The Art Of Cooking – Hummus With Minced Meat

Hummus in Israel can be comparable to Pizza for Italians!
Normally the Hummus can be enjoyed plain or with some extra.
One day in Israel me and my dad visited Caesarea as a couple of tourists, and to our surprise we tumbled upon this Hummus dish topped with warmly spiced minced meat.
That moment left a strong impact on us and I have been making it ever since. The smooth texture of the Hummus combined with the savory bites of the minced meat creates a balanced taste at the moment you scoop as much as you can with a small piece of pita bread.
Trust me, this is the way to eat Hummus, scooping as much as you can with a small piece of pita bread – but do not get it on your fingers, there’s a limit!

Hummus Ingredients:
1 Large Can Chickpeas
Tahini (a paste made from sesame seeds)
2 Cloves of garlic
Lemon juice
Olive oil

Ingredients for the minced meat:
200-gram Minced meat (you can choose either lamb or beef)
2 Cloves of garlic
Paprika powder
Cumin powder
Salt & Pepper
Cooking oil

Olive oil
Pine Nuts
Fresh Parsley

Making the Hummus:
Inside a blender add the chickpeas, two tablespoons of tahini with the garlic, a pinch of salt, a squirt of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Now it is all about finding the perfect texture and flavor that you want! Keep tasting by adding a small amount of cold water to make the texture smoother.
Add more salt if it tastes too bland, as well as lemon juice if you want to put more zing into it!
There are many types of Hummus out there – however, it is up to you to balance the ingredients to become a favorite of your own taste!

Making the minced meat:
In a cold frypan add the minced meat with a bit of cooking oil, turn on the heat to medium-high and start breaking the meat apart, make sure you don’t keep big lumps. Once the minced meat is almost cooked through, add the minced garlic and all the spices (a teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of paprika, as well as, a pinch of salt and pepper). Keep stirring until all the minced meat is covered with the spices, that is until it turns brown and slightly sticky!

Place the Hummus in a plate with a dent in the middle, then put the hot minced meat on top!
Top with pine nuts and fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil, you can also add some paprika powder on top.
Serve with pita bread, and of course, you may add some raw onion slices, boiled eggs, and pickled spicy peppers.
This is not the most traditional way to eat Hummus, but please give it a try. So, to go back to the comparison between Hummus and pizza, at the end the toppings are up to you.
However, if you want to make a Hawaiian Hummus go for it, but please let me know how this worked out……

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Hebrew Writing In Berlin

Mati Shemoelof – Ills.: Joseph Sassoon Semah

Four new books of Hebrew literature that were published lately in Berlin raise questions about the identity of the Hebrew literary Center. Will the Hebrew literature center be open to post national questions? Or will be a continuation of Israeli national values and reject the diasporic ideas?

In the month of November 2019 three books were published in Berlin.
The collection Was es bedeuten soll: Neue hebräische Dichtung in Deutschland published by Parasitenpresse Verlag, located in Cologne, Germany. The collection includes 13 writers including 12 Israelis living in Germany and Gundula Schiffer a German female author from Cologne, who was also among the editors of the book (edited by Gundula Schiffer und Adrian Kasnitz.
Although the book was edited and published in Cologne, most of the authors in this book belong to the city of Berlin, like Ronen Altman Kaydar, Yael Dean Ben-Ivry, Tomer Dotan-Dreyfus, Asaf Dvori, Yemima Hadad, Zahava Khalfa, Admiel Kosman, Maya Kuperman, and Michal Zamir. Interestingly, the book was only published in full translation into German, meaning without the original poems all written in Hebrew.

Another book that was published in Vienna, Austria, Zwischen den Zeilen (Passagen Verlag) also has almost all of its writers based in Berlin (Edited by Michal Zamir and Yael Almog). The book includes Hebrew and German female writers, writing in both languages, as result of a Jewish feminist event held in the city of Berlin. The third book that was published in this very month is my bilingual poetry collection Baghdad | Haifa | Berlin by the Berlin’s AphorishmA publishing house.

So, three books dealing with Hebrew poetry were written mainly in Berlin and published in one and the same month. So I say, we can start talking about a new Hebrew literary center in Berlin. The fourth book was published only in May 2020 in Berlin, also published by AphorismA Verlag. This is the book Life is the least evil one a collection of stories by Erez Mirenz (AmhiD). According to Mirenz, the book deals with black humor with what is happening in Israel and its very publication in Berlin is a statement about the fact that Israelis, in the broadest sense of the term, are refugees of the conflict or cultural refugees.

