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A conversation with Bracha Din, jewelerby simone • January 01 2010
Interview, Art, Holidays, Religion, Shopping
Bracha Din first visited Israel in 1968, and she came by ship. A true child of the '60s, Bracha traveled the country, spending the requisite time on an authentic kibbutz, before ferrying off to Athens, the first stop on an extended European tour which took her to 22 countries in three years.
Back in the United States, Din tried out college but left after a semester to hitch-hike across Canada and the western United States. This journey eventually brought her to San Francisco, where she met Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and joined up with his House of Love and Prayer. It was in San Francisco that Bracha first began taking the steps toward observant Judaism - "I danced my way into Judaism," she likes to say – a path that eventually took her to Brooklyn, where she married and raised a family.
Bracha and her husband attempted to make aliyah as a couple, but they returned to America after a year. It was not until 1995, her children grown and her husband passed on, that Bracha returned for good to the city that had "always been like a magnet, pulling me in." She settled in Jerusalem's Old City and soon began her unique work with stones and prayer. Jerusalemite caught up with her in the calm before the Chanukah rush when Brachaleh (as the business is called) will be displaying her wares in her Jewish Quarter home.
If you walk the right streets, Jerusalem seems to be a city full of jewelers. How would you describe the scene here, and how would you describe your niche within it? There are a lot of jewelers here. I think that what draws people to my work is the subliminal message contained within it. People who have that sort of sensitivity are drawn to my work. All my jewelry is created with prayer. My world is also a pastel world, though I have recently introduced [bolder] colors. My focus is pastel stones and ethereal-looking jewelry.
I've always been interested in stones and how a person can access their power, and when I came to Israel, I was happy to learn that there are Torah sources which relate to the power of certain stones – stones that have the power or qualities to bestow inner peace, love, etc. My middle name is Tzirel, which I'm told means jewelry in Yiddish, and the Talmud says that a person's name hints at what they should be doing with their life.
I've been blessed with good taste in choosing the right stones for my jewelry and the right designs, many of which are inspired by my meditations and prayers. I never actually studied art or jewelry making.
Your jewelry is specially designed to match the energies of the person it was made for. How do you translate the spiritual into the material? How does this creative process work? I sometimes design my jewelry with a specific person in mind – I concentrate on specific issues that person is facing and pray for them while I design the piece - and sometimes I just put certain energies into my jewelry and people find the piece that matches them. The rabbis say that an hour of prayer....(For more questions and answers with jeweler Bracha Din, click here).
A conversation with Gil Peled, eco-architectby simone • December 07 2008
Born in Jerusalem, environmentally aware architect Gil Peled was somewhat of a gypsy as a child, following his parents, who worked in the Foreign Service, to Germany, Austria and back. After completing his army service, Gil studied architecture in Scotland, in keeping with his cross-cultural roots. Today, Gil works as an eco-architect, and is the founder of Eco-Challenges: Sustainable Architecture and Consultancy. Perhaps his most famous project is his own apartment building, near downtown Jerusalem, which he converted into the city's first Eco-Housing Project, turning the old building green from the top on down. Gil first came on Jerusalemite's radar when we read about him on Israel's eco-blog, Green Prophet. We were eager to hear more about his ambitious project that is helping make Jerusalem a "greener" city.
My first real architecture project, which I did while I was still a student, was an eco-architecture project, and then I began to specialize in it. My final project was an eco-architecture project as well, but by that time, eco-architecture was a part of me.
A conversation with Rebel Sun, Coolooloosh frontmanby josh • November 30 2008
Joel Covington is not the most exciting name. There's nothing in the name that talks about growing up in Baltimore, moving to Israel and converting to Judaism. There's nothing that talks about a length, possibly racist, battle with the Misrad Hapanim to get citzenship. There's nothing that talks about being a hip-hop personality and poet that has impacted and molded the music scene in Jerusalem.
