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Israeli Salad Days

The pioneers of the first and second aliyah worked, when they could get work, with the Arabs in Turkish Palestine. They earned the same as or less than the Arabs, and, like them, had no crockery or utensils. Vegetables were the most affordable food available, and pita, so, like the Turks and the Arabs in this part of Turkey, they used one knife for the whole group, dicing the vegetables into one bowl and using the pita to eat the salad.

By the time I lived there (1953), we had advanced to one knife per table, and one plate per person used for both the soup and the salad, one spoon and one fork per person. By then, we grew our own food and we used what we had. We imported only Jews, not things. We didn't have much--a bed, maybe a wardrobe, perhaps a chair in our rooms, and the communal dining room which served good, nutritious food one way or another. Meat, butter, etc. were still rationed, but vegetables were not any longer, so our salads were wonderful.

In season, we used cucumber, green pepper, tomatoes, radishes, and onions, all diced, usually in equal amounts, and olives, pitted and sliced. It was all mixed together with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Most also added in the portion of protein: 1 slice of yellow cheese or 2 small sardines or half a hard boiled egg, also diced. It stretched a little further that way. We ate it with a fork and a piece of bread (European-type).

This was, of course, in the kibbutzim. In the cities, most people did not eat quite as well, and had fewer additions to the daily salad. At my wedding, right after the Sinai Campaign, we had one fried egg and a little mountain of Israeli salad per person. Some in the cities had more, but most did not. At the time, there were 1.000.000 Jews in Israel, (including 400,000 holocaust survivors and victims of persecutions in Moslem countries ), and not half a dozen privately owned automobiles, all different, but all eating that same salad.

The next time you eat an Israeli salad, remember that it built a homeland and nourished a people.

Posted by Carolyn C. Gilboa