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May 4, 2012

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 4, 2012 As Israelis mark independence, steaks are high By Arieh O'Sullivan The Media Line lsraelis are celebrating their 64th Independence Day and for many citizens this means one thing: beef. Meat, steaks and kebabs and plenty of them, prefer- ably grilled outside among friends--shirtless men fan- ning the flames, the women setting out the side dishes and the children darting in and out of streams of smoke. Rib eye, T-bone or sirloin? Beef, chicken or fish? Rare, medium or well done? It doesn't matter as long as it's on the Bar-B-Que. "On Independence Day we don't stop eating meat for a minute because it's a celebration. The people of Israel have a wonderful thing--we've got indepen- dence so we eat and drink and rejoice," says Nissim Levy as he was examining the offers at a meat stall in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market days before the holiday, which this year fell on April 26. "It's not important what kind of meat you eat, but who you eat it with." The rest of the year Israelis are actually not big meat eaters. And yet, compared to the rest of the world, it turns out that Israelis are not among the big meat eat- ers at all. Meat consumption is 13.5 kilograms per capita a year. In Argentina, which tops the list, people eat 65.9 kilograms of meat a year per capita. But Israelis become car- nivorous once a year. Last year, the country consumed some 102,650 tons of meat, which came to about 282 tons a day, according to the Israeli Meat Council. Based on past years, the people of Israel will throw more than four times that daily average on their grills for Indepen- dence Day. "Everybody has a Bar-B- Que in every open space," says Etiel Sharabi, his arms loaded down with cuts of every kind. "We are ready we have done our shopping and have bought a lot of meat. Every yearwe do a Bar-B-Que with all of our best friends. It's a tradition." Shopping for beef, poultry and so on is expected to in- crease by 15 percent to 20 percent in the days ahead of the holiday. "Israelis like meat and chicken and lamb chop and entrecote steak, like kebab. This is kebab from lamb," says butcher Eli Simantov, holding a plastic bag full of freshly ground meat. "People take it home and put pepper, salt, parsley and onions and make very good kebab." Simantov says most of the meat in Israel is kosher and imported from Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. The Meat Council says that some 40% of meat sold in Israel is fresh and grown by Israeli ranchers. It turns out that the pro- tests over the increasing cost of living and high food prices will have little impact on the holiday meat purchases in a country where it is almost sacrilegious not to eat meat on Independence Day. "The people want meat. The people say gimme, gimme, gimme. The price goes up 30 percent to 40 percent, you know. But not me, eh," Simantov adds with a wink. One woman haggled with a butcher over the price of chicken wings, spread out to show her they were fresh. "On Independence Day, we make a Bar-B-Que and eat meat with all the family and kids and friends and have a great time singing and eating. We eat a lot, and I really like the chicken wings," she says. In some butcher shops, fresh cuts of fillet hung on great hooks, while in the back butchers whacked at cow heads and mixed offal. The most popular cuts of steak for the Bar-B-Ques that will pop up in parks and parking lots are fillet, entrecote and sirloin, ac- cording to the Meat Council. Some 1,230 tons of meat are expected to be devoured on the one day. "People like shoulder, sir- loin, the good cuts, like this," says one butcher fondling a hunk of meat on a hook. "People like to be happy so they eat meat." It wasn't always like this. A generation ago meat was too expensive for the masses. "The first steak that I ever ate was when I was in the army, about 20 years old, which was about 30 years ago. I think that since then it has become part of the tradition, or part of the rules of this day," says Avi Rosenbaum, owner of the El Gaucho Restaurant in downtown Jerusalem. El Gaucho specializes in steaks prepared Argentin- ean style. He says that one of the reasons eating meat has become associated with In- dependence Day is because it is one of the few holidays in Israel that is not religious in origin. Jewish law restricts the use of fire for many holidays, as it does for the Sabbath. "During the years the only rule that became part of this holiday is to go out, to bring your friend, to