I say new literary Hebrew center also because these books came out as the first Hebrew books in Germany after a long pause reaching until the time during the two world wars. Back then, it was a much bigger and bustling center for book publishers, poets and poets who published books in Hebrew. It was much bigger also than the Hebrew center in Palestine. Dr. Rachel Zeelig writes in her monograph Strangers in Berlin: Modern Jewish Literature Between East and West, 1919-1933 (University of Michigan Press, 2016): In the early 1920s, Berlin was home to ten Hebrew publishing houses and, by 1924, the city was producing nearly a quarter of all Yiddish books worldwide. Seelig examines four poets at length, including Ludwig Strauss, Moyshe Kulbak, Uri Zvi Greenberg, and Gertrud Kolmar.

But whereas most of these old Hebrew writers dreamed of Israel back then, today the new writers come – mostly disappointed – back from a real political and social life in Israel. And one should expect a literature that expresses that kind of writing. Maybe the new Hebrew literature will deal more thoroughly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Meaning, the rise of the Hebrew literary center in Berlin requires us to ask the question, whether it will continue Israel’s Zionist ideology by following the three unspoken general rules in Israel:

1. Israel must not be criticized. Any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.
2. The struggle against the occupation must not be mentioned.
3. Literature and poetry should move away from being political.

So far, there is some fight now, this kind of conflict happening on the Berlin platform. On the one hand stands the Pro-Palestinian writers, organizations, institutions and creators who mostly support the nonviolent struggle of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). They put a mirror before every Israeli artist who lives outside Israel and compel them to question how they are facing the Palestinian struggle for justice and liberation and ending the occupation. On the other hand stands the Israeli embassy, ​​with government institutions such as the Jewish Agency, JNF and other investors spending huge capital in recruiting any Israeli artist who lives outside Israel, to control their content and stop them from co-opting and stopping any radicalization of the cultural centers.

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My Arabic is Mute & Not to be afraid to say the word nostalgia

Almog Behar – Ills.: Joseph Sassoon Semah












My Arabic is Mute

Strangled in the throat
Cursing itself
Without uttering a word
Sleeping in the suffocating air
Of the shelters of my soul
From family members
Behind the shutters of the Hebrew.
And my Hebrew erupts
Running around between rooms
And the neighbors’ porches
Sounding her voice in public
Prophesizing the coming of God
And bulldozers
and then she settles in the living room
Thinking herself
Openly on the edge of her skin
Hidden between the pages of her flesh
one moment naked and the next dressed
She almost makes herself disappear
In the armchair
Asking for her heart’s forgiveness.
My Arabic is scared

quitely impersonates Hebrew
Whispering to friends
With every knock on her gates:
“Ahalan, ahalan, welcome”.
And in front of every passing policeman
And she pulls out her ID card
for every cop on the street
pointing out the protective clause:
“Ana min al-yahud, ana min al-yahud,
I’m a Jew, I’m a Jew”.
And my Hebrew is deaf
Sometimes so very deaf.

Not to be afraid to say the word nostalgia

Not to be afraid to say
The word nostalgia
Not to be afraid
To feel longing
Not to be afraid to say
I have a past
Placed in a box
Of locked-up memory
Not to be afraid
To buy myself some keys
To press my eyes to keyholes
Until it all opens
Until I can steal a glance
Into me
Not to be afraid to say
I’m a forgetful man
But I have a memory
That wouldn’t forget me.

Translated by Dimi Reider

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Kunstmuseum Den Haag – Joseph Sassoon Semah – 31 oktober 2020 t/m 21 maart 2021

Foto: Ilya Rabinoch

Joseph Sassoon Semah – On Friendship… 31 October 2020 – 19 September 2021

Exile, hospitality and friendship are key themes in the work of Joseph Sassoon Semah (b. 1948, Baghdad). In 1950 he and his parents were forced to leave Iraq to Israel, and Joseph eventually arrived in Amsterdam in 1981, via London, Berlin and Paris. On Friendship… will for the first time bring together 36 architectural models of houses, a synagogue, schools and cultural buildings made by Sassoon Semah that refer to the liberal Jewish culture of his Babylonian ancestors – a culture which, he says, barely exists except in memory now.

