The Old City in Jerusalem is known for its rickety wooden carts piled high with chewy, golden, oblong, bread rings encrusted in fragrant sesame seeds. The vendor will toss a little packet of folded newspaper into your bag. Unwrap it carefully, inside are potent green herbs. Nope it not what you think. It is Za’atar: a magical combination of herbs and salt. Break off a hunk of Jerusalem bread and dip it in. Mmmm, that’s the ticket.
Tired and flushed from a day in the Old City, Hanaan and I sat in the shade of an arched stone doorway. I leaned into him and my mom snapped our picture, caught the three of us, and our glorious day with her crappy camera.
My mother stands there still on the other side of the camera, hair deep red, lips pursed in concentration, eyes sparkling from a day of wandering the alleys and markets of the Four Quarters.
I See more people and days in this photo. My aunt Helle sewed the grey wool skirt that I am wearing with her long fingers as we sat together at her dining room table in Vejle eating nougat and listening to Billie Holiday on the cassette player.
I am wearing the shoes that two years later will adorn my feet at my festive green card wedding.
I see my boyfriend’s grandfather Tzvi staring at this photo and pointing out with his lilting river accent, how small and sparrow-like my hands are next to his beloved grandson’s shovel-like hands.
Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David’s Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side.
A group of tourists was standing around their guide and I became their target marker
“You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there’s an arch from the Roman period.
Just right of his head.” “But he’s moving, he’s moving!”
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
“You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.
Jerusalem bread, is made to be shared. Take turns ripping off hunks and dipping them in fragrant, salty Za'atar.
- 1 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 1/2 tsp yeast
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegan yogurt or sour cream
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
In a large bowl dissolve your sugar into the warm water and stir in the yeast.
Allow the yeast mixture to sit for ten minutes. Add the salt, yohurt and oil and give it a good stir.
Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of flour. Now slowly stir in the remaining flour stopping when your dough has become a soft ball. Knead your bread for 8 minutes on a floured board until a smooth elastic ball has formed.
Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl and let sit covered with a damp cloth one hour or until doubled in bulk.
Turn your oven to 475 Fahrenheit. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment.
Up end the dough onto a cutting board and cut your dough into 8 pieces. Roll each into a snake about 12-15 inches long and form an oval.
Brush each bread with warm water and generously sprinkle on your sesame seeds. It is important to do this now so you don't deflate the rings after they rise.
Let rise 20 minutes
Place in the hot oven and bake 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven when they are golden brown.