To get all that you need to get to know Rebel Sun, who deftly handles the mic for Coolooloosh, the Oleh! Records-affiliated Jerusalem party music ensemble. Their new album, Elements of Sound, hit shelves, or computers, this month. Following years of touring in Eastern Europe and Noth America, where they recently wrapped up recording sessions with The Roots producer David Ivory, Coolooloosh visits Hama'abada (The Lab) on December 6 for a launch party.
A conversation with Arik Kilemnik, print-masterby simone • November 23 2008
Interview, Art, Things to do
Founder and director of the Jerusalem Print Workshop-Djanogly Graphic Arts Center, Arik Kilemnik was first introduced to the world of ink and paper as a student at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in the early 1950s. Kilemnik's passion brought him to New York City in the heady 1960s, where he studied at the Pratt Institute's Graphic Design Center and the Art Students League. Upon his return to Jerusalem, Kilemnik helped found the Jerusalem Print Workshop, which was officially established in 1974. The Workshop, which Kilemnik modeled after programs he had seen in New York, was designed as place for artists to gather to work in mediums such as etching, lithography and the like. On a recent rainy afternoon, Kilemnik took time to speak with Jerusalemite in the Workshop's main office, where magazines, prints and art books spill off the shelf-lined walls and numerous computers, copy machines and (gasp!) modern desktop printers compete for space.
Thanks to institutions like yours, the Naggar School, the Museum of the Seam, and activities like the Black Panther Tours, Musrara (and the area between Road One and the Russian Compound in general), has emerged as a kind of alternative arts hotbed, despite - or perhaps because of - its rocky history, its eclectic mix of populaces and the strange pocket it inhabits on the map. What are your feelings on the neighborhood, the place it holds in Jerusalem culture as a whole, and the direction it's going?
First off, I want to say that we're not interested in politics, we're an art institution. We believe in art for everyone; we invite artists to work here in the workshop regardless of their race, religion, etc. We didn't come to this neighborhood for political reasons. In fact, I don't think any of the institutions you mentioned specifically wanted to be in Musrara, it's just where we found the space.
Today, it's hard to find space in this neighborhood, but when we first moved here in the 1970s, this neighborhood was the end of the world – on one side you had the ultra-Orthodox, and on the other you had the Arabs. There were also pockets of Christians and secular Jews competing for space, and we really felt that we were holding the city together - that if we pulled out, there would be a war [between these various factions].
Musrara is a difficult neighborhood, especially where we are, right next to the ultra-Orthodox. It's hard to promote culture here. Right now the neighborhood is home to the Naggar School and gallery, a community center [that hosts artistic events] and the Museum on the Seam, but it's hard to say what the neighborhood will be like in the future.
We often meet with the other arts institutions here to try to come up with solutions for the future, for maintaining the neighborhood's cultural standing, but in this neighborhood we're working against the tide. It would be much easier for us to be in a neighborhood like the German Colony, a neighborhood where the arts are more appreciated, but what can you do? We're trying to make things happen here.
I do want to make it clear, though, that it's not because of the people who live in and around Musrara that things are difficult. I believe in pluralism, and that includes religion and religous people. The problem is not the people but the municipality. If the city wanted, they could make Musrara a cultural center, but they don't care.
I understand the Workshop is currently in the midst of renovations. What type of activities do you hope to host once your renovations are complete - activities that you don't have the space to host now? How did you know we were in the midst of renovating? We actually just acquired the bottom floor of the building....(for more questions with Arik Kilemnik of the Jerusalem Print Workshop please click here).
A conversation with Assaf Rizi, restaurateurby simone • November 16 2008
As far as Jerusalem restaurants go, you can't get more involved than Assaf Rizi. A native Jerusalemite, Rizi co-owns Adom, Lavan and Colony, key hangouts for Jerusalem's hip and hungry. Rizi got into the restaurant business, along with his brother Noam, because he wanted to spend his time in a job he enjoys and that brings joy to others. The brothers opened their first restaurant, Adom, seven years ago, timing that unfortunately coincided with the start of the second intifada. The brothers, and the restaurant, nevertheless managed to pull through, and three years later opened Colony. The latest restaurant in their empire, Lavan, opened last year.
