Ra­madan feast­ing

A tour of the Galilee of­fers all man­ner of treats – even if you haven’t been fast­ing all day

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By LAURA KELLY

Ra­madan may be the hol­i­day of fast­ing, but each day ends in a sump­tu­ous feast fit for a king – and even tourists can take part.

While the hol­i­day be­gan on Sun­day evening, and Mon­day marked the first day of the fast, even if you’re among those not ob­serv­ing, you can par­take in the glory of the if­tar, the tra­di­tional break-fast meal.

A Ra­madan tour, run by Drachim Sh­lu­vot (paths that in­ter­twine) – a fo­rum for eth­i­cal tourism – ex­plores culi­nary won­ders of the Arab neigh­bor­hoods of Is­rael through­out the month, meet­ing lo­cal busi­ness own­ers, learn­ing about tra­di­tions and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the ex­cite­ment lead­ing up to the if­tar meal. The tour starts around 5:30 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m.

Through­out the vil­lages in the Galilee, just be­fore sun­down the street stalls be­gin to open, so peo­ple can buy freshly pre­pared snacks to break the fast. There’s a mad rush on the streets as the fast breaks, and – just as quickly as it starts – all goes quiet.

When the call to prayer sounds, ev­ery­one knows it’s time to eat.

The hun­gry par­tic­i­pants join a fam­ily if­tar meal in a pri­vate home, be­fore tak­ing a walk­ing tour through the mixed Chris­tian, Druse and Mus­lim vil­lage of Sh­faram. There you’ll find the North’s best butcher, the most fa­mous ice cream shop, and any sweet dish you de­sire.

Gili Rei, the co-di­rec­tor of the shared so­ci­ety de­part­ment at the NGO Sikkuy, which runs the trips, says the goals of the project are three-fold.

“One, it is a won­der­ful tool to lower the walls and sep­a­ra­tion of alien­ation. As a tourist you come with an open heart to be ex­posed to some­one an a dif­fer­ent cul­ture,” she said. “It’s an op­por­tu­nity for Jews to meet Arabs in a very di­rect and open way, see their cul­tural her­itage in their own vil­lages and cities and ac­knowl­edge where they come from.

“The sec­ond thing is we cre­ate these con­nec­tions be­tween Jewish and Mus­lim tour guides and busi­nesses, and head of lo­cal coun­cils – these are the build­ing blocks to keep peace­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion even dur­ing times of ten­sions... It be­comes a shared in­ter­est to col­lab­o­rate and to main­tain a non vi­o­lent en­vi­ron­ment.

Thirdly, Rei said, it helps to support the lo­cal econ­omy and lo­cal busi­nesses, em­pow­er­ing “mostly women but not only.”

She said the NGO runs year-round tours to ar­eas where Jews and Arabs live closely to­gether, but “Ra­madan is the height of the sea­son for us.”

While they started do­ing the tours al­most 10 years ago, they have peaked in pop­u­lar­ity re­cently, with more than 2,000 Is­raeli Jews par­tic­i­pat­ing last year.

In Wadi Ara, Abed and Hasan Eg­baria own Al-Rouha Dairy, which nor­mally pro­duces 11,000 liters of milk prod­ucts a month. Dur­ing Ra­madan, Abed said, they churn out three times as much.

“Dur­ing Ra­madan there is a rise in con­sump­tion of cheese, be­cause you eat it with sweets when break­ing the fast,” Abed said in his home, sit­u­ated right above the dairy. “Even though you fast [all day] you gain more weight be­cause you’re eat­ing cheese, sweets and pas­tries at night!”

Abed opened the dairy nearly 12 years ago. De­spite study­ing for both an MBA and CPA, he was un­able to find a job in academia, and in­stead de­cided to take a leap of faith an open a dairy. Al-Rouha turns out hal­loumi, la­baneh and Ara­bic cheese – the kind used to make kan­nafeh.

Over in Umm al-Fahm, Manal Kara­mal Je­bereel is liv­ing out her life-long dream of having a res­tau­rant. The mother of three to­day does pri­vate cater­ing, at out­side venues and also in her home, which can host up to 45 peo­ple.

Her menu is made up of tra­di­tional Arab-Pales­tinian dishes, the recipes orally passed down from her grand­mother.

“Although I’ve writ­ten a few down,” joked the chef, who stud­ied cook­ing at the Tad­mor culi­nary in­sti­tute in Her­zliya.

The ta­ble in her home is laden down with dishes, which she spent all day pre­par­ing with­out be­ing able to taste them.

From caramelized onions swim­ming in olive oil atop blended fava beans to cin­na­mon-scented mak­lube with vel­vety egg­plant and woody al­monds; fluffy fried bread; potato and lentils topped with home­made pastry; meat cooked in toma­toes and onions, pro­tected by a pastry topped with nigella seeds and so much more.

Sh­faram, a mixed city of Chris­tians, Mus­lims and Druse, is con­sid­ered the pow­er­house of cof­fee roast­ing and spices, and is also famed for its ice cream.

Elias and Sami Zeitoum have been in the fam­ily ice cream busi­ness for more than 30 years. Their most fa­mous is the “mas­tik” fla­vored ice cream, made of the mas­tika spice pulled from a tree – and im­ported from Greece.

“Our ice cream is dif­fer­ent from oth­ers, with a softer fla­vor and taste,” said Elias. “A lot of generations grew up on this ice cream. They come here to buy some­thing spe­cial. The ice cream is al­ways fresh and the ma­chines never stop work­ing, that is the key to suc­cess.”

(Laura Kelly)

SH­FARAM HOME­MAKER Manal Kara­mal Jabereel pre­pares an if­tar feast in her home kitchen yes­ter­day.

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