A Delicious Recipe for Economic Growth

This blog post was finished just as I received the news about the tragic bomb blast near the Jerusalem central bus station. The post itself is about my recent trip to Israel. If you are currently planning on visiting Israel, or are thinking about it, go. Do not let those who would separate us from our beloved Israel succeed. Go. 


I love to cook. I love to shop for new things to cook or things to cook with. (I’m currently anticipating the arrival of a pressure cooker, now that I am more convinced that I won’t wind up with food splattered all over the kitchen if I use one. I didn’t say completely convinced, just more convinced, as the new-fangled pressure cookers are very much improved from the one my mother used in the 1960s.)


Even in Israel, I manage to find places to shop for new ingredients. Last year on the first Heart to Heart Mission to Israel, we visited a project sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), an herb and spice store and farm in the north. Although I can’t share the wonderful aromas of all of the herb mixtures and fresh spices, I can show you how beautiful the store is.


For someone who reads cookbooks like novels (and I know there are a lot of others like me out there), and who enjoys grocery stores and gourmet shops as much as the Short Hills Mall, this place was nirvana. I roamed up and down the aisles, lost in the thought of what new dishes I could make if only I could read the Hebrew on the signs that described the ingredients in the special blends for rice or meat or chicken. We also got to grind our own za’atar, a staple of Middle Eastern seasoning. 


We learned that the JDC program, Ma’avarim, connects small businesses and employers in the rural, agricultural areas of Israel, providing them with professional business development tools, courses, and guidance. Previously at this site, there had only been a farm, but no store or cooking classes to attract tourists and no employment for the engaging staff members who helped us so patiently. 


When we came back to Havat Hatavllinim, which is the name of the store, on the Heart to Heart 2 Mission last month, I saw many changes that told me the business was going well and even expanding. There were many more signs in English on the herbs, spices, and mixtures, meaning that more tourists from abroad are coming. The back of the store where we had manufactured our za’ater had all kinds of gourmet cookware for sale; there was also a new demonstration area and a new separate room for cooking classes. So not only are foreign tourists coming, but Israelis as well!


When I came home, I checked in with JDC staff to confirm what my eyes had already seen. Gila Brill tells me that the spice farm continues to benefit from the services provided by Ma'avarim. While it has become a successful business in its own right, it is able to grow with the business courses and professional guidance offered as part of Ma'avarim. And the staff who are so helpful? They are all local to the area, and extremely dedicated to the success of the business. They receive training and assistance as part of the project’s basket of services. New staff is recruited through the network created by Maavarim, with the goal of bringing economic development and growth to this area.


This is just one small success story that our dollars make possible. Thank you for your contribution to the delicious recipe for economic growth and development in Israel, and go visit the next time you are in Israel!


One more way in which our work with JDC moves the world forward is in the non-sectarian aid that is currently being provided to those in need in Japan. The JDC is working with JEN, a Japanese non-government organization. JEN focuses on shelter reconstruction, support of the socially vulnerable, and emergency supply distribution. 


In a world full of difficult news stories far and near, it is good to know that even small steps make a difference.




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