Let's Eat

Cook these recipes to feed Israel

Ilana Epstein explains why her love of food inspired her to produce a fundraising cookbook


(C) Blake Ezra Photography 2023 Not to be reproduced without written permission. @BlakeEzraPhoto

I live in London, the daughter of Israeli parents. My love of Israel was instilled in me from my first bite as opposed to my first breath.

Both of my parents’ families moved to America when my parents were children. The family legend of my savta Zahava is that one branch never left Israel even after the destruction of the Second Temple and the failed Bar Kochba revolt. The family stayed in the north of Israel. My Savta said that her heart broke when they had to leave Israel for economic reasons.

Savta’s kitchen was a piece of Haifa nestled in Forest Hills, New York. There was nothing American about her food or hospitality —she had an open-door policy and taught us that to love a fellow Jew was to feed them. And from her tiny kitchen came endless mouth-watering Israeli dishes: simple salads, fried fish, rice dotted with lentils, green beans drenched in tomato sauce.

What makes Israel and Israeli food unique is the fusion of various cultures within one town or city, with families whose long exiles from the Holy Land took different directions, coming together to create a distinct Israeli cuisine.

On Israeli menus, you can find dishes from eastern Europe next to those from Morocco. Stroll through Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Shuk, and you’ll find everything from Venezuelan arepas to deep-fried chicken wings covered in non-dairy cheese. And for dessert, you’ll see Hungarian yeasted loaves next to delicate miniature baklava and overstuffed cookie ice- cream sandwiches.

The amazingly talented photographer Blake Ezra and I wanted to do something to help Israel during these dark times. He shares my passion for food. So we photographed these gorgeous recipes to create a Amsalem — a small PDF cookbook (helped by graphic designer, Emily Theodore). We are asking people to give a voluntary contribution to download our collection.

Amsalem is Arabic: Am — nation and salem — peace; and it was my great-grandmother’s family name.

All profits from the book will go to LEKET Israel, a wonderful “food rescue and distribution” charity in Israel. Leket has swiftly launched three emergency relief programmes in the south of Israel. These initiatives were developed in collaboration with local nonprofit organisations (NPOs) and in response to direct requests from recipients, addressing their most pressing needs

Am Yisrael Chai!

Find three of Ilana's recipes — halva and blueberry cake; chicken sofrito and green tahini salad platter — on the JC website.

Purchase the full pdf cookbook of 28 recipes

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