April 12, 2021

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Cooking Is My World

New Cookbook Provides Culinary Journey Into Globe Of Ancient Israelites

6 min read
6 minutes

Above the past decade, Israeli cuisine has turn out to be all the rage as Israeli cooks found movie star with reimagined community foods and dishes brought to the Holy Land by Jews from the Diaspora.

At the identical time, a tiny religious sect in Israel has kept its have culinary traditions alive for some 3,000 several years, far from the limelight of cooking displays, cooking competitions, e-book releases, and award-successful dining places in earth capitals.

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Samaritans pray at Mount Gerizim throughout Sukkot vacation. Picture: Yadid Levy

This may well before long transform with the launch of a new cookbook that appears at the foodstuff and cooking traditions of the Samaritan community, an ethnoreligious team that traces its roots to the historic Israelites and regards alone as the most faithful adherents of the Torah as transmitted to Moses by G-d. They are keepers of what they say are the oldest, hand-prepared Torah manuscripts in the environment, penned in the Samaritan alphabet and regarded scripture.

The “Samaritan Cookbook” is a exceptional journey into the kitchens and the record of this ancient sect, who according to belief, are descendants of the tribes of Ephraim, Menashe, and Levi. Their two largest holidays are Sukkot and Pessah, equally Torah festivals, when the Samaritans host hundreds of visitors – Israelis, Palestinians, vacationers – for elaborate, vibrant ceremonies involving foods and drink.

These occasions normally make worldwide headlines accompanied by placing photos of Samaritans dressed in traditional garb from the backdrop of Mount Gerizim – the holiest site according to Samaritan belief. The tiny group, less than 1,000 these days (it numbered more than a million centuries in the past), is break up amongst the southern Tel Aviv suburb of Holon and the city of Kiryat Luza, just outdoors the West Financial institution town of Nablus on the slopes of Mount Gerizim. Samaritans discuss equally Hebrew and Arabic and navigate a advanced identity influenced by Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians.

Rooted in Samaria, their cuisine is Levantine – very similar to that eaten by Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese and other communities in the Levant – and relies on refreshing, all-natural elements. The e-book features dozens of recipes that merge freshly-grown fruits and vegetables, meats from farm animals (chicken, turkey, sheep) and robust, flavorful spices employed in Samaritan delicacies, with a abundant farm-to-table (and butcher-to-table) tradition.

A tray of food served during Sukkot by the Samaritan community near Nablus. Photo: Yadid Levy
A tray of food items served in the course of Sukkot by the Samaritan group. Photo: Yadid Levy

Dishes include things like a cauliflower with rice maqlouba, lamb meatballs with pine nuts, chicken with za’atar, a guacamole-like dip with a Center Eastern twist, Samaritan knafeh, and a delectable-sounding sesame and anise cake. Arak and anise tea are the prevailing beverages.

“The guide covers an ancient Israelite dimension: on the one hand, incredibly traditional with a foot in heritage and in the past, but at the same time very modern and Levantine,” states Ben Piven, a single of the editors of “Samaritan Cookbook” and a journalist who formerly invested more than a decade immersed in the societies and languages of the Middle East.

Piven worked with Avishay Zelmanovich, a scholar of Middle Eastern cultures and Jewish heritage, and Benyamin “Benny” Tsedaka, a Samaritan tutorial, writer, lecturer, unconventional historian, and informal “secretary of state” for the neighborhood, as Piven describes him, to put together and publish “Samaritan Cookbook.”

An avocado and tahini dip is one of the recipes detailed in Samaritan Cookbook. Photo: Yadid Levy
An avocado and tahini dip is a person of the recipes in-depth in ‘Samaritan Cookbook.’ Image: Yadid Levy

The do the job was influenced by a 2011 Hebrew-language cookbook introduced by Tsedaka with 284 recipes gathered by dozens of Samaritan females, which includes Tsedaka’s mother and aunts. For “Samaritan Cookbook,” Piven tells NoCamels that the trio chosen a couple dozen recipes they felt would be most persuasive for an global audience.

“We wished to make this guide accessible, with charming, uncomplicated recipes,” and substances and flavors that folks could come across easily, Piven clarifies.

