The main source of sweetness was fruit: pomegranates, figs, dates, grapes, pears, quince and apricots. Dates, figs and grapes were dried and used to make molasses. Wild bee honey is mentioned several times in the Bible, but many scholars believe that “honey” (dvash) in the “Land of Milk and Honey” refers to date molasses, currently called silan. Olive oil was of paramount importance − used for cooking and dressing food, for lighting, in cosmetics and in religious rituals. Last but not least − wine. Consumed daily, mixed with water and often spiced, the elixir of love and deceit, wine became an integral part of Jewish life and worship. Here again one can see the schism between shepherds and farmers: the shepherds shunned wine, considered a typical part of the diet of the rival peasant tribes. The Diaspora What became known as Jewish cuisine, or rather Jewish cuisines, bears little resemblance to the Biblical legacy. They evolved during two thousand years in the Diaspora that began when the Jews were exiled from the Land of Israel in the first centuries AD and scattered far and wide. Jewish communities maintained autonomous lifestyles but were deeply influenced by the foods and cooking of the cultures in which they lived. Jewish Moroccan cuisine closely resembles that of Muslim Moroccans, and Jewish Polish cooking is not that different from that of their non-Jewish neighbors. The differences arose from the laws of kashrut that shun certain foodstuffs (seafood, pork) and forbid the mixing of dairy and meat. The law that prohibits work on the Sabbath (Shabbat) led to the creation of casseroles that cook on residual heat lit before the Sabbath. Gefilte fish was devised so fish could be eaten without the need to remove bones − considered work and therefore prohibited on Shabbat. But Shabbat was not just about prohibitions, it was the day on which even the poorest indulged in a good meal, even if it meant doing without for the rest of the week. Even more colorful and varied is Jewish holiday cooking. A festive meal is often the culmination of religious celebrations, be it the ritual Passover Seder, a New Year’s eve (Rosh Hashanah) dinner, or a meal taken in a makeshift hut during the week-long Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot). Deep-fried sweetmeats commemorate the miracle of oil at Hanukkah, honey-laden, caramelized meat and vegetable dishes celebrate Rosh Hashanah, lamb casseroles announce Passover... the variety is endless, with every community giving its own interpretation of the festive menu. One cannot discuss Jewish food without addressing the different worlds of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews. What
Jerusalem: From Middle Eastern sweets, to authentic market eateries − a wealth of culinary traditions of the ancient capital
Sephardic communities that arrived in Jerusalem as early as the 17th Century preserved dishes originating in Spain and enhanced them with influences from the Ottoman kitchen, creating what is known today as Jerusalem Cuisine.