By Anessa V. Cohen
Welcome back everyone—including me! After the incredible time I spent in Israel over all the chagim, I wanted to share some of the highlights of my more unusual wanderings this year.
Firstly, I have included a picture from one of the restaurants in the Iraqi shuk located in Machane Yehuda shuk, showing all their offerings on “petillim.”
I recently wrote an article explaining how in the past (and still in the present) authentic Sephardic cooking in Jerusalem, especially in Old Jerusalem before there was a “new” Jerusalem outside the old city walls, was done on “petillim” (small kerosene stoves). So when I saw this restaurant with all the petillim set out front, I could not resist taking a picture to bring back and post.
As an aside, this is the best home-cooked food offered outside of a home that you could ever taste, and the prices were really low—which is why it was packed with locals!
This year, my husband and I decided to take a trip south towards the Gaza border to visit those towns, moshavim, and kibbutzim that suffered so much during this summer’s war with Hamas. For anyone with transportation and the time, it is a mitzvah to go out of your way to try to get there and spend money in those businesses that are having such a rough time after the suffering they dealt with during the war.
Once you get there, it is easy to go in and out of different shops and eateries, enjoy the day and the scenery, and add a little bit to their struggling economy. We stopped in S’derot and Netivot, bought souvenirs and sukkah decorations to bring back and give out in Jerusalem and stopped in different eateries; we felt that we did our little part.
We are hopeful that others traveling to Israel will try to set aside a day and drive down there and do their own little “part” towards showing support for these wonderful small border towns. These residents have taken the lion’s share of the burden each time the rockets come helter-skelter over the Gaza border.
We also stopped in Nachal Oz, a kibbutz sitting on the fence of Gaza, mere spitting distance from Gaza City. We had decided to stop off there to say hello to people and tell them our trip was just to give them chizuk to know we are thinking about them and wish them only the best!
My wonderful surprise was Nachal Oz itself. This spot is absolutely beautiful, with gardens and trees on winding paths throughout a vast area and small homes dotted in between as you walk down these scenic paths. As small as these homes appeared—and they were certainly no larger than small bungalows you might see up in a bungalow colony in the country—each house was aesthetically decorated in its own unique fashion, always surrounded by small, beautifully contained gardens and trees within the larger landscaped perimeter of the kibbutz itself.
The outdoor space in front of all of these homes is utilized as common-space entertainment areas. I use this terminology since I am not sure of another way of describing this inviting concept. Essentially, each family’s patio and front-yard space was decorated as an outdoor living room/dining room area surrounded by gardens and trees—with different kinds of overhangs to shelter them in case of rain.
As you walk down these paths, you get the feeling of visiting each home personally. You can stop and say hello to people sitting in front of their homes, whether at their dining room table which might be out front, or on their living room furniture, i.e., sofa, chairs, coffee tables, etc.—even televisions. It is like floating from one friend to another, house by house!
Whenever we passed a house where the family was home, they would invite us to sit with them and offer us something to eat or drink, as if they knew us for years as opposed to mere seconds. I began to feel that they were giving me chizuk—more than anything I could possibly offer them in exchange!
I was completely blown away not only by the beauty of Nachal Oz but by the exceptional warmth of the people I met there.
As we left Nachal Oz, we drove not more than several feet from the end of the kibbutz where the fence separating them from Gaza is erected. We found ourselves wondering at the strength of these people who live in this difficult spot and their endurance to withstand those constant rockets. It was obvious that no matter what type of Iron Dome is set up down here, there is no way that those small rockets that are sent out from Gaza could take more than seconds to hit this beautiful spot, offering no time at all to find shelter. We can only hope that some plan will be devised to shut down those rockets for good so that these lovely people can live in peace!
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential and commercial real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa.cohen@AVCrealty.com.