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Last month’s Passover celebrations in Israel were marked by unusually hot weather and record crowds at national parks throughout the country. Indeed, some resorts became so overcrowded that would-be holiday-makers were turned away! Premier Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, who visited Tiberias and its famed Sea of Galilee for a meet’n’greet photo opportunity, could also have motored a little further south, where the ruin of Beit Shean boasts a vast array of ancient remains that bear associations with many recorded historical periods, most especially those from the Roman conquest. There they would have been welcomed cordially by actors dressed as Roman soldiers and gladiators, one of whom was wearing a kippa (skull cap) beneath his helmet!
The day after the holiday ended, the couple attended a traditional Moroccan feast celebrating Mimouna. This 24-hour-long festival meaning ‘faith’ (in Hebrew), ‘luck’ (in Arabic) or possibly named after the great medieval scholar, Maimonides is one of five holidays established after Israel was founded. It celebrates the return to eating leaven foods after a week of their being totally proscribed.Yet Mimouna is not simply a chance for the stomachs of the pious to be reunited with their favourite dishes but for Jews and their Arab neighbours to form strong bonds across the ethnic divide.
Anat Hoffman of IRAC (the Israel Religious Action Centre) reminded supporters: Mimouna was a holiday that marked the good relations between the Jews and their Muslim neighbours in Morocco. At the end of the Passover holiday, Jews would welcome all visitors back into their homes and their Muslim neighbours would bring presents and flour to prepare moflettas – traditional sweet pancakes made from water, flour and oil. Hoffman explained that IRAC aimed to revitalise the original spirit of the festival to help create good relations between Israeli Jews and Arabs. The project was led by fieldworker, Tal Abitbol, who hoped to reclaim the holiday that her grandparents once celebrated in Morocco. IRAC activities in Jerusalem and Jaffa included eating moflettas, bands playing Eastern and Arabic music, activities for children and storytellers recalling the friendly relations once enjoyed by Arabs and Jews in North Africa.
Mimouna is celebrated throughout Israel and I visited the outdoor event held on the square outside the town hall in Karmiel. I sign off here with a recipe for moflettas:
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups warm (not boiling) water
Pinch of salt
Vegetable (not olive) oil, as needed
Place flour and salt in bowl.
Scoop out a “well” in the middle and add water there.
Mix, adding a little extra water if dough seems too dry.
Mix together until a light and elastic dough is formed.
Divide dough into 15 to 20 small balls.
Cover with dish towel and let stand 30 minutes on a flat, well-oiled surface.
Oil hands and on oiled surface, roll dough into thin circles.
Spread small amount of oil in frying pan and cook mofletta over medium heat.
Cook both sides.
Pan does not need to be re-greased before cooking the rest of the moflettas.
Place on a plate and cover with dish towel to keep them warm.
Serve warm with butter and honey.
These may be frozen and re-heated in microwave.
Makes 15 – 20 moflettas.