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Wed. October 23, 2013
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September 27, 2013
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100 Percent Jerusalem Seeks to Market the Holy City
Written by Linda Gradstein
Published Thursday, October 17, 2013
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Offers ‘Experiences’ with Various ‘Sects’ in Jerusalem

Madelaine Black describes herself as a “Jerusaholic.” The British-born Black has launched a new venture called 100 Percent Jerusalem, to introduce tourists and even residents of Jerusalem to different facets of the holy city.

“We want to give visitors to Jerusalem an authentic experience,” she told The Media Line. “We want them to touch the little chocolate-chip-chunks in the Ben and Jerry’s that we know are there, and that we found for ourselves. We want to welcome people to the city and use the citizens of the city as a welcome committee.”

Launched as a non-profit and funded, at least initially, mostly by Black herself, she offers “experiences” in different parts of Jerusalem. In one, she takes tourists to Ein Karem to meet Kinneret, whose grandfather came from Yemen in 1949 and was one of the neighborhood’s first residents. Today, Ein Karem is a trendy village on Jerusalem’s outskirts. But when “Saba Shalom” (Grandpa Shalom) came, it was deserted.

“They promised them to bring them to Jerusalem,” Kinneret tells the group of women who have congregated in home. “They came with two very old trucks right here, and nobody wanted to come down from the trucks. It was a very old village and it looked like it was destroyed. There was no water and no electricity.”

Saba Shalom, she says, got off the truck, kissed the ground and declared it a “land of milk and honey.” The other Yemenite immigrants followed. She shows pictures of both her family and other Yemenite immigrants. Saba Shalom fathered his youngest child at age 85, and lived until the ripe old age of 105.

She shows a picture of an older Yemenite man lying and down reading a book. The book is upside down.

“In Yemen, they had only one book for a whole group of students so everyone learned to read upside down,” she said.
Saba Shalom had four wives and 13 children. From one of his wives, Kinneret learned to cook traditional Yemenite food, although as a nutritionist she’s adapted it to make it healthier. She serves her guests a mixture of nuts, and then whole wheat Yemenite bread with crushed tomatoes and homemade green schug, a spicy condiment.

Then, wearing a traditional Yemenite cape and black pants with bright embroidery, she offers a flowing Yemenite dance, based on motions women would make while doing their daily chores.

The next week, it’s time for an “experience” of baking with Ahuva, a grandmother of 40 and great-grandmother of 19, who also teaches cooking. She lives on the top floor of a fifth-floor walkup and is a member of the Gur Hasidim, a group of 13,000 families who originally immigrated to Israel from Poland.

It is one of the most insular communities in Israel, and difficult to penetrate even for Israelis. Ahuva is close to the wife of the rebbe, the community’s leader. She describes a recent wedding of one of the rebbe’s grandsons, attended by some 20,000 followers.

“After the ceremony, the rebbe holds a tisch,” she said, using a Yiddish word that means “table.” They serve him huge platters of food and he takes a bite. Then the Hasidim (his followers) pounce on the leftovers because they want to eat anything that the rebbe touched.”

Ahuva stands before a huge bowl of dough for challah, the traditional bread eaten on the Sabbath each week. She takes a small piece of dough, says a blessing and puts the dough in a bag. It is a ceremony that harks back thousands of years to the days of the Jewish Temple, when priests received sacrifices.

Ahuva then hands each participant a ball and instructs them to roll it out into a long snake, then fashion it into a roll. While the women roll, she tells them about her life and how she met her husband.

“My parents owned a fish store and his parents saw me there,” she says with a smile beneath her blond wig (worn out of reasons of modesty). “My parents told me that he wanted me. I was 16. I said, ‘No, I want to finish studying first,’” and she turned him down.

Eventually she agreed, and they wed when she was 17. That was more than 50 years ago.

Her tours are meant for Jews and non-Jews alike. Recently, she hosted a group of non-Jewish spouses of ambassadors for the challah baking. She also showed them a traditional Shabbat table and sent them home with recipes.

Another visit is planned to an Arab home in East Jerusalem. One Hundred Percent Jerusalem is also hosting a lecture series called “Sects in the City” and a runners’ club in the early mornings.

Black says she wants everyone to love Jerusalem as much as she does.

“We want people to see the yearning that people who live in Jerusalem have had to come here and what they’ve been through to get here,” she said. “Whether they’re Yemenites or Russians or Ethiopians or people like ourselves who’ve uprooted themselves to come here, we all appreciate what a wonderful place Jerusalem is.”


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