Home activity – “Free People in Our Land”

“To be a free people in our land”

Goal: Families will feel like what it means to be an Israeli by experiencing Israeli culture through one of its quintessential foods.

How:

  • Food preparation
  • Conversation

Another aspect of being a free people in our land is to the ability to develop national customs regarding food.  Just as in the US, we think of the hamburgers and corn on the cob as the being really American, in Israel they adopted the falafel sandwich as their national food.  Israelis didn’t create falafel just as American didn’t create hamburgers or corn on the cob.  Falafel is a middle eastern food and although Jews came to Israel from all over the world, including the middle east, they were proud to adopt local foods in order to connect to this part of the world and honor its flavors and tastes.  Just like Europeans who came to the America and wanted to share in foods that were cherished by Native Americans such as corn.

Watch how the falafel king of Afula does it!

Or are you more impressed by this guy?

In honor of Israel, have a falafel dinner at home.  For the ambitious cooks, you can make falafel at home.  Check out Joan Nathan, The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen.   Or, the main ingredient, the falafel balls, can be purchased frozen or from a local falafel restaurant.

Since falafel in Israel is sold at stands with salad bars, parents and kids can create a falafel stand at home.  Search for pictures on the internet and have younger children make signs and give a name to their falafel stand.  They can also make Israeli flags or download pictures for their signs and make Happy Birthday Israel signs.  Older children can make the ingredients with parents: cutting up vegetables, preparing techina sauce, cutting open the pita.   Younger children can help set up the plates with the different items that will go into the falafel.

Because Israel is in the middle east, it’s national foods are shared by other countries in the middle east.  Israel enthusiastically adopted these foods to proclaim its connection to the land.  Three of the foods are: pita, falafel, and humus.   When the pilgrims came to the US, how did they do the same with native American foods?

What do we learn about Israelis when we look at their love of falafel?

  • They like foods with some heat and spice which may be connected to living in a warm climate. Falafel itself is sometimes spicy and most people put green or red hot sauce known in Hebrew as harif.  Does it also say something about their approach to life?  How does spicy food make you feel?
  • They fill their falafels with fresh salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.  Israeli farmers produce some of the tastiest fruits and vegetables in the world.  Some people claim you have never tasted a tomato until you’ve had one from Israel.  Thus, through the falafel we can see how proud Israeli are of their agriculture.
  • Falafel uses foods and common in the middle east: sesame seeds (which become techina sauce), chickpeas, cumin, etc.  Through the falafel Jews connect to their roots in this region.

Additional recipes for this meal, including dessert can be found here.

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