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Burgers But Not Fried Chicken in Haifa

Food in Israel

Visitors to the modern Jewish state no longer need to ponder the old question: "will we eat well during our trip"

The limited choice of restaurants in the early years of austerity and struggle in the land of Canaan have long since given way to the selection of hundreds of top quality restaurants ranging from American fast food mainstays such as McDonald's to finer quality restaurants that offer culinary choices from all over the world. The Baal HaBayit or owner of my apartment building also owns a wonderful Chinese Restaurant in Haifa that can be compared with any in which I have eaten. I have a deal worked out with them to get quality dining as part of our rental agreement. The cook is from Moscow and many of the servers are native Arabic speakers from our region. There is a Japanese restaurant and several mid-priced cafes with three blocks of my home in the "Mercaz" section of Haifa.

"Dependable" is the reassuring thought for those teenagers or adults who can't afford the high-priced choices at the better quality restaurants. Immediately next door to us is our local McDonald's -- there are now half a dozen or so in our community. Therefore visitors to our community from America can enjoy the same high-cholesterol junk foods and feel like they never left home. While McDonald's operates several Kosher and non-Kosher restaurants, all the meat served in the restaurants is 100% kosher beef. The difference is that the non-Kosher branches open on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, in addition to serving dairy products. A kosher McDonald's was also opened in Argentina, at the Abasto de Buenos Aires shopping mall. Argentina and Israel are the only branches in the world that barbecue their burgers on charcoal. I do not taste the difference and nobody else seems to notice as well. The menu is the same as big Mac in America without including native cuisine. Prices are higher due to local food costs. The service is great at my neighboring McDonald's even though two of the cashiers admonish me to eat healthier: "This type of food is not for people your age, sir". That hurts, but they mean well. Israelis are very outspoken especially about health issues.

Most Israelis preferred Burger Ranch even before McDonald's and Burger King entered Israel. There are also higher priced burgers available at local cafes and restaurants. My two favorites in Haifa are The Sinta Bar and Habank. Both are mid priced and great places for burgers and other delicacies.

Burger Ranch (Hebrew: בּורגראנץ׳‎) is an Israeli fast-food chain. In 2010, the Burger Ranch chain included 107 restaurants with over 1500 employees, competing primarily with McDonald's Israel. They have a branch at our central bus station and therefore I am a fairly frequent visitor. Burger King has a location in Haifa. I do dream of my beloved Wendy's, especially their Chill, and of course Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Chili and American style fried chicken are not often found in Haifa. KFC locations do exist in other parts of Israel and many Palestinians adore the cuisine as well. That brings us to my favorite experience in my five years as a newcomer to the land of Canaan.

I have been blessed to participate in many interfaith activities in Israel.
Run4Unity was held here in the Holy Land on May 13, 2012 in the natural landscape and archeology of Caesarea Maritime. There were more than 400 boys and girls between the ages of 12 to 17, from the Palestinian territories and cities of Israel. The participants were Christians, Muslims and Jews.

This event is organized by the Focolare. The Focolare Movement which is an international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. Founded in 1943 in Trento, northern Italy by Chiara Lubich as a religious movement, the Focolare Movement, though primarily Roman Catholic, now has strong links to the major Christian denominations and other religions, or in some cases, with the non-religious. It is also called the "Opera di Maria," or "Work of Mary". The Focolare Movement operates in 182 nations and has five million members. It is the largest Catholic outreach movement in the world.

Run4Unity, last held in 2008, involved more than 100,000 young people from 9 to 17 from all over the world. Participants were young people of different ethnicity, cultures, and religions, all running to give witness to their commitment to peace and unity by crossing many of the planet’s significant places.

I volunteered to be one of the security guards during the period of time prior to the beginning of the organized events. I happened to hear three of the young people communicating with each other in perfect English. They were dressed in the uniforms of the activity. Participation from English speaking countries is rare in this region. I asked them where they were from and they answered in unison and with great pride that "We are Palestinians from Ramallah." Then they proceeded to tell me that they had lived in Indiana for many years, which explained their wonderful grasp of English. We discussed in length my favorite topic, which of course is food. We all reminisced about Mexican Food, Wendy's, barbecue spare ribs, and of course burgers.

