07 Sep Baking sacramental bread and bombing enemy SUVs: The patrio…
The Ramat Gan Safari? The Ninja Park in Tel Aviv? In the spirit of the times, I decided to check out a few attractions of a more patriotic-national character. Why always swim against the current? With the aid of the “Love Love Israel” website that recommends places for “Anglo-Israelis and tourists” to visit – a site, I was told, that’s for people who not only love Israel, but love-love Israel – I found myself, for example, at the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron. This is where you go to learn how to prepare the breads that were be offered up in the Temple. “For the first time in 2,000 years,” the website declares, “you have a unique opportunity to take part in a LIVE reconstruction of how they baked breads in the Beit Hamikdash (Temple).”
The center is run by Les and Sheryl Saidel, a charming new-immigrant couple from South Africa. Its Facebook page touts over 20 different baking workshops and courses, including one for singles (in Hebrew), titled “Cooking a Relationship.”
The activities are held in English and Hebrew. I arrived on an English day – and was also late, so by the time I got there all the participants were already hard at work, hands plunged into bowls of dough, heads covered with silly-looking chef’s hats. Hanging on the wall was a picture of a model of the Temple, with a phone number to call for those interested in buying one, and portraits of the high priest, with every article of clothing he’s wearing named and explained – the avnet (priestly sash), the tzitz (priestly headplate) and so on.
As far as I am concerned, the high priest is 51-year-old Les Saidel, whose luminous gaze exudes an air of paternal caring. I was seated next to an architect from New York named Shmuel and his two daughters, Aliza and Ilana. “I’m here for the history, and they’re here for the fun,” he informed me. The family was on a Tel Aviv graffiti tour, but also took in a trip to the West Bank, and was returning to the U.S. very soon. Shmuel’s ringtone came as a surprise: heavy metal. Fortunately, he didn’t answer, and I could enjoy the song.
Meanwhile, all 20 of us in the “Breads of the Beit Hamikdash” workshop received small bags of special flour, plastic dishes and a glass of water that was not to be used other than for the purpose of preparing the sacramental bread.
I asked Saidel whether, if he were to get word that the Temple was actually under construction, he would be able to supply the bread. He confirmed that he would: “We’re ready. We know nearly all the ingredients. And when the Messiah comes, he will fill in what’s missing.”
When I arrived, everyone was preparing a type of matzoh that is part of korban toda, the thanksgiving offering. The thanksgiving bread is baked for 18 minutes. “While you’re waiting, you can play Candy Crush,” Saidel suggested enthusiastically.
I spent the time interviewing Meidad Kramer, an 8-year-old boy and the only Hebrew speaker among the bakers. He was there with his grandmother, who is also an immigrant from South Africa.
Why did you come to the Breads of the Temple workshop?
Meidad: “Because it interests my grandmother.”
Do you want the Temple to be built?
“ … Yes.”
Why did it take you so long to answer?
“Because I was thinking about whether I want it.”