How the Eggplant Became a Jewish Vegetable

When Jews, fleeing persecution, left Spain and scattered across the Mediterranean in the 14th and 15th centuries, they brought distinctive recipes for eggplant with them. According to Orge Castellano, they may even be responsible for introducing the food into Italian and Greek cuisines. He writes:

The esteemed 10th-century Kitāb al-tabīj, . . . written by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq, offers a window into the culinary and religious traditions of medieval Muslims and Jews. Of 543 recipes, 62 showcase the eggplant in various preparations, including one recipe called “eggplant, Jewish style.”

As the centuries progressed, the acceptance of vegetables in Europe wasn’t universally positive, as it had been during the golden age of Jewish culture in Spain. . . . In the Italian Renaissance, the humanist Ermolaus Barbarus dubbed the eggplant malum insanum (mad apple). . . . The ill-natured names reflected the disdain eggplant faced at the time, an attitude evident in Antonio Frugoli’s 1631 treatise where the gastronome suggested “delicate fruits to serve at any table of princes and great lords” while the rest of vegetables like eggplants were only “fit for peasants or Jews.”

The popularity of eggplants among the Sephardim transcended the sculleries’ confines, as evidenced in literature, music, poetry, and popular culture. For instance, in Francisco Delicado’s Portrait of Lozana (1528), the protagonist, Aldonza, boasts of her cooking talents while revealing her Jewish provenance: “Do I know how to make boronia? Wonderfully! And eggplant cazuela? To perfection!” Converso ancestry was often denoted by what they ate; food usually gave people’s tradition away, ultimately leading to their persecution and killings solely for [appearing] to observe Judaic dietary habits.

Despite his Spanish origins, Maimonides was among the eggplant’s detractors, labeling it unhealthy in one of his medical tracts. Those works will be the subject of the fourth and final podcast of our podcast series on the great rabbi and philosopher. Today, you can listen to the third here.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Food, Moses Maimonides, Sephardim

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security