We are overjoyed to be opening the month of December with Samar’s spectacular dates, newly-arrived from the autumn harvest. For those of you who are already addicted and have been pining away, inquiring, and begging, it’s party time!! They’re back! For those who have not yet discovered this wonder, meet Kibbutz Samar in the Eilot region, home to incredible organic date groves.
Samar dates are available in three different varieties: Barhi – round, soft and oh so sweet, famously known in its fresh form as a yellow date. Kibbutz Samar experimented in drying this date whilst still on the tree like other dates, and discovered that as a dry fruit the barhi boasts a delicious flavor and unique texture. They coined it Toffi shel Tamar (“date toffee”), and it is a dangerously divine fruit to its many addicts and those to come. Barhi’s sibling Dekel Nur is elongated, darker and drier. It is less sweet, and if you are accustomed to Yemenite or Iraqi dates, you will be awash in nostalgia. Last but not least – the Medjhoul – big, juicy and delectably sweet.
You are welcome to purchase Samar dates in packages of 5kg or 1kg (the Medjhoul is available only in small packages). Add them to your boxes today via our order system.
Once Upon a Time in Greece – A Timely Story
Once upon a long, long time ago in Athens, the city residents gathered together on the tallest hill in town to watch the contest that would determine who was to become the Patron God of the Attica Region (where the city of Athens resides.) Two very impressive gods were vying for the post: Poseidon, god of the sea and other waters, as well as horses and earthquakes; and his niece, Athena, the goddess of wisdom and military victory, as well as justice and art. In order to claim the coveted title, each of them was to offer the Athenians one gift. The Athenians, in turn, would decide which gift they preferred, and the patron would be chosen accordingly. Poseidon went first. He struck the earth with his pitchfork, it cracked open and a spring erupted from the breach. But the water was salty, and the Athenians found no use for it (in another version, it was a horse that emerged). Athena went next, offering the gift of an olive tree which she produced from the earth. Cecrops, king of Athens, and his subjects voted for Athena, of course, and henceforth the graceful olive tree would accompany them, providing food, light, heat and building material.
The Athenians’ choice can be viewed as solely practical, but if you scrutinize the story, I think you’ll grasp their decision to reject the pitchfork pugnaciously penetrating the earth (and the god that stabbed it, known for his anger outbursts and his unstable personality) and opting for growth, nourishment and endurance. The olive tree would chaperon the Athenians and all the residents of the Mediterranean Basin, providing a symbol of victory and luck for humanity, and in time an emblem of peace, harmony and tranquility.
When the Biblical flood subsided, the dove returned to Noah carrying an olive branch, signifying that the water had receded, the chaos had abated and the growth and life smothered for many days by angry flood waters could finally arise anew. Athena would overcome Poseidon here as well. And as tales twist their ways into our lives, the olive tree and its precious oil would lend themselves to the Hasmoneans as they battled the Greeks, reclaiming freedom of religion and nationality. That same cruse of oil, a reincarnated offspring of the tree of Athena, god of justice, would return harmony and justice to the renovated, purified Jerusalem temple.
Hanukah, our festival of lights, arrives during the shortest days of the year, when darkness creeps upon us earlier and earlier. These days, when it seems that Nature is shutting down the lighting system before we get to the end of the chapter, we recall Athena’s gift. With assistance from that same exact nature, we harvest the olive groves, produce olive oil and light our oil lamp to illuminate our path and fill us with joy. And even one thin candle then vanquishes the darkness.
To me, Hanukah is a paean to how little one needs to abolish hardship and cruelty, to dismantle them, to find a soft corner within them. This holiday celebrates the victory of moderation. It tells us that sometimes so very little is needed to create so much light – only one small flask of oil, a few good intentions and the willingness to believe and to give, a little goodwill and love to drive away loneliness or to break into laughter (and it’s already been said that the difference between one friend and none is infinite). Like a thin, slight candle which conquers the darkness the moment it is lit.
This is the time of year that marks the end of the harvest season for olives, the fruit of one of the most modest and self-denying trees in existence. This is a tree that hardly demands a thing and stands sturdy and graceful for years on end. Dry or rainy, hot or cold, the olive tree can endure it all and still emerge strong. Silently, this survivor, who has been around for over 6,000 years, produces olives that provide us with oil for our light, food for our health, balms for our wounds, softeners for our skin, and more.
And just in time, too! The olive harvest is the last in the chain of harvest seasons: by now we’ve reaped, gathered, picked, pruned, and collected all the bounty of our fields into the storehouses and the wine presses, taken pride with our successes or worried over our failures. And at the finale of this drama, voila, the olive harvest season debuts. There wasn’t much labor involved here, except mainly to hope for an appropriate measure of cold weather and rain, and a nice hard “first and second rain” to wash off the olives.