bring some good meat and some good wine a little bit of vegetables and celebrate all day long," Rosenbaum says. "I think this is the only time during the year that people go out with the Bar-B-Que and celebrate for hours and not just making the steaks and run back home." So much meat is being grilled on Independence Day in Israel that it can almost be renamed National Bar- B-Que day. Seeking Kin: An IDF' unit helps answer the cry, 'Wher0000 is my son?' By Hillel Kuttler BALTIMORE (JTA)--On Jan. 3, 1948, Mordechai Levy, a resident of the Jew- ish Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City, disappeared. The 17-year-old's parents, David and Yaffa, alerted British mandatory authorities and checked local hospitals, the chevra kadisha (burial soci- ety) and the Jewish Agency. They contacted the media. In 1950, the despairing mother wrote a letter to the prime minister under the poignant heading "Where is my son?" "Except for a pledge to broadcast the information on the radio and in newspapers, I have [gotten nowhere],"Yaffa Levy complained to the man she addressed as "The Honor- able Mr. Ben-Gurion." "I cannot be silent until I know whether my son is alive or dead," she continued. "Since I have not found an attentive ear, I am turning to you to take an active interest in this case." The same day that Levy vanished, a British offi- cial discovered the body of someone who had been killed in Jerusalem's Mamilla neighborhood. The dead man carried no identification, but his pants pockets contained a Jewish calendar. His corpse was transported to a hospital in the Russian Compound, then to another hospital, where someone summoned the Sephardic branch of the chevra kadisha. The burial society buried the body in the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. At the time,-a policeman showed people around Jeru- salem a photograph of the deceased. No one recognized him. Sixty-four years after the fact, the bodywas determined tobe Levy's. The identification was made just recently by Itzik Ben-Dovwhile on reserve duty with the Israel Defense Forces' Branch for Locating Those Missing in Action. The branch was launched approximately 20 years ago to ascertain the resting places of Uri Lenz/Flash90/JTA Mordechai Levy disappeared in 1948, and it wasn't until 64 years later that his resting place was identified on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives, pictured here. Israeli soldiers known to have been killed in action. Most of the 181 still-unresolved cases date back to the period surrounding Israel's War of Independence, the earliest being those of Menachem Chonan and Mordechai Kel- man, killed on Dec. 11, 1947, at Mishmar Hanegev. The most recent unaccounted-for fatality was Eran Garbieh, whose Dolphin helicopter crashed into the Mediterra- nean Sea during a nighttime training exercise on Sept. 16, 1996. Six additional Israeli soldiers--Zecharia Baumel, Yehuda Katz, Zvi Feldman, Ron Arad, Guy Hever and Majdi Chalabi--are missing but officially presumed alive. Levy, though, was not a sol- dier in 1948. He worked in a Jaffa Road flower shop owned by a Mr. Yarkoni. Ben-Dov stumbled upon and eventu- ally solved the Levy mystery while investigating military cases and encountering Mount of Olives burial plots marked by stones reading "UNKNOWN." To Ben-Dov, Levy,s civil- ian status did not render his case outside the investigative purview. Especially-dtLthe period following the1947 United Nations vote to par- tition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, he says, Jews frequently were attacked by Arabs, particularly in such mixed cities as Jerusalem and Jaffa. "It was a dangerous time and place," Ben-Dov, a soft- ware engineer, says by tele- phone from his home in Lapid in the center of the country. "Levy was not the only [civilian victim]. There were shootings all the time. The line separating soldiers and civilians wasn't so clear. Bus drivers also were shot. To drive on the roads also was dangerous." The point continues to resonate. Israelis have long believed that the IDF is the ultimate citizen-military. In a country so minuscule and enveloped by enemies, and with a small standing army, everyone walks on the front line--soldiers and civilians alike--and family sorrow lurks but one degree of sepa- ration away, if that. It is no wonder that the name of the annual commemoration of war dead--"Yom Hazikaron l'Chalalei Ma'arachot Israel u'l'njfgeipeulot Ha'evah," or Memorial Day for Fllen Sol- diers nd for Victims of Ter- rorist Acts--binds together Israelis targeted regardless of whether or not they are wearing