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Proliferation of Middle Eastern restaurants in Winnipeg satisfies desire for Israeli foods

Ramallah Cafe is popular with Israelis

By BERNIE BELLAN

In recent weeks I’ve had occasion to meet the owners of some Arab restaurants in this city. Sure, it was to talk to them about advertising – but it was also a chance to discuss their feelings about relations between Jews and Muslims.

 

If you’ve been following news from Toronto of late you’d be aware that there’s palpable tension in the air there over what have been overt displays of anti-Israel behaviour. In our last issue we reported on the disturbing situation regarding a particular food establishment known as Foodbenders and how the owner of that establishment seemed to be going out of her way to foment hatred toward anyone who was pro-Israel.
I’m glad to see that many other food establishments that had been buying food from Foodbenders have now canceled their orders and that many public figures in Toronto came our four square against the stance that Foodbenders had taken.

Then, a couple of weekends ago, there was yet another display of crude anti-Semitic behaviour in Toronto – this time at a rally organized by pro-Palestinians where the slogan “Palestine is our country and the Jews are our dogs!” was chanted by some of the attendees. (See the report from B’nai Brith about that rally on page 15.)
Now, while it’s not unusual for there to be displays of hostility toward Israel on university campuses throughout North America, with everything else that’s going on in the world it seems a little confounding for outbursts of anti-Israel behaviour to be occurring in Toronto right now.
There is a certain element of spill-over from the Black Lives Matter movement that can’t be denied as having something to do with these displays of overt hatred for Israel but, by and large, while there are undeniably certain individuals who are prone to displaying abject ignorance about Jews within the Black Lives Matter movement, these two recent examples of extreme hostility toward Israel in Toronto would seem to be exceptions to the relative indifference most Canadians have toward Israel (except, of course, for those of us watching the apparent re-emergence of COVID in Israel on a massive scale).
On top of all that, it looks like Netanyhau’s putative move to annex parts of the West Bank (and I use that term deliberately – not the term “Judea and Samaria”, which has a different connotation) has been put on hold for the time being. Apparently word has come out even from the Trump camp that annexation would not be viewed positively within Trumpland. That’s a little bit hard to understand since Trump has made it a policy to defy traditional thinking whenever he can.
Still, there doesn’t seem to be anything going on within Israel or the West Bank that might be considered all that provocative right now, preoccupied as most people there are with fending off COVID – so why there should be outbursts of anti-Israel sentiment at this time is a little hard to understand.

So it was that I met with the owners of two popular Arab restaurants in Winnipeg – and while we didn’t talk politics much, I was interested to hear that both Ramallah Cafe on Pembina and Arabesque on Corydon have many Jewish patrons, especially Israelis.
I wrote about some other Arab restaurants two summers ago, including Yaffa Cafe on Portage Avenue and Les Saj on St. James Street in an article titled “In search of Israeli cuisine – in Winnipeg”.
(I also wrote about Joy Coffee Bar on Roblin Blvd., which is owned by Israeli Alex Meron-Gamili and serves some Israeli foods although Alex takes pains to explain that his specialty is coffee, not food; and, of course, Falafel Place, which serves some Israeli foods. At the time that I wrote the article Bermax Caffe was also still around and I wrote about that place as well. Don’t bother asking me if I know what’s happened to the owners of that establishment. I don’t.)
That article prompted some readers to suggest other places that serve great food that would be familiar to anyone who’s been to Israel: Baraka Bakery on Main Street and the aforesaid Ramallah Cafe. (I’ve also been to Blady Middle Eastern on Portage Avenue and had something delicious there, but for the life of me I don’t know what it was. I just said to the person behind the counter: “Give me something delicious” – and he did.)
There are also loads of shawarma restaurants now in Winnipeg – something that anyone who has been to Israel would find quite familiar.