A letter chart with the Samaritan alphabet in the 'Samaritan Cookbook.' Photo: Courtesy
A letter chart with the Samaritan alphabet in the ‘Samaritan Cookbook.’ Picture: Courtesy

The ebook is penned in English, with recipe titles in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. It is divided into chapters – starters, mains, desserts, with specific sections on Sukkot and Pessah and a single on the Samaritan pantry, with have to-haves this kind of as anise, cumin, za’atar, paprika, and turmeric.

The Samaritan alphabet will make a distinctive look in the cookbook, which also incorporates verses from the Samaritan Torah these types of as “By evening, you shall eat meat, and in the early morning, you shall have your fill of bread. And you will know that I am the Lord, your God,” Exodus 16:12 (Samaritan variation), and “A land of wheat, and barley, and grapevines, and fig trees, and pomegranates a land of olive oil and honey,” Deuteronomy 8:8 (Samaritan version). These are the Seven Species for Samaritans, in accordance to scripture.

The genesis of ‘Samaritan Cookbook’

Piven and Zelmanovich initially achieved in Israel practically 15 yrs back. All around the exact time in 2007, they linked with Tsedaka when functioning on a tale on the Samaritan group, a well-liked subject with journalists in the location.

Their interest and enthusiasm for Mideast cultures led them to generate One particular Semitistan, a cultural corporation that examined the region’s linguistic heritage and the back links between Semitic languages these types of as Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Amharic.

A bible verse from the Samaritan version of the Torah in the Samaritan Cookbook. Photo: Yadid Levy
A bible verse from the Samaritan edition of the Torah in ‘Samaritan Cookbook.’ Photograph: Yadid Levy

In the meantime, they designed a rapport with Tsedaka and stayed in contact around the years. Piven had in the meantime moved to New York, and he and Zelmanovich fulfilled up with him in the city when he would be on his yearly US lecture series.

In these a assembly in 2015, an original system for an English-language book on Samaritan cuisine started off to formulate, Piven tells NoCamels, and the trio immediately obtained to do the job. The concept was to go outside of foodstuff and into the record and exclusive context of these historical Israelites to check out who they are and how they survived all these several years.

“Everyone enjoys fantastic food items. And meals is usually an entry into a community. We were interested in employing the Samaritan design as an example of a cross-cultural bridge amongst Israelis and Palestinians, between Hebrew and Arabic, as a product for co-existence,” Piven claims.

Benny Tsedaka, left, Avishay Zelmanovich, center, and Ben Piven. Courtesy
Benny Tsedaka, left, Avishay Zelmanovich, middle, and Ben Piven, ideal. Courtesy

“We see over and above it getting about food items. There definitely is anything about peace-building where if you can recognize the same traditions, influences, and audio, and languages, and heritage, you understand how significantly these narratives are intertwined,” he tells NoCamels.

“Samaritan Cookbook” life in this strategy of peace-setting up. The Samaritans have a divided id exactly where some live and work in Israel, and serve in the Israeli military, whilst other folks reside in the West Financial institution amongst Palestinians with whom they share similarities. They straddle both equally worlds, Piven explains.

Samaritan Cookbook cover. Photo: Yadid Levy
Samaritan Cookbook address. Picture: Yadid Levy

“It’s a window to knowing the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, and a doable dwelling answer exactly where the land belongs to anyone,” he tells NoCamels.

The Samaritans “stayed on the land, as opposed to the Judeans who turned a Diaspora men and women [due to conquest and persecution.] They are pretty tied to the land simply because they by no means left,” he suggests. “This was not the norm for both Israelis or Palestinians.”

This attachment is reflected in the delicacies and the traditions. Piven tells NoCamels that above the a long time, Samaritan delicacies has occur to stand for a type of “median Levantine delicacies, a blend of all these spots.”

Piven thinks the “Samaritan Cookbook” will resonate with five primary groups: coexistence supporters fascinated in bringing Center Jap communities collectively, students learning this one particular-of-a-sort ethnolinguistic sect, Christian communities fascinated in biblical heritage and hunting to know far more about “what Moses ate, or what Jesus ate” from the ancient Israelites, Jewish people fascinated by a distinctive Israelite heritage, and foodies intrigued in the Mediterranean diet program and its wellbeing advantages.

In the long run, Piven, Zelmanovich, and Tsedaka hope to publish variations in other languages to get to far more audiences.

“Samaritan Cookbook” is available for purchase by way of the publisher, Wipf & Stock, and on Amazon.

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