military uniforms. Ben-Dov hopes that"Seek- ing Kin" readers can help lead him to Levy's older sister, Margalit, now approximately 83 years old; his two younger brothers, whose names he does not know; and nieces and nephews. Having solved the riddle of who lies in the Mount of Olives grave, Ben- Dov wants to alert the Levy family to the location so they can erect a proper gravestone. Ben-Dov remembers feel- ing uplifted at the last re- unification he facilitated and attended. The missing soldier was 19-year-old Shmuel Ben- Bassat of Har-Tov, a moshav near Beit Shemesh. Ben- Bassat was shot at home dur- ing a battle on Jan. 13, 1948. He was taken to a clinic. His sister, Rachel, 8, stood atop a rock outside peering in the window, hoping against hope. But the treatment was in vain and Shmuel died. Fearing that the moshav would fall, Ben-Bassat's par- ents, Menachem and Rivka, ordered that he be buried instead on the Mount of Ol- ives. No relatives could attend because of the dangerous conditions there, too. The Mount of Olives was captured by the Jordanians and remained off limits to Israelis until after the Jewish state's victory 19 years later in the Six-Day War. Many families who then flocked to the cemetery could finally visit their loved ones' graves. The Ben-Bassats were told that Shmuel's burial spot likely had been paved over by Jordan, and they gave up their search. Shmuel's cousin Yehuda Ben-Bassat pressed on, how- ever, determined to locate the remains. Ben-Dov was assigned the case. He con- sulted old documents and notebooks that had just been acquired by the chevra kadi- sha and the Jerusalem mu- nicipality. Ben-Dov learned that Shmuel Ben-Bassat had been buried near a wall and close to the grave ofawoman named Dvora Machani. That information helped him plot precisely where Ben-Bassat's body lay. A Nov. 11, 2010 ceremony drew relatives to Ben-Bassat's Mount of Olives grave. Rachel Osovsky, Shmuel's sister, and Yehuda delivered eulogies. "We, your friends and rela- tives, stand here today at this emotional time at your grave, upon which rests the recently placed stone," Osovsky in- toned. "Finally we merited to reach this moment, after 62 years. Now we know where you are. A circle has been closed. It's impossible not to think of Mom and Dad, who, sadly, did not make it to this point." Ben-Dov joined them at the memorial. Asked how he felt that day, considering his crucial role, Ben-Dov said on Sunday, "It was very emotional. People live in such sorrow all those years, and I can bring them informa- tion that's so important to them. Now they can visit a grave, say Kaddish and hold a memorial." That is a goal that moti- vates Ben-Dov's search for Mordechai Levy's survivors, too. From city documents, Ben-Dov knows that soon after Mordechai's disap- pearance, David Levy was captured during the battle for Jerusalem, held captive in Jordan, released after the war and died a year later. The Levys by then had moved to the capital's Katamon neigh- borhood. Another document stated that Mordechai had a friend named Avraham Yalti. "I'm looking to find Morde- chai Levy's family," said Ben- Dov, who during Passover discussed the search on the Israeli radio program "Kol Shishi." "Maybe they'd like to erect a monument. It's a great story when we can identify a grave and the family can at- tend a ceremony there." More broadly, Ben-Dov would like to reduce the number of 181 names that appear in the Mount Herzl military cemetery memorial section that honors missing soldiers. In a lovely echo of the Bible, the IDF pays tribute to them there every year on the seventh of Adar, the date of the death of Moses, whose grave also is unknown. The website of the IDF's Branch for Locat- ing Those Missing in Action solicits visitors' assistance in resolving the whereabouts of the soldiers' bodies. "The IDF feels a traditional obligation of the highest order to assure that all sol- diers whose place of burial is unknown will come to be buried in Israel," the website states. "In the course of such efforts, we request the public's aid .... If you possess any information whatsoever regarding the fate of one or more such soldiers, please supply us with as much detail as you have available." The "Seeking Kin" column aims to help reunite long-lost friends and relatives. Please email Hillel Kuttler at seek- if you know the whereabouts of Morde- chai Levy's sister or other relatives. If you would like the help of "Seeking Kin" in searching for long-lost rela- tives and friends, please in- clude the principal facts and gour contact information in a brief(one-paragraph) email.