They proceeded to add this statement; "We have visited Haifa which is a primitive place". I hesitated and thought it best not to respond. The rules of these activities strongly admonish political discussions. They quickly added to my relief that "You do not have KFC in Haifa", with great glee, KFC opened a branch in Ramallah in February becoming the first American fast food chain to directly open a location in the Palestinian territories. We proceeded to eat Pizza, drink Coca Cola, and enjoy the wonderful event. Food is indeed the universal language.

Posted by eshugerman 01:01 Archived in Israel Tagged travel king israel kfc haifa burgers palestinians mcdonald's burger focolare Comments (0)

The Druze in Carmel Israel

Life in Israel

This story was written prior to the Carmel fires which devistated the region that I love so much in 2010. I am writing this post from the prospective of an American immigrant to Israel of five years. I am proud to be the honorary interfaith coordinator of Temple Or Hadash in Haifa. My greatest blessings have been the result of participating in interfaith activities with our friends the Focolare (the largest Catholic outreach movemensit), and several other religious groups- including our Druze neighbors. I live in Haifa. Daliat El Carmel and Osifia are two Druze villages close to Haifa in the Carmel Forests.

The Druze have lived in the Galilee and Carmel area for a thousand years. Even though the Druze language is Arabic, their religion and culture is seperate and unique. They speak a special dialect of Arabic that sounds much like Syrian dialects of Arabic. They are neither Muslim nor Christian. They number about one and a half million in the world. However, the vast majority live in the Galilee, Southern Lebanon and Southern Syria. The Druze have no political aspirations to be an independent nation. Their emphasis is on spiritual and not secular issues. They are fiercely loyal and equal citizens of this nation. The Israeli Druze serve mandatory service in the Israeli military..

The Druze religion was founded just about a thousand years ago. In general they have chosen to keep a lot of facts of their faith secret. I can tell you a few details they shared with me. Four prophets carry the Druze messianic message. The first three are the biblical Moses, Jethro, and Muslim Muhammad. According to the faith, the fourth prophit- Hamza Ben Ali was the strongest of the lot. He approached an important sheikh in Egypt in 1017. The shiekh had accepted him immediatly and nominated him as the spiritual leader of Egypt of the time. Hamza was a spiritual leader for 22 years. His era was the opportunity to join the Druze religion. After that time, one has to be born into the religion to be a part of it.

I enjoy visiting our Druze neighbors.The atmosphere of the villages is warn and open. Anybody, including the villagers, can choose either to dress traditionally or in designer clothes. The village, like the rest of the world, started as an agricultural society. Today professions range from sheperding to computer programming. The countryside is beautiful and pastoral, yet the scene is dotted with Mercedes, upgrade shopping, and your expected McDonalds. There are wonderful restaurants and shops.

The highlight of my visits to the Daliat El Carmel village is the Yad La Banim (tr. hand of our sons) Center. This type of facility is common in many different parts of Israel including Haifa. The primary reason for building these centers is to commemorate those who gave their lives defending the nation. In Daliat El Carmel, 330 of the Druze community are honored for giving their lives defending Israel. For instance, the guide of my first tour Jaber, lost his uncle during the struggle for independence against the British occupation in 1947. His uncle helped many of the resistance leaders hide from both British soldiers and the followers of the Grand Mufti (leader of the Arab Leagion). One of the people he assisted was the former Haifa Mayor Aba Hushi.

The war memmorial was built in 1980. The Druze got the authorization to build the Yad La Banim near the historical site of the house in which author and British MP Sir Lawrence Oliphant and his wife resided. His assistant, Naftali Zvi Hertz Imber, resided with them. He was the author of the song that eventually became the Israeli national anthem. Tradition has it that he was more inspired by the view than Zionist aspirations when writing the song.

The mayor's office and other modern government offices are situated in the village's Yad La Banim Center. During our tour we met many of the community's residents and visited their homes. Hospitality is a very important part of their tradition. I am glad that I have the oppurtunity to experience it. I was even invited to an upcoming wedding during my first visit to the villages.

This monstrous fire burned millions of trees, destroyed countless homes, and most horrific of all took the lives of forty three human beings. Yet, goodness and kindheartedness came from around us and beyond. The Druze villages were among the most hard-hit areas of the fire's fury. The residents of these villages and all of us in Northern Israel thank those who offered support and solidarity. Rebuilding has progressed rapidly. The residents have a long tradition of spirituality, a strong family base, and tenacious ability to adapt that had enabled the inhabitants of these villages to move forward.

Posted by eshugerman 14:02 Tagged israel carmel haifa or mcdonald's interfaith druze hatikvah hadash judasim Comments (0)

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