By Larry Gordon
It was a random, cursory, unplanned study of haberdashery in Jerusalem. There we were on a warm weekday, strolling up Jaffa Road in the direction of the Machaneh Yehudah market, when it occurred that all around us, passing in one direction or another, was a plethora of people with a wide assortment of colorful and interesting head coverings, and I just began snapping away with my trusty iPhone.
Perhaps more than in any other country and quite possibly more than in any other community in the world, what one wears on one’s head is not only for keeping warm in winter, but it defines who we are in essence yet in a superficial way.
It is a mystery what type of heavenly merits the Borsalino people of Italy have, but there has to be some kind of connection between those folks and the larger yeshiva world around the globe. In this modern day and age, you can buy a less-expensive similar-looking type of black hat, but if you want to live up to whoever it is you either want to be or think you are, it will most likely have to be a Borsalino.
As a side note, about five years ago we were perusing the upscale shopping district in Rome, Italy, when I spotted a Borsalino hat shop. Out of curiosity, I walked inside to look around and I can report that there was nothing on the shelves even remotely resembling a yeshivish-looking black hat. So what is going on–did they invent those for us?
From a personal perspective, I can report that I have three sons (of a series of four) who are married and two sons-in-law, and they each have a different approach to the defining aspect of what is commonly referred to as black-hat wearing.
The relationship between Orthodox Jewish women and how they cover their heads–that is, if and when they do–is a completely different dynamic. I have observed that in certain areas of Jerusalem, it seems that the Arab women might be more scrupulous about this matter. Two weeks ago while in Israel, I took a couple of photos of what I assume were Palestinian women and the fashion in which they cover their heads. It was an interesting study in contrasts.
In some quarters, both the Jewish and Arab women don rather colorful and even elaborate headgear and that leads one to wonder what type of statement the different styles are emitting–or trying to.
And even though some of the head coverings look similar, the cultural divide has manifested in the way people dress in such that it is easy to tell the different peoples apart. And frankly, you do not have to travel to Israel to make these types of observations; that variety of backgrounds is discernible in the same way here. Anyway, included with this column are some photos of the types of headgear one encounters in the various communities.
Dining In Israel
Decades ago, we used to subsist in Israel on falafel. This time around, three weeks ago, I only had one of those indigenous Middle Eastern dishes. It was filling but not that satisfying. Last Friday, we were at the Gefen food shop on Mill Road in Hewlett, and I told Gitty that I think the falafel they serve is better than the one we had on Ben Yehudah Street on one of those nights we did not feel like dining formally.
Israel works like this in a sort of offsetting quid pro quo–you eat more than usual but you also walk more than usual. That is, you take in calories for sure–and you probably burn a good deal of those calories off by just touring the neighborhoods that we seem to never get tired of strolling through.
In Jerusalem these days, the hottest places to dine are the restaurants that dot the area in and around Machaneh Yehudah. Who ever thought this would be the place to be? We tried some of the most innovative and creative dishes found anywhere in the world.
OK, so we had planned to revisit a place we had been to last year which is in that same area of Agrippas Street. It was a quaint but also crowded and noisy spot called Chatzot, or as the sign above the store says, Hatzot. And maybe it is called that because the place doesn’t really start hoppin’ until around midnight. So we grab a taxi as we exit our favorite hotel–the Waldorf-Astoria–and we tell the driver we are going to Hatzot in Machaneh Yehudah.
For a change, the driver speaks an understandable English with only a slight accent and he turns to us before we even pull away from the hotel and says, “Why are you going there? The best restaurant in Jerusalem is right across the street.” The driver suggests that we try Jacko Street, which we heard was excellent (and also had excellent kashrut certification) and we were planning on visiting and trying one of these days.
Anyway, I tell the taxi driver that it’s Sunday night and I’m sure you need a reservation to get a table at Jacko Street and we don’t have one. He stops the car and searches on his phone for the number and then speaks to them in rapid-fire Hebrew, saying that he needs a reservation for just two people and that we will be there in 20 minutes.
I was thinking that this type of helpful treatment by Israel’s taxi drivers is unique. Can you just imagine you get into a cab and when the driver asks where you would like to go, you say, “You can take us anywhere you think we’d like to go”? Granted, this was unusual even for Israel. I’m not a big food connoisseur–I just prefer what I like–but the food at Jacko’s was out of this world. We didn’t know what to eat, so we simply perused the menu and took our best shot at what to order. We started with something called Teller bread. This is mild schug, eggplant aioli, spicy Tunisian tomato dip, techina, and chickpeas along with homemade market jam.
Then we also tried the veal sweetbreads, which were tantalizingly tasty. This dish included mini focaccia, techina, amba powder, tomato, and charred onions. And then it was time for the main course.
My wife tried the prime beef hamburger, which features a 250-gram burger from a choice cut of beef, fried onions, baked potatoes, and basil aioli. I had the beef fillet with porcini yifrach. This is a great-tasting fillet of beef wrapped in charred leeks, bok choy, and red wine.
That was a walk on Jerusalem’s wild dining side, as each time we arrive in Israel there is word circulating about a new restaurant or two that we hear has just opened. It is impossible to try all of them, and then there is the matter of the eateries that you know are good from past experiences and that you just gravitate to.
Some of the great restaurants that can easily come under that heading include Gabriel’s, a fantastic steak place right off of Shlomzion just up the hill from the Mamilla Mall. We ate there on the second night of yom tov as all the restaurants in Israel open up after one day of yom tov, which is the way it is observed in Israel.
We also dined with friends at the always enjoyable Chinese food emporium Sheyan, a bit up the way from King George Street on Ramban. And then when you are not sure what you feel like eating there are always those sumptuous salads or delicious pizza at CafÃ© Rimon.
And last but not least, in this essay anyway, is Friday-night dinner after the walk back from the Kotel at the Waldorf. My thanks to Moti Verses and Imad Jabar for taking care of us and making our stay at the Waldorf the best yet. There are many hotels and options for Friday-night dinner in Jerusalem but you owe it to yourself and your family if you are there with them to try Shabbos at the Waldorf–there is nothing like it. From the waiter service to the presentation to the outstanding dishes that are served, it all makes for one special experience.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.