Your three restaurants are very different from each other. For the uninitiated, would you please explain a bit about the concept behind each one? And what is the common thread between them, aside from the ownership/management team? Adom has the most complicated food - the cuisine is a combination of Jerusalem and France. Colony is a more populist place with simpler food, food that is more understandable to people. At Colony people know before they get there what they want to order - there are no surprises. Lavan is Italian and dairy - it's more like a coffee shop than a restaurant. It's a place to go to relax at the Cinematheque (where it is housed), with views of The Tower of David.
Only small things connect the restaurants: our service style; the way our staff treats the customers. There are not things you see on the outside - they're more internal.
One of the elements of Jerusalem's character that is so distinctive is the city's mixture of high-class poseurs and working-class grit. How has this mixture influenced the foodie scene here in recent years, and how has that affected your businesses? We try to connect to both these elements in each of our restaurants. Each restaurant has a range of prices, so anyone can eat there. We have very expensive dishes as well as cheaper ones, so that we're open to all Jerusalemites, from people coming to celebrate with a fancy dinner or people just coming in to drink beer and order a carpaccio or pizza. We want our waiters to treat all our diners as if they were their [personal] guests and as people deserving of attention no matter what their background or how much they spend - whether they're getting a big meal or just coming in for a glass of wine and a bite to eat.Since your three restaurants in Jerusalem are so successful, have you felt any pressure to open one in Tel Aviv? Many people have asked us if we plan on opening a Tel Aviv restaurant, and many people have requested that we do so, but right now we're very comfortable here, both with our businesses and with the city. If we open a restaurant in Tel Aviv, it would only be because one of the partners [only the Rizi brothers are partners in all three restaurants, but each restaurant has additional partners as well] moved there, which can happen, but it won't happen until somebody moves, because we don't want....(For more questions with Assaf Rizi click here).
A conversation with Dan Birron, mayoral candidateby josh • November 09 2008
Interview, City planning, Environment, Municipal news
At 68, musician, TV producer and pub owner Dan Birron is the unlikely face of a political party that once espoused legalizing marijuana as the cornerstone of its platform. Then again, given his long, scraggly hair and chilled out personality, maybe he is the perfect face. Born in Jerusalem when it was still part of Palestine, Birron was recently recruited to be Aleh Yarok's - or, the Green Leaf Party's - main man in Jerusalem. As a third- or fourth-party candidate for mayor, Birron has taken a Ralph Nader-like backseat in the race (to Arkady Gadyamak's Ross Perot). he's not just running on legalizing it, though. With a platform that addresses issues like clean streets, 24/7 public transportation and more funding for the arts, Birron is hoping to at least secure a seat on the city council, and maybe even steal the whole damn thing.
What about Jerusalem culturally makes it ripe for a Green Leaf administration? This is a maybe the first thing, the first item, in our platform. Do you know that the Jerusalem budget for supporting cultural activities is about 8 million NIS a year? In Tel Aviv it's 115 million, in Haifa it's about 80, 84 million. In Rishon Letzion, the orchestra gets more money than all the activities in Jerusalem. We think it's not luxury. It’s a basic need of every human being. And what can I do, when the municipality ignores it? So the first thing to do, maybe, because this is my field - I am a TV director - would be to take care of this.
Please paint a picture for us of Jerusalem with you as her mayor. What kinds of green spaces would you create? How would you balance that with the city's needs for construction development? I have a vision. I cannot say how far I can go, but I wouldn't allow the building of skyscrapers in town - in the center of town. If they want to do that, then please do it in the periphery. But the city of Jerusalem should be preserved. This is an old city and this our tradition and this is the face of our city. During these five last years the city became so dirty, they clean maybe the main streets, but look at the yards of the houses. There should be a fine on everybody who doesn't clean his own yard. Jerusalem should be clean. It should be light and not dark.If you were in office, how would you improve the city's cultural, nightlife, entertainment and performing arts landscapes? This is my field. I was a TV producer and director and was acting in Jerusalem for many years. But you have to do everything in spite of the municipality. Not only do they not support you, but they are trying to push.... (For more questions with Green Leaf Party mayoral candidate Dan Birron, click here.)
