In a nod to the English-speaking population of Gush Etzion, one shop understood it was possible to bring Chanukah to the masses months before the actual start of the eight-day holiday, which begins this Tuesday evening at sundown.
The English Cake eatery at the Gush Etzion junction in Judea had the marketing savvy to supply its busy counter with a mouth-watering array of Israel's answer to Eastern Europe's traditional Chanukah meichel (Yiddish for delicacy), the latke. For the uninitiated, the latke is a potato pancake fried in oil. There are variations on the theme, but basically it's potatoes, onions and eggs. And oil. Lots of it.
The oil, of course, is the major reason for the dish.
Chanukah is celebrated to commemorate the miracle of the one day's supply of pure oil that somehow lasted eight days, until the priests of the Holy Temple were able to obtain more to rededicate the altar properly in the wake of its defilement by the ancient Syrian Greeks.
The increasing influx of North American immigrants is used to munching doughnut delights as a regular diet with their morning coffee and midday snack, particularly those who have lived in the northeastern United States, where kosher doughnuts are readily available.
Hence, an amazing variety of iced and frosted and filled sufganiot that covered the counters of the Gush Etzion English Cake eatery "for the past two months already," owner Miki Assaf told Arutz Sheva. The English Cake restaurant franchise chain has branches all around the country, with several in Jerusalem as well.
Numerous other bakeries are competing for the attention of Israel's ravenous hordes at this time of year -- even the supermarkets are hard-pressed to keep the population supplied. Wandering through a number of supermarket chains last week that included Mega, Shufersal and Rami Levi, this writer saw shoppers from every ethnic group, including all types of Jews, Christians and a number of Bedouin and Palestinian Authority Arabs snapping up the confections. Food is that which unites us all.
In Israel, the sufganiah -- puffy doughnuts fried in oil, usually filled with a red jelly -- has replaced the eastern European staple. But bakeries and eateries across the country have finally begun to figure out that the more creativity brought to the lowly doughnut, the more income they will derive from its existence.
In Jerusalem and in other high-Anglo population centers, one can also find a wide variety of the special-for-Chanukah sufganiot that look like American doughnuts; in the periphery, your selections are more limited to the Israeli versions of a puffy dough-like creation, sometimes iced and often not, but these days at least filled with a variety of interesting fillings that range from dulce du leche, chocolate, jelly or vanilla custard. But grab 'em fast, folks -- they don't last long, and by January they are gone.