 800 recordings of Eastern music on tin records. The subjects of the recordings as he described them in his notes were: “Samaritan Music”–233 records; “Jewish Music: Kurds”–12 records, “Yemenites”–75 records, “Western”–51 records, “Other Communities”– 25 records, “Contemporary (Popular) Music”–34 records, “Arabic Music”: “Bedouins”–23 records, “Rural”–119 records, “Religious Music”–39 “Women and Children”–9 “Eastern Urban Music”–92 records, “Christians”–42 records, “Gypsies”–6 records, “Others”–9 records, Total: 769 records.
Recording no. 2 – The song “Yefe Nof” performed by Ezra Aharon (vocals and oud)
Recording no. 3 – Musical piece performed with the oud
In 1936 and 1937, Lachmann was invited to present a series of lectures on the radio in English. The musical demonstrations were taken from the tin recordings, and he hoped that in this way, he would help spread Eastern music along with his teachings, as well as obtain additional funding for his work.
Recording no. 4 – Lachmann at the end of his series speaks about his financial crisis
For years, all of Lachmann’s recordings were preserved by his student Dr. Edith (Esther) Gerson-Kiwi. She continued his work and maintained the Eastern music collection until the establishment of the National Sound Archive by Prof. Israel Adler as part of the National Library in 1965. For years, Gerson-Kiwi refused to hand over Lachmann’s material, until finally in the 1980s she transferred Lachmann’s recordings and her own to the Sound Archive. The archive containing Lachmann’s writings, notes and letters is in the Music Department and is accessible to researchers and visitors under the catalog number MUS26.
One could say that Lachmann was the spiritual founder of the National Sound Archive of the National Library. Generations of ethnomusicologists have continued on his path, with many continuing to study the musical field Lachmann devoted himself to—the music of the East.
Lachmann studied Hebrew and was interested in the tradition of Jewish musical performance—the pronunciations, liturgical hymns (piyutim) and women’s songs. He was especially interested in the songs of the Samaritans which had an ancient and magical sound.
Among his writings are handwritten pages in vowelized Hebrew, of lectures he transcribed into Hebrew for himself about the foundations of Jewish music, which, it can be assumed, he read aloud. Interestingly, he never recorded himself speaking in Hebrew.
He writes in “Lecture no. 1: the Foundations of Jewish Music – Reading the Bible A (Mus 26 C 19)”:
My lectures will deal with the music of Eastern Jews. Although it is not my intention to bore my listeners with details about the traditions of the various communities, I think it would be more useful to address the main elements of this music. Perhaps my listeners are hoping for a short, definitive answer to a favorite question: what is Jewish music? However, one of the aims of my lectures is to try to prove to them that there is no short, conclusive answer to this query.
I will not give them a definitive answer because the subject has not yet been thoroughly investigated. Jewish music consists of parts that have not yet been clarified, such as the cantillations and songs of Kurdish Jews, and perhaps the most interesting, the cantillations of the Karaites, and more. Before researching these, it is impossible to come to an absolute conclusion. There are certainly people for whom it is sufficient in this regard to rely on their beliefs and feelings and not on facts for the sake of drawing conclusions. But as we have decided, we must rely more on facts than on beliefs and feelings.
And secondly, I cannot give a concise answer to the question of the essence of Jewish music. Jewish music has undergone many changes and influences. Apart from that, each of its forms has its own social circumstances and musical principles and all will need to be addressed.
If we want to talk about Jewish music we must first of all think of the Bible. Indeed, the cantillation of the Bible is unique and there are doubts about whether it can be called music at all … there was and still is a tendency among the Eastern nations to see music as a force which can have a negative influence on the human spirit…
Lachmann goes on to discuss Samaritan music, which he views as ancient and having a magical power which he apparently did not find in Jewish music. He continues:
According to the magical approach, one can influence the natural spirits with certain special actions. Among these, the most important is the uttering of magical incantations. These chants are spoken by healer-shamans who are responsible for the health of the society and its success in the hunt as well as all important social issues in general. But in their belief, he [the shaman] is not the active force in all of these situations. He is just the vessel being used by the spirits to achieve the necessary magic. It is understandable then that the conjurer cannot utter the magical sayings in his natural voice.
This disguising of the voice is found also among the Samaritans and the wonderful impression left on the listeners from their style is achieved by the disguised voice. In other words, there are remnants of the magical approach in the Samaritan cantillation. Moreover, Samaritan cantillation is the only cantillation among the Near Eastern churches that preserves these clear remnants.
The next lectures will be devoted to the following topics: Foundations of Jewish Music 2 [Cantillating the Bible]; Foundations of Jewish Music 3 [Traditional Secular Music of Eastern Jews]; Foundations of Jewish Music 4 [Contemporary Jewish Music, the Definition of Jewish Music].
We learn from a newspaper article that Lachmann lectured on Eastern music in various circles, and these audiences also found it difficult to understand the broad contexts connecting Japanese, Chinese, Arabic and Eastern Jewish music.
Lachmann died of an illness on May 9th, 1939. A telegram was sent to his brother in London from the university’s president Dr. Yehuda Leib Magnes. Walter Schor disappeared without a trace and conspiracy theories still abound about his actions in Palestine among those who knew him. Some say that he was accused of espionage. Lachmann was 46 years old at the time of his death. His research and recordings tell the story of Jerusalem and its voices. The establishment of the Archive of Eastern Music was ahead of its time but left its mark and has influenced the research and collection of Jewish and Israeli music in the Land of Israel and the State of Israel to this day. Robert Lachmann, an intellectual Jew, rooted in German culture, a lover of Eastern culture, a believer in science, died poor and alone and was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. From there he looks on and listens to the old and new voices of the East and of the Sound Archive of the National Library.