Choose your poison: a Jerusalem election primerby simone • November 07 2008
Municipal news, Bridge of Strings, City planning, Interview, News
With Jerusalem's municipal elections upon us this Tuesday, Jerusalemite spoke with journalist Avi Fogel, who's been covering the race for City Hall for the local Kol Ha'ir weekly newspaper. Fogel gave us a brief run-down on the candidates, the system and the craziness that is our local government. Although Fogel himself is a relative newcomer to the politics game (his usual beat is local laws and the police that enforce them), he has been eating, sleeping and breathing municipal elections for the past four months.
According to Fogel, Jerusalem's municipal political scene is complex, since "The mayor can't really be involved in what's going on in his own city: He can give his opinion, but that doesn't mean anyone will listen. He can say we won't talk about dividing Jerusalem, but at the end of the day, it's not the mayor's decision, it's the Knesset's decision.... So from a legal standpoint the mayor can't be involved with the city's major political issue. He can only deal with how clean the streets are, or the other services the municipality deals with - but not with the larger issues Jerusalem is facing."
That said, here's his low-down on the three top contenders for the city's top spot:
Political accomplishments to date: Barkat has been the opposition leader in the Jerusalem City Council since 2003. A successful businessman, he first entered the political fray four years ago, running for mayor and losing by a small margin. Since then, he's been involved in bringing issues affecting non-charedi Jerusalemites to the table at City Hall. A major opponent of the Bridge of Strings project, Barkat has argued that the money should have been used for education instead. Ha also fought against the decision to over-clothe the Bridge dancers, and was able to bring about some sort of a compromise, but as a member of the opposition, he was more involved in opposing, rather than creating, policy.
Primary platform: Barkat's main issues are education – he wants to allocate more money for the capital's educational infrastructure – and stemming the population drain by strengthening academic institutions, reducing housing prices and providing rent subsidies to university students. Barkat has also promised to attract between 10 and 15 million tourists a year to Jerusalem, opining that the city is not utilizing its full potential as a tourist destination and that increased tourism will equal increased municipal revenues. And, despite the fact that at the end of the day it’s a Knesset decision and not a municipal one, Barkat is throwing the undivided Jerusalem card, establishing a national initiative campaigning against the division.
Cultural platform: "Culture is a big issue for Barkat," says Fogel. "Jerusalem's cultural institutions are currently suffering from a lack of funding, because the municipality hasn't transferred the money they were allocated – i.e. their budgets are not being paid. First and foremost, Barkat wants to ensure that Jerusalem's culture institutions receive the funding they are due." Barkat has claimed that the current city government is subtly trying to strangle nightlife and cultural institutions that operate on Shabbat by withholding their funding. Barkat has vowed to support Jerusalem's cultural institutions financially and institutionally, hoping not only to increase the capital's cultural standing, but to stem the youth drain as well. After all, if theater and nightclubs can't keep 'em around, what will?
Political accomplishments to date: The ultra-Orthodox Porush has served in the Knesset since 1996 as part of United Torah Judaism (an amalgam of Porush's own Agudat Israel party and the Degel HaTorah party) though as a Knesset member, "Porush was not all that active politically. He wasn't an initiator," says Fogel. Aside from comparing Ariel Sharon to Benito Mussolini in a well-publicized 2005 controversy, though, "He had a job and he did it; he was very neutral. As they say, 'He didn't hurt, and he didn't help.'" Prior to his stint in the Knesset, Porush served as deputy mayor under Teddy Kollek, so he does have some experience in the Jerusalem municipal scene - although Fogel points out that the decision to run was not Porush's own. "Porush's party decided that he was their mayoral candidate, so he is their mayoral candidate," he says.
