Israel Matters! – November 2021

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No Need to Whine About Israeli Wine
Recently, archeologists in Yavne, Israel, announced the discovery of a huge, ancient wine factory dating back around 1500 years ago. The factory – the largest of its kind from that time period – could make an estimated 530,000 gallons of wine per year and was operational for about 200 years. Clearly, Israel is not new to winemaking.

Even so, Israeli and Jewish wines as a whole do not have a great reputation for their taste or consumption beyond ceremonial purposes. A recent segment on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update even joked about how bad they are.
However, the current reality about the quality of Israeli wine is a very different story. In the past few decades, Israeli wines have improved significantly, even receiving international acclaim. In last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards for example, where over 100 of the world’s top wine experts blind-tasted and judged over 16,500 different wines from all over the globe, Israeli wines won 6 Gold, 31 Silver and 28 Bronze awards. Wow! Baron Edmond de Rothschild gets credit as being the father of modern winemaking in Israel. In the late 1800’s he researched its climate and soil to determine suitability for growing wine-worthy grapes and then provided cuttings from his French vineyards.

Although Israelis don’t drink that much wine compared to Americans (Americans drink about twice as much), there are currently over 300 wine breweries in Israel. The wineries are located throughout the country, with soil, climate and Israeli ingenuity all playing a part in the unique tastes of the grapes and wines produced. Israeli wineries produced approximately 60 million bottles of wine last year, with a high percentage exported to the US.

Not all Israeli wines are kosher, but the majority are. There is no difference in ingredients or taste between kosher and non-kosher Israeli wines and no difference in the way they are made. The only difference is that kosher wines must be supervised and handled only by observant Jews from the moment the grapes enter the winery until the bottles are corked and sealed. The story goes that in the old days, pagans poured wine on the ground as an offering to their idols. So, to make sure that Jews never got a glass of wine that had been associated with an idolatrous offering, halachic laws required that only Jews be involved in creating and handling of wine. You may have also heard about Mevushal kosher wines – what does that mean? Even after the rules for kosher wine were established, some orthodox Jews worried that at events where wine was served, it could be possible that non-Jewish servers might spill some of the wine in an idolatrous practice just before they serve you. The rabbis’ solution to
this possibility was Mevushal wine. Mevushal (which means “cooked” in Hebrew) wine is heated to a high temperature before bottling. Since idol worshippers wouldn’t use wine for an offering if it had been boiled because boiled wine lacks flavor, the rabbis ruled that in order to avoid the possibility of a Jew ever drinking wine that was associated with idolatry, only cooked wine
could be served to a Jew by a non-Jew.

  • Fun Facts About Israeli Wine
     Israel is among the top 20 largest wine producing countries in the world, even though it ranks #153 by size/area.
     Israelis drink more red wine than white wine (except MAYBE on Shavuot ).
     The US is the largest importer of Israeli wines.
     On Shabbat, one in six Israelis make Kiddush over wine.
     In addition to well‐known wineries like “Carmel” and “Golan Heights,” there are also some more unusual names, such as “The Chosen Barrel,” “La Terra Promessa” (The Promised Land) and “Madmon” (crazy, right?)

Though today there aren’t a lot of people pouring wine for their idols, because of the previous rulings by various halakhic authorities, Mevushal wine is often served at events where non-Jews will be doing the pouring and serving of wine. The good news is that today’s Mevushal kosher wines aren’t actually boiled (they are heated very quickly in a process called flash pasteurization, and then cooled rapidly). This minimizes the damage to the flavors in the wine. In other words, current Mevushal kosher wines can taste pretty good.

Looking for a good Israeli wine?
Our Uncle Yonaton is a wine aficionado, and has offered the following tasty recommendations:
 Judaean Hills Red Blend (Tzora Vineyards, available at The Wine Thief)
 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon (Recanati Winery, available at Amity Wine and
 Yarden Chardonnay Galilee (Golan Heights Winery, available at The Wine Thief)
 Mount Hermon Moscato (Golan Heights Winery, available at Amity Wine and Spirts)
Although not specifically recommended by Uncle Yonaton, two Mevushal wines that get good reviews are:
 Dalton Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Dalton Winery, available at Beverage Boss)
 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve (Binyamina Winery, available at Amity Wine and Spirts)
So, next time you’re going to someone’s home for dinner and looking to bring a nice bottle of wine, consider buying a bottle of Israeli wine! It’s likely to be a hit – L’chaim!

Eating like an Israeli – Oh Shnitzl!
Everyone usually thinks of falafel when they think of popular Israeli food. But schnitzel may be even more common throughout the country – you can find it in most restaurants, in street food carts and in most homes.
Schnitzel originated in Vienna (think “Wiener schnitzel”) but seems to have made its way to Israel through European Jewish immigrants. Though European schnitzel is traditionally made from veal or pork, Israeli schnitzel is usually made from chicken, or less commonly, turkey.
The chicken (or turkey) cutlets are cut or pounded thin, breaded, and then fried. (We’ve included a few variations here to accommodate those looking for a gluten-free and/or non-fried version.)

• 1 lb. skinless boneless chicken breast
• 1/3 cup flour (for gluten-free, use 1/4 cup corn starch or arrowroot flour)
• 2 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons water
• 1 tsp paprika or “Zatar” (Israeli spice)
• 1 cup breadcrumbs (for gluten-free, substitute 1 1/3 cup almond flour)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt (use 1 teaspoon salt if using almond flour)
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

• 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (optional)
• Oil for frying (olive or avocado are our favorites – but vegetable oil works  too). If using the baking variation, you’ll just need some spray oil.
• Lemon slices
1. Prep boneless chicken breasts to be thin: You can either cut the meat to about 1/4 inch thick or pound the meat until very thin (place it inside plastic wrap and pound with a rolling pin or mallet). Set aside.
2. Put flour in a shallow bowl. In a second shallow bowl, mix together eggs and water. Combine breadcrumbs, paprika, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper in a third shallow bowl.
3. You’re going to dip each of the pieces of chicken in every bowl: First, dip each piece of chicken in bowl of flour and shake off extra. Then dip in egg mixture, and then dip in the breadcrumbs mixture. Place the dipped pieces on  a plate together, to await cooking.
4. Put enough oil in a nonstick frying pan to cover the bottom well and heat over medium heat. (Traditionally, the chicken is fried in about ½ inch of oil… but we try to use less.) Wait until the oil is hot, then add the coated cutlets,
cooking about 3 minutes per side. Place cooked schnitzel on paper towels to remove excess oil. Repeat with the rest of the schnitzel.

BAKING VARIATION: If you prefer not to make and eat fried foods, you can skip step 4 and instead bake the prepared cutlets in a 400-degree oven:
1. Place prepared cutlets on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with a bit of oil.
2. Bake for 15 minutes on the middle rack of your oven, then move the baking sheet closer to the top and broil for 5-8 minutes more, or until lightly golden brown.
The cutlets won’t get as golden as fried chicken schnitzel, but baked schnitzel still looks and tastes amazing.
This yummy entree can be plated and served with salad and veggies but is just as frequently served inside a fresh pita with salads, hummus, and chips (French fries). Top it off with parsley if you so desire. Toddlers, teens, and adults of every age seem to love their schnitzel! Bon Appetit – or as they say in Israel, “B’tay Avohn