Sunday, November 12, 2017


“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of G-d: I trust in the mercy of G-d for ever and ever.” (Psalm 52:8)

Olive Trees on Mount Scopus Jerusalem
Photo by Josephine Levin © 2012

Olive trees and their precious oil are one of the 7 species of the land of Israel mentioned in the Bible. The oil was not only used for culinary purposes but was also used to oil the 7 branched menorah (candelabra) in the Temple in Jerusalem and to anoint the kings of Israel who were chosen by G-d to rule.

The olive tree olea europaea survived the flood in the time of Noah and the dove came back to the ark carrying an olive branch so that Noah knew that the flood waters had gone down. Olive trees have a very long lifespan. There are olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem that are thousands of years old.

 Super-food Extra Virgin Olive Oil for your Health

Olive Oil for Beauty

Olive Tree in Jerusalem's White Valley Emek Halavan
Photo by Josephine Levin © 2015

If you regularly consume extra virgin olive oil, you will have healthy skin and beautiful hair. In fact wig makers claim the best hair comes from women living in countries where they consume a lot of olive oil. Olive oil is a major ingredient in soaps. shampoos and hair conditioners. The best shampoos for healthy hair usually contain olive oil and myrtle myrtus communis oil.

Protects the Heart and Blood Vessels

Olive oil is a most healing substance that protects against coronary heart disease by strengthening blood vessels and preventing arteriosclerosis. Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece where olive oil makes up a major part of the diet have low rates of heart disease even in cases where blood cholesterol levels are not good. 

If you are a smoker though the benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil may be snuffed out by cigarettes.

Protects Against Stomach Ulcers, Gall Bladder Disease and Colorectal Cancer

Olive oil also helps to protect against stomach ulcers and the formation of gall stones. Studies have shown it can also protect against colorectal cancer. Olive oil also helps to prevent and treat constipation.

If you want to stay healthy then use only extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or margarine on bead and on vegetables and for all your cooking purposes. Olive oil can also be used for frying but should be kept at a low temperature. You can start your day by dipping bread in olive oil. Crushed garlic or za’atar (a type of hyssop that grows wild in Israel) can be added to the oil.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties Similar to Ibuprofen

Massaging extra-virgin olive oil into the joints has been shown to relieve the pain and inflammation of arthritis. It contains an anti-inflammatory substance oleocanthal, that works in the same way as Ibuprofen, but without Ibuprofen's dangerous side effects.


Hanukah in the Jewish Quarter Jerusalem  
Photo by Josephine Levin © 2015

Hanukah is an 8 day Jewish festival that takes place every year on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which usually falls in late November or December. Hanukah means dedication and in this case referred to a miracle that occurred when the Temple in Jerusalem was purified and re-dedicated after the Jewish Maccabees drove out the army of the wicked Greek king Antiochus. Only enough of the precious olive oil for one day’s use was found, but miraculously it continued to burn for 8 days. 

Hanukah is celebrated by lighting candles in the festive 8-branched menorah or by burning olive oil in special glass oil lamps. Traditionally, fried foods like pancakes or doughnuts are eaten. However, you can enjoy this traditional Hanukah treat without the extra calories and without cholesterol with the recipe below.

No Egg Vegan Potato Pancakes Latkes (parve)

Photo by Josephine Levin © 2015

Here is a great no egg vegan recipe I developed which is not only good for people with allergies to eggs or on low cholesterol diets, but the taste is actually improved by eliminating eggs.

Grate 2 very large or 4 small potatoes and one onion.

Do not drain off the potato juice.

Add ¼ cup flour (preferably spelt or whole wheat) and mix well. If there is still surplus potato juice, add more flour and mix until all the potato juice is absorbed. The potato juice acts as a binder and thus no eggs are necessary.

Add salt and/or pepper to taste. (optional)

Mix well. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and drop potato batter by large tablespoons. Cook until brown and turn with a spatula. 

If you live In Israel and have olive trees, you can harvest them in the fall and take the olives to a place where they can be pressed to obtain oil. Olives from one whole tree may only produce one or two bottles of the rich oil on a first cold press.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Sounding of the Shofar
Photo credit  Zachi Evenor צחי אבנור

Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year is the time when G-d passes judgment on us when the shofar (ram’s horn) is sounded. It is very awesome because we know when the shofar blows we are being judged – who will live and who will die, who will be punished and who will be blessed. G-d also passes judgment over the nations when the shofar is sounded so this high holy day also holds significance for non-Jews.