Primary platform: According to Fogel, "Although Porush's campaign speaks about combating population flight and securing employment opportunities, his main platform is the fact that he's the Charedi candidate and everyone knows the Charedi sector will vote for him." However, "It's hard to tell exactly what Porush stands for," Fogel says, since the candidate has not made himself exceedingly available to the media: "He doesn't let his views be known. He's very handled [by former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg among others] and restricted in what he says. During Kollek's reign, Porush worked in the municipality's environmental department, but not even the charedi population knows what he did there."
Cultural platform: Not surprisingly, Porush doesn't go out of his way to address Jerusalem's eclectic cultural landscape. According to Fogel, Porush has said that he doesn’t have a problem with people doing their own thing here in Jerusalem, but he has also never made any promises to strengthen Jerusalem's cultural institutions. "He is not billing himself as a fighter for Jerusalem culture. Now this may be because he will offend his constituency if he talks about it, or it may be his own view, but in any case, he has kept quiet on this issue." For now at least, it seems that Porush is of the live-and-let-live school of thought (as long as that living doesn't cross the borders of his neighborhood). While he supports keeping the roads closed on Shabbat in charedi neighborhoods, he has made no such demands on the rest of the city. "We have to remember, that Porush was only chosen at the Charedi candidate about two months ago [as opposed to Barkat who has been campaigning as opposition leader for many years], so we know far less about him," says Fogel.
Arkady Gaydamak (aka Arieh Bar Lev)
Political accomplishments to date: Like Barkat, Gaydamak's background is in business, not politics. Instead of serving in the city council opposition, however, the arms-dealing Gaydamak has been honing his political skills by buying up the Beitar soccer team as well as Bikur Cholim Hospital (which serves a largely charedi population), and financing respite programs for Katyusha-plagued northern residents and Qassam-afflicted Sderoters. According to Fogel, "Gaydamak is known as a man with a lot of money, who gives a lot to the community, but people are often wary of his support. People are suspicious of his motives. They think he is giving them money so they will vote for him at a later date."
Primary platform: Gaydamak too has pledged to fight Jerusalem's population drain and bring new jobs to the city. He claims that his connections in the business world make him the ideal man to bring new business and new investments to Jerusalem. Gaydamak also plans to invest more money in Jerusalem's higher education institutes and provide greater support to students and young people - so that they can choose to stay in the city as residents and not just as students.
Cultural platform: This Russian playboy has big plans for improving the city's nightlife. In fact, one of his major supporters recently sent letters to the current mayor protesting the fact that Jerusalem's Culture Department currently lacks a director. "This is a big part of Gaydamak's campaign," Fogel asserts. "He wants to know why the municipality is not doing anything about the cultural life in this city, why they are withholding funds and why they are letting culture die. He wants to revive it."
The (brief) low-down on City Council
As if choosing a mayor wasn't choice enough, there are scores of parties running for city council. For a party to make it onto the 31-seat council (only the mayor's six deputies receive a salary), they need to receive a minimum number of seats. Once they have passed that threshold, they need a smaller percentage of the vote to receive additional seats.
Fogel claims that because of this system, and general voter apathy (except in the charedi sector), it is almost impossible to tell which parties will garner seats. Apparently, only 38 percent of eligible voters bothered to show up at the polls for the last municipal elections, and Fogel fears a similar trend this time around as well - a trend which will most likely hurt Barkat and his party. "This year, the main fight is for mayor and not city council," Fogel says. "Every candidate also has a city council list, plus there are numerous other lists."
Fogel fears that smaller parties like Wake Up Jerusalem (Hitorerut Yerushalmim, which has already merged with the Yerushalmim party) will fail to hit the threshold required to make it into the city council, but will succeed in splitting the secular vote, causing the council to swing charedi, where there are fewer parties and the vote is more controlled. Apparently there is a movement underway to unify all the secular parties onto one list so that they achieve the critical mass needed to make it onto the city council. With one unified party, it will also be easier for the mayor to form a coalition and pass laws. But you know Jews - they can never agree on anything, leaving voters to choose between a myriad of options (Hitorrerut-Yerushalmim, Meretz, The Green Party (HaYarokim), Lma'an Yerushalayim, Likud, MAFDAL and Ichud Haleumi, Shas, Yisrael Beitenu to name a few…).
