How Labor Zionists Turned Central European Jelly Doughnuts into Israeli Hanukkah Fare

While for American Jews the latke (potato pancake) is the dish most associated with Hanukkah, in Israel it is the sufganiyah, or jelly doughnut. But—contrary to popular belief—the latter as much of the former has its origins in Ashkenazi cuisine. Jam-filled pastries, writes the great Jewish food writer Gil Marks first originated in Germany, whence they spread eastward (2010):

Poles named jelly doughnuts pączki (flower buds). Polish Jews fried these doughnuts in schmaltz or oil instead of lard and called them ponchiks. In certain areas of Poland, they became the favorite Hanukkah dessert. . . . Polish-Jewish immigrants brought ponchiks to Israel, along with the custom of eating them on Hanukkah. In Israel, however, ponchiks soon took the name sufganiyah (plural, sufganiyot), from a “spongy dough” mentioned in the Talmud, [called] sofgan or sfogga.

In the late 1920s, the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation, decided to champion the less widespread jelly doughnut as a Hanukkah treat rather than l’vivot (latkes), because latkes were relatively easy and homemade, while sufganiyot were rather difficult for most home cooks, thereby providing work (preparing, transporting, and selling the doughnuts) for its members. Companies began turning out the doughnuts days or even weeks before Hanukkah, stretching both the amount of work and the period of enjoyment for eating them, although there are those who insist on waiting to eat one until after lighting the first candle. Sufganiyot subsequently emerged as by far the most popular Israeli Hanukkah food.

In 2009, about 18 million sufganiyot were consumed in the weeks before and during the holiday, or about three doughnuts per Israeli, with the with the Israeli Defense Force alone purchasing around a half million that year.

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Read more at Leite’s Culinaria

More about: Hanukkah, Histadrut, Jewish food, Labor Zionism

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf