A book of recipes from the kitchens of the different denominations these women come from will be included in the national health campaign of US First Lady Michelle Obama, "Let's Move!"
It all began in an empowerment workshop for women in Nazareth Illit's southern neighborhood, held in cooperation with JCD Israel's Ashalim association, a non-profit organization dedicated to the planning and development of services for children and youth at risk and their families.
"We were a group of 12 women from different denominations, and every week one of us would present her kitchen and cook food she learned from her grandmother and mother. I, for example, brought the mujaddara (lentils and rice) my mother taught me to make," says Mazalit Kleinerman, a mother of three.
"During the first meeting, the group cooked a root vegetable stew, and each of the women connected to her roots. Later, the women came in for a personal conversation and opened up to each other," says Efrat Zohar-Levkovitz, a chef and the workshop's instructor.
Several months later, Ashalim decided to put together a booklet containing the recipes written by the group of women from Nazareth Illit.
"It was very important for us to upgrade the recipes from the health aspect, so we added the nutritive values. The booklet was translated into English, and we reached the 'Let's Move!' program of Michelle Obama, who expressed an interest in our program," says Anat Penso, head of the interdisciplinary unit at Ashalim.
'Symbolizing the beautiful Land of Israel'
About a month ago, the book was presented to the first lady's team at the White House, led by Sam Kass, executive director of "Let's Move!" and senior policy advisor on Nutrition.
"We gave them the book and Kass was very enthusiastic by the idea, especially by the fact that adult women had written a type of authentic book which does not exist today. They maintain the tradition, and that's very important empowerment of women. They were enthusiastic by our entire program, which includes sports, health and nutrition," explains Ashalim Director Dr. Rami Sulimani.
"I heard that our book was translated into English, and I was told that it was handed over to Michelle Obama at the White House – and it's a great honor," concludes Mazalit Kleinerman.
"I would like Michelle to come visit us in Nazareth Illit and eat authentic Yemeni and Turkish food, which she has never tasted before, in my kitchen. I am not planning to leave Israel in any case, even if Michelle Obama wants to take me to her presidential kitchen."
Nazareth Illit Mayor Shimon Gapso, who was involved in the program, says that "Nazareth Illit, a city built on waves of immigration from all ends of the universe, has a unique gourmet kitchen. The delicacies of all denominations together create the perfect dish, symbolizing the beautiful Land of Israel."