Mayoral candidate Dan Birron was not discussed in this item, because in-depth coverage of his campaign will appear when Jerusalemite's mayoral election-themed content continues in the coming days.
Photo of Arcadi Gaydamak courtesy of Deror Avi.
A conversation with Matt Beynon Rees, novelistby simone • November 02 2008
Interview, Pop culture
Matt Beynon Rees was born in Newport, Wales in 1967. After studying at Oxford, Rees left the UK to study journalism at the University of Maryland, which eventually led him to New York City. For the next six years, Matt covered the stock market and related money matters for The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and other top financial papers. Matt came to Jerusalem in 1996, and though at first he only planned on staying for a few months, he got the bug and ended up serving as Time magazine's Israel bureau chief. 12 years after arriving, he's still here, creating his unique brand of Palestinian murder-mystery novels.
How did a nice Welsh boy like yourself end up in Jerusalem? I guess you could say I came by accident or for love. I followed my then-fiancée (now ex-wife) here for what I thought would be a few months, and here I still am. When she got a job writing for the Christian Science Monitor in Jerusalem, I thought I'd come with her. I'd been wanting to get out of New York for some time. I was stuck in a job there that I didn't particularly like, but when you're in New York, it's hard to figure out how you're going to escape that life. So this was a great opportunity.
I've always held a great curiosity for this place. I had two great uncles who came here in 1917 with General Allenby. They were both coal miners in South Wales, but they were also in the volunteer cavalry regiment, and since they could ride horses, they were told they could ride camels as well. They were placed in the Imperial Camel Corps, which helped Allenby capture Jerusalem. One of these uncles was still alive when I was a boy. He had been shot in his backside near Ramallah while trying to prevent the Turks from getting supplies to Jerusalem, and every Christmas he used to drop his trousers to show us his scar. I think that's what initially made me curious about the place.
When I got here I visited all the British war cemeteries, and I saw the graves of all these men who had died here who were from similar backgrounds to my own. It made me grateful that I came here a as journalist and not as a soldier, but it also made me feel more connected to all the people who were willing to die for this place, both Israelis and Palestinians. It also made me feel connected to this place in a deeper way, and not just as a journalist who comes here for a few years and then moves on to somewhere else.I still frequently visit the British Commonwealth War Cemetery on Mt. Scopus, because there are.... (for more questions with journalist-turned-novelist Matt Beynon Rees, click here).
A conversation with Hadass Ben-Ari, zine queenby simone • October 26 2008
Interview, Pop culture
26-year-old Hadass Ben-Ari was born in Beit Sha'an but left, with her family, for Montreal when she was eight, during the First Gulf War. Hadass returned to Israel in 2005 for a quarter-year internship at The Jerusalem Post (she majored in journalism at Concordia University), fell in love with Jerusalem and returned to live here in summer 2006, just as the second Second Lebanon War erupted. When things quieted down, Hadass founded Fallopian Falafel, Israel's only feminist zine, which published its first issue in early 2007.
For the uninitiated, can you please briefly explain what the riotgrrl movement is all about and where it stands today in Israel? The riotgrrl movement was started in Olympia, Washington, in the early 1990s, during the grunge era. It was a movement for women that started as sort of a DIY punk movement to get girls on stage, because there wasn't really a scene for that, for female punk performers. It then evolved into a wider feminist movement. It's known as third wave feminism. The first was the suffragette movement and the second was women's lib in the 1960s.
Riotgrrrl's focus is more on girl-love than man-hate. People think "Oh, you're a feminist, you must hate guys or be a lesbian." I don't and I'm not. When I say riotgrrl is about girl love it's not necessarily a romantic love but a movement for women supporting women as opposed to competing against one another.