86 drawings and wall-mounted objects refer to the old culture and to exile. These works are part of his research project On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam. Referring to his own GaLUT (Hebrew for exile), these are the three cities with a reputation for tolerance where Sassoon Semah was made to feel welcome. Now he himself will act as host and friend, sharing his original culture. By way of a personal welcome, the triptych Joseph / YOSeF / Yusuf will be displayed beside one of the entrances to the exhibition in Kunstmuseum Den Haag’s Projects Gallery. The triptych is a kind of self-portrait featuring the artist’s name in Dutch, Hebrew and Arabic, along with a godwit (the national bird of the Netherlands), a hoopoe (the national bird of Israel) and a chukar partridge (the national bird of Iraq).

The work of Sassoon Semah allows plenty of scope for critical reflection on identity, history and tradition, and is part of the artist’s long exploration of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity as sources of western art and culture, and of politics. The aspirations of his grandfather, the Chief Rabbi of Baghdad, to promote dialogue between different religions and world views, resonates in everything he makes. One of the display cases will for example contain the prayer shawl (Tallit) that belonged to his grandfather, who refused to leave Baghdad during the first forced deportation, probably because to him Baghdad was already a place of exile, but above all because Iraq was his homeland. One of the wooden architectural models, a bronze version of which with rams’ horns will also be shown, is based on his synagogue, the Meir Taweig synagogue in Baghdad, which still exists but is no longer in use.

Lost paradise
Drawings of human skulls and the skulls of animals native to Iraq – 86 of them, the age at which Sassoon Semah’s grandfather died—also symbolise the lost paradise: the straight lines symbolising the street plan of the destroyed Jewish quarter, the yarn referring to measuring and territory, the sewing itself to textile as a carrier of information. A typewriter with Hebrew script and sand from Jerusalem on a steel Tefillin refer to the second place of exile, that of Sassoon Semah’s father, a leading lawyer in Israel. Joseph has reworked the book in the display case, the Talmud Bavli Tractate Pesachiem YaKNeHa’Z. His additions to the typography refer to his concept of architecture in exile. The abstract forms reference Mondrian, De Stijl and other abstract art of the West, the third place of exile. And so, in a metaphorical sense, On Friendship… is an ode to a lost culture, and at the same time an invitation to a dialogue about these different cultures.

New English-language publication ‘Joseph Sassoon Semah: On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam’ – published at the end of October, available in the museum shop. 264 pages, ISBN 978 90 361 0601 65, design and layout by Geert Schriever (artlifelove) Amsterdam, edited by: Linda Bouws and Joseph Sassoon Semah, € 39.95.

Centrale thema’s in het werk van Joseph Sassoon Semah (1948, Bagdad) zijn ballingschap en gastvrijheid. Zelf wordt hij in 1950 samen met zijn ouders gedwongen te vertrekken uit Irak naar Israël en komt via Londen, Parijs en Berlijn in Amsterdam terecht. In de tentoonstelling brengt hij onder meer 36 architecturale modellen bijeen van huizen, een synagoog, school- en cultuurgebouwen die refereren aan de joods-liberale cultuur van zijn Babylonische voorouders, een cultuur die volgens hem buiten de herinnering amper nog bestaat.

Het werk van Sassoon Semah laat volop ruimte voor kritische reflectie op identiteit, geschiedenis en traditie, en maakt deel uit van een langdurig onderzoek van de kunstenaar naar de relatie tussen het jodendom en het christendom als bronnen van de westerse kunst- en cultuurgeschiedenis. In alles resoneert het streven van zijn grootvader, de opperrabbijn van Bagdad, om de dialoog te bevorderen tussen verschillende religies en wereldbeelden.


Zie ook:

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The Art Of Cooking – Shakshuka

Many dishes are unavoidable in the Middle East, and yet every country has its own version.
One of those dishes is Shakshuka!
A savory tomato sauce with an egg cooked on top of it, and it tastes great at any moment of the day.

Because first of all, it is such an old dish which can be found all over North Africa and the Middle East, and secondly,  there are so many different ways to make it.
I like to add eggplant, simply because I love it, and yet at the same time, the eggplant helps to make the Shakshuka a bit more savory.
But please feel free to try out different ingredients/toppings and spices when you are making your own Shakshuka!