There is thus ongoing yearly judgment by G-d. The shofar also sounds when the Yom Kippur fast (the day of atonement) ends.

Simanim - Symbolic Foods

We celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a festive meal by eating certain foods that represent our hope for a good judgment from G-d, for a peaceful, happy and sweet New Year.

We begin with the blessing over the date (tamar) that there will be an end to our enemies who hate us and wish evil on us.

Photo by Josephine Levin © 2015
The next fruit is the pomegranate (rimon in Hebrew) which is filled with many seeds and represents our desire that our good deeds will be just as numerous. 

The next blessing is over the apple dipped in honey representing our prayer for a sweet New Year.

The subsequent blessing is over the gourd which can also be a squash or pumpkin and represents our prayer that harsh judgments made against us will be torn up.

Then comes the blessing over *black eyed peas, white beans or carrots that our merits will increase so that we will find favor with G-d.

The blessing over leeks (luf in Hebrew) follows and we pray that our enemies will be cut off.

The next blessing is over beets, chard or mangold (selek in Hebrew) and represents our prayer that our enemies will be driven out.

The last blessing is over the head of a fish or a ram and represents our desire to be a head (rosh in Hebrew) and not a tail (zanav).

*Cooking Tip. Fresh black eyed peas do not have to be shelled before cooking. After checking that they don't have any brown spots or holes that should be cut away, wash them and put them in a pot with enough water to cover them ,plus half a lemon or lemon juice to help soften them. When they are ready shelling will be much easier.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


by Josephine Levin 

"If I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand wither,
let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I do not put Jerusalem above my greatest joy!" (Psalm 137)

View of the Valley of Yehoshphat from the Jerusalem Promenade Tayelet - Photo by Josephine Levin

Summer days are hot and dry but nights bring relief as cool air descends on Jerusalem.
The fields and mountain sides are dry and brown.

The Fig Tree Ripens

This is a time of ripening for many fruits such as figs, Ficus carica called teanim in Hebrew. The fig tree is one of the seven species of the land of Israel and is used as a symbol of the Messianic times to come:

"And He shall judge between many peoples and reprove mighty nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up the sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.

And they shall dwell each man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the L-rd of Hosts has spoken."  (Micah 4.4) 

Figs are very nutritious fruits and have healing properties. They are a rich source of potassium and fiber and are commonly used as a laxative. Fig leaves contain a substance that can lower blood insulin levels.The white milk sap of fig leaves has been used in folk medicine to treat warts.

Fig Tree Ficus carica - Photo by Josephine Levin
Summer is also the snake season and one has to be careful walking about at night in many places especially around shrubs, bushes and tall grass. Certain poisonous snakes are found in trees and one must teach children not to climb on them.

Tishe B'Av - the 9th of Av

The months of Tammuz and Av (July/August) are overshadowed by memories of past tragedies – the destruction of both the First and Second Jewish temples in Jerusalem on Tishe B'Av, the 9th of Av. Terrible things have happened to the Jewish people on Tishe B'Av. The First Crusade began on Tishe B'Av as well as World War I. On the 9th of Av in 1941 Himmler received permission from Hitler to begin the final solution of the Jewish people and so began the Holocaust where a third of the Jewish people, about 6 million Jews including over a million infants and children were savagely murdered. Jews were also expelled from England and Spain on Tishe B'AV and many more tragedies took place on this day. 

This is the time to pause and reflect and work on self improvement – this is the time to get rid of bad character traits. For observant Jews there is a 3 week period of semi-mourning from the 17th day of Tammuz until the 9th of Av. The mourning intensifies on the 9 days before the 9th of Av and Jews refrain from listening to music, eating meat (except on the holy Shabbat), and more). On Tishe B'Av observant Jews fast. It is customary to include lentils at the meal  before the fast. Lamentations, Eicha are read in the synagogues and at the Western Wall of the Second Temple - the kotel ma'aravi.

Capers in Bloom

The caper, capparis spinoza is in bloom during the month of Tammuz and the caper has been associated with the Jewish people for its ability to survive - no matter how much it is cut down it always grows back. The caper called tzalaf in Hebrew is an amazingly tough thorny plant that can even grow out of cracks - it needs no care. Capers grow on the Western Wall.

Caper in bloom
Photo by Josephine Levin © 2011
Capers growing out of cracks in stone
Photo by Josephine Levin © 2011