When I came to Israel I realized there wasn't really a riotgrrl movement here. If there was, it was very small and underground and basically centered in and around Tel Aviv. It's still very underground here. I'm also very into the metal scene, which is more popular here but sometimes there is an overlap and the metal bands attract a riotgrrl crowd. Since I've been here, I've seen one riotgrrl event – it took place in Tel Aviv and was not publicized at all.
Why do you choose to publish Fallopian Falafel in English? My English writing is more fluent. It also appeals to a broader audience that way. I have a lot of foreign readers, both English speakers in Israel and readers from abroad.
Besides your online presence it seems that you still distribute your zine the good old fashion way - placing it in places where the counterculture hangs out. Where are your key points of distribution in Jerusalem? I used to give it out for free – in Nocturno, in the music store on Keren Hayesod, at the Pride Parade – but production costs were too high, and coming out of my own pocket, and I still had to eat so now it's only free online. If you want the printed version, you have to pay for it. But a lot of the zine culture is about holding the actual zine in your hands, so we do still print. I often trade my zine for other zines.
Jerusalem is not exactly known for its sensitivity to feminist beliefs. What's it like promoting feminism is such a conservative city? I get a lot of interesting responses, even from the religious community. The zine even has some religious contributors. I try to use a lot of different perspectives and different points of view. I've found....(for more questions with Hadass Ben Ari of Fallopian Falafel click here).
A conversation with Itzik Ozarko, Marzipan bake-masterby simone • October 19 2008
Interview, Food, Shopping
The Marzipan Bakery's uber-chocolaty rugelach have been known to cause traffic jams on Agrippas St. as first-year yeshiva students crowd around to buy the treats for themselves, for their friends, for the people who tolerate them for Shabbat. While the rugelach are the bakery's main draw, especially amongst the Anglo crowd, Marzipan is a Jerusalem institution. Jerusalemite talked with Itzik Ozarko, the man behind the magic at the Marzipan Bakery.
Many proprietors of shops in the shuk are part of families with strong ties to Nachlaot. What's your connection to this neighborhood and what are your feelings on how it has been changing? My father, who moved to Israel from Turkey as a young child, opened Marzipan in Machane Yehuda in 1986 after learning the trade from some of Israel's finest bakers. Today, he's retired and I run the business with my brother. I'm in charge of the baking, and my brother does the business side. Our family also has strong ties in the neighborhood, and I've lived in Nachlaot for many years.
Regarding the changes, I think that both the neighborhood and the shuk are finally getting what they deserve: lots of honor, fame and glory. Nachlaot is famous, and it deserves to be famous. There are artists living there, government people. People used to run away from Nachlaot, and now they're running to it.
Machane Yehuda also deserves its fame. It used to be a simple place, and now it's getting fancy, as it deserves to. The vendors there work hard for their money - they work from early in the morning until late at night. They work on holidays when everyone else has off, they work on Fridays on erev chag (holiday eves) all the time. These people are the salt of earth, and the time has come when Jerusalemites have begun searching out the truth, searching out people like the vendors at Machane Yehuda. We're beginning to value not just the people who work in hi-tech and computers but simple hard workers.
In the English language, many brand names are so strong that they have become synonymous with their product categories over time - Band Aid, Kleenex and Xerox come to mind. Your rugelach are so popular, that many - especially English speakers who don't know what marzipan is - refer to them as marzipan. How do you feel about this? What's a good way to distinguish between actual marzipan and your bakery's rugelach? This sounds funny, but it's true. We used to think Americans called the rugelach marzipan because they thought there was a trace of marzipan in the rugelach. At first, we tried to correct this misunderstanding, but it didn't work, and there's nothing we can do it. Even though most Americans don't even like actual marzipan, they like to call our rugelach marzipan and not rugleach. At least now we know what they are talking about. If someone comes and orders marzipan, we give them rugelach.Of course, there is no marzipan in the rugelach, and marzipan does not mean rugelach, but we work so hard and his is one of the ways we reap the fruits of our work. We don't have a lot.... (for more questions with Itzik Ozarko of Marzipan click here).
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