1 Eggplant
Large onion
1 Cayenne pepper
1 Red paprika
2 Canned diced tomatoes
Olive oil (for cooking)
Paprika powder
Cumin powder
Turmeric Powder
Feta cheese or any good alternative white cheese for topping
Fresh parsley

Cooking Shakshuka:
First of all begin with dicing of the eggplant into small chunks, then cook them with oil in a deep skillet until golden brown.
Meanwhile, dice the onion/garlic/paprika and cayenne pepper (remove the seeds if you do not like it too spicy).
When the eggplant is soft and cooked through – make sure there is enough oil in the skillet – add the onions and cook the mixture until translucent, at this moment you can add the garlic, the paprika, and the cayenne.
By now you can add the seasoning, a pinch of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of paprika, a teaspoon of turmeric, and cumin (you can add a pinch of dried chili or ground cayenne pepper if you like it extra spicy!).
When all the seasoning is mixed well with the vegetables add the canned diced tomatoes and let it simmer for 15 minutes. You can add a splash of water when the mixture becomes too dry.
By this time when the tomato mixture is cooking, the sauce becomes thicker; at this moment one should make holes in the sauce for the eggs.

An easy way to place the egg into the Shakshuka is by cracking the egg into a bowl first.
So, when all the eggs are on top of the sauce put a lid on, let it simmers for a couple of minutes until the eggs are cooked to your liking.
Please note, when you turn off the fire let the eggs cook a bit longer in the hot tomato sauce before served.
Garnish with fresh parsley, crumbled feta cheese, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Eat with any type of bread, even with toasted bread, that is as long as you can soak up all that sauce!

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Steve Acre – On Fire In Baghdad. An Eyewitness Account Of The Destruction Of An Ancient Jewish Community

Sabih Ezra Akerib also known as Steven Acre

Farhud—violent dispossession—an Arabicized Kurdis word that was seared into Iraqi Jewish consciousness on June 1 and 2, 1941. As the Baghdadi Jewish communities burned, a proud Jewish existence that had spanned 2,600 years was abruptly incinerated.
As a nine-year-old, I, Sabih Ezra Akerib, who witnessed the Farhud, certainly had no understanding of the monumental consequences of what I was seeing. Nevertheless, I realized that somehow the incomprehensible made sense. I was born in Iraq, the only home I knew. I was proud to be a Jew, but knew full well that I was different, and this difference was irreconcilable for those around me.

That year, June 1 and 2 fell on Shavuot—the day the Torah was given to our ancestors and the day Bnei Yisrael became a nation. The irony of these two historical events being intertwined is not lost on me.
Shavuot signified a birth while the Farhud symbolized a death—a death of illusion and a death of identity.
The Jews, who had felt so secure, were displaced once again. We had been warned trouble was brewing. Days earlier, my 20-year-old brother, Edmund, who worked for British intelligence in Mosul, had come home to warn my mother, Chafika Akerib, to be careful. Rumors abounded that danger was coming. Shortly after that, the red hamsa (palm print) appeared on our front door—a bloody designation marking our home. But for what purpose?
Shavuot morning was eerily normal.

My father Ezra had died three years earlier, leaving my mother a widow with nine children. I had no father to take me to synagogue; therefore, I stayed home with my mother, who was preparing the Shavuot meal. The rising voices from the outside were at first slow to come through our windows. However, in the blaze of the afternoon sun, they suddenly erupted.

Voices—violent and vile. My mother gathered me, my five sisters and youngest brother into the living room, where we huddled together. Her voice was calming. The minutes passed by excruciatingly slowly. But I was a child, curious and impatient. I took advantage of my mother’s brief absence and ran upstairs, onto the roof.

At the entrance to the open courtyard at the center of our home stood a 15 foot date palm. I would often climb that tree.
When there was not enough food to eat, those dates would sustain us. I expressed gratitude for that tree daily. I now climbed that tree and wrapped myself within its branches, staring down at the scene unfolding below. What I saw defied imagination.

On the narrow dirt road, 400 to 500 Muslims carrying machetes, axes, daggers, and guns had gathered. Their cries—Iktul al Yahud, Slaughter the Jews—rang out as bullets were blasted into the air. The shrieks emanating from Jewish homes were chilling. I hung on, glued to the branches. I could hear my mother’s frantic cries: “Weinak! Weinak!” (Where are you?)
But I could not answer, terrified of calling attention to myself.

The complete story (PDF-format):

Joseph Sassoon Semah – Working drawing, architectural model mass grave (‘Farhud’, Baghdad, June 1-2 1941). 30 x 21 cm. Paper, blue ink, pencil

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