Modestly, silently, we harvest these hard fruits, which will burst with juice if we press hard on them, but not the kind of juice you want to lick off your fingers like from grapes, figs, pomegranates or dates. This is a strange and bitter juice which will strengthen our bodies in the long run, much more than that the sugar of sweet fruits. It will light our long winter nights. The olive harvest does not need lively festivals; this is a time of winter and introspection, to the quiet softness of a flickering candle flame.
It really is amazing to see golden oil burst out of such hard, un-tempting fruits. But in all honesty, it doesn’t start out golden. A rather disgusting sediment produces a rather foul, dirty liquid. Only after it sits in the dark does the oil separate from the dirty water and float above it, pure and light. This process is really magnificent and symbolic. It says a lot about what can seem futile or vain and what you can produce when you actually try, sometimes with effort and obstinacy. Give it a chance, and let time run its course without our interference. And then there’s all that health, goodness and light to be found at the end of the process….
Hanukah also marks the final date of the bringing of the first fruits to Jerusalem, probably in order to include those fruit that only now ripen – the olives, so important in Israelite culture. The first batches of olives and olive oil are indeed a reason to celebrate with an oil-kindling holiday.
The olive tree itself is a tree of light: its leaves, which do not fall during winter but courageously hang on all year, sport different shades on each side. The upper side of the leaf is dark green (or “olive green”), while the bottom is a silvery shade of white, covered in a thin fuzz which reflects the sunrays and thus protects the leaf from drying up. The leaves gently blowing in the wind with alternating hues of silver and green make a glorious vision of sparkling light, a sort of Hanu-Christmas tree.
Much has been said and written about the medicinal virtues of olive oil (for stomachaches, earaches and coughs, for starters), but also the olive leaves are excellent for our health, and drinking an olive leaf extract is in itself very advantageous. The antioxidants and flavonoids within it assist in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure as well as improving the blood flow in our arteries. They contain antifungal, anti-germ and anti-inflammatory agents, and are thus effective in easing the flu and preventing it. Perfect timing for this alternative vaccination as the common cold season prevails.
Hanukah symbolizes a battle for national and religious identity, usually associated with battling “the other.” Connecting to oneself must occur in parallel to disconnecting. There are those who insist this is inevitable. I beg to differ.
The olive that produced the oil to light the Temple menorah, that olive which appeared at the end of the flood, the olive formed by Athena in Attika and the olive cultivated by farmers in Syria, Greece, Italy, Spain, California, Lebanon, Palestine or Israel – they are all relatives in a family of over 2,000 olive species, offspring of the wild olive that grew here before humanity took its first steps, searching then for its identity and fighting its battles. All of them enjoy good years with rain and cold weather, and they all have suffered through the latest droughts and heatwaves. And though they are similar, they each have their own distinct variants – some descend from ancient heritage types, growing in olive groves passed down over generations, others are hybrid – developed for industrial purposes. They are all olives, but they each have their own identity, and their roots grow deep and firm in their own plot, never alienating themselves from their surroundings. This type of serene and confident rootedness, unapologetic and at the same time neither alienating nor entrenching, brings about blessing, growth and fertility. If only we could follow suit.
Birthday greetings to Mohammed, our work manager, and Aliza, our young and youthful translator to English, who celebrate their birthdays next week.
May we know to light a small candle For us For those we love And to illuminate those who seem to us hateful or hated, threatening and foreign. Perhaps a light will glimmer for us on the other side, attempting to illuminate and find in us a smile and comfort.
Wishing everyone a holiday of humility and family, heartwarming and happy, Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the entire Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Kohlrabi/daikon, bell peppers/sweet potatoes, pumpkin/eggplant, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach or winter spinach, cabbage/broccoli, lettuce/arugula/tatsoi, beets/fennel, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, parsley/dill/coriander.
Large box, in addition: Turnips/baby radishes, scallions/celeriac/ stalk celery, Jerusalem artichoke/short Iraqi lubia/Thai yard-long beans (lubia)/okra.
FRUIT BOXES: Red or green apples/kiwi, pomegranates, clementinas/avocado, oranges/pomelit, bananas.
Wednesday: Kohlrabi/beets, bell peppers/sweet potatoes/eggplants, pumpkin/fennel, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach or winter spinach, cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, parsley/dill/coriander, turnips/baby radishes/daikon.
Large box, in addition: Baby greens mix/arugula/tatsoi, scallions/celeriac/stalk celery, Jerusalem artichoke/short Iraqi lubia/Thai yard-long beans/okra.
FRUIT BOXES: Red or green apples/kiwi, pomegranates, clementinas/avocado, oranges/pomelit, bananas.