So – if you’re looking to try some of the foods that you might have eaten when you were in Israel, well – there is certainly a wide choice of establishments available here from which to choose. Unlike a city such as Toronto, however, which has a huge expatriate Israeli community, Winnipeg doesn’t have a uniquely Israeli restaurant.
I’m sort of surprised at that. I know there have been attempts in the past to have an authentically “Israeli” restaurant in Winnipeg, and what with the fairly large influx of Israelis we’ve had move here over the years, you would think that someone would have tried to create an Israeli restaurant catering to that specific community.
But, just as in Israel, where Jews and Arabs eat so many of the same foods – over and over again whenever I’ve asked the owners of Arab restaurants here whether they have many Jewish customers, they all answer in the affirmative, noting in particular that many Israelis come to their restaurants.
But, let’s be honest: There are readers of this paper who wouldn’t dare set foot in a restaurant called “Ramallah Cafe” (and I’ve been to Ramallah – it’s not my favourite place to visit, I’ll admit, but it did have some great food).
When I met with the owners of Ramallah Cafe and they told me they’d like to advertise in this paper, I wanted to ask them whether they’d consider changing the name of their restaurant to “Tel Aviv Cafe” – just for a short while, so that some readers of this paper who would never consider entering an establishment called “Ramallah Cafe” would give them a try – but I didn’t end up suggesting that after all.
They’re really nice guys though – and, just like every other restaurant in this city, the pandemic and resulting lockdown has really hurt them, but they seem confident they’ll weather the storm.
By the way, it was Ami Hassan of Falafel Place who told me about the latest Arab food establishment to open here, called “Tarboosh”. It’s also on Pembina Highway – in Fort Garry, and it’s owned by the same two people who own Arabesque on Corydon.
I stopped in there one day when I was cycling down Pembina Highway and noticed the sign. It’s still under construction as they haven’t opened the restaurant portion yet, but wow – is it ever big – and what an assortment of foods and spices it has!
I was talking to a charming young woman by the name of Heba Abdel-Hamid while I was there. Heba is co-owner of both Arabesque and Tarboosh. She told me she’s from Montreal originally and grew up in a largely Jewish neighbourhood where she had many Jewish friends.
She agreed with my observation that people generally get along in Winnipeg – in contrast with Montreal and Toronto, which both have quite a bit more ethnic tensions among residents, I think it’s fair to say.
Maybe I’m just naive but I know that individuals such as Belle Jarniewski have done much to bring disparate groups here together over the years – and I don’t recall a single instance of hearing about an imam in a mosque here ever delivering the kind of hateful sermon against Jews that we read about from time to time as having happened in Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal – and not too long ago, in Calgary as well.
So, when Heba Abdel-Hamid told me that she’s also a part of the Arab-Jewish Dialogue, it served as a reminder how lines of communication are more open in Winnipeg than many other cities. Since we don’t have Folklorama this year, if you’re interested in replicating to some extent the experience of enjoying various ethnic foods, then some of the restaurants I’ve just mentioned here might be worth a try. They all have take-out by the way.

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Features

“Ain’t No Grave” – new novel set in Deep South in early 20th century combines interracial love story with searing description of the Leo Frank trial and lynching

Book cover/author Mary Glickman

Reviewed by BERNIE BELLAN In 1975, American novelist E. L. Doctorow made waves with “Ragtime,” a novel that interspersed true historical American figures from the first part of the 20th century with fictitious characters. The novel explored the overt racism faced by Blacks in America at that time, along with the antisemitism that was also prevalent.
Now, with a new novel by Mary Glickman, who has specialized in writing historical fiction centering around Jewish characters in the Deep South of the U.S., the themes of anti-Black and antisemitic prejudice in the South reach a traumatic apex, culminating with the lynching of New York-born Leo Frank in Georgia, in 1915.
But – since I don’t like to read too much about what a novel is about before I delve into it, I really didn’t know to what extent the Leo Frank case was going to play a role in this particular book. I prefer to be surprised. Unfortunately, if you’re also of a similar mind, I’m afraid I’ve already let the cat out of the bag.
The story opens, however, not in Atlanta, which is where Leo Frank was framed for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, but in a part of backwoods Georgia known as Heard County, where we meet the two central characters of the book: Young Max Sassaport, the son of the only Jewish couple in his small rural village, and Max’s best friend, an equally young Ruby Johnson, the Black daughter of a sharecropper.
The two children – though from totally dissimilar backgrounds, share a deep bond – which they keep hidden from all around them. Glickman’s lilting prose and her depiction of rural Georgia life reminded me of another wonderful novel, also set in the Deep South: “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
Of course, a relationship between a Black girl and a White boy (and a Jew no less) is bound to come asunder – and even as youngsters, Ruby and Max are aware that they are fated to be split apart. Yet, with the introduction of a fascinating character known as Mayhayley Lancaster, who is described as a “witch,” but who later turns out to be a real person who actually played somewhat of a role in the Leo Frank trial, the children’s fate is foretold. (Again, I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but Mayhayley Lancaster’s transformation later in the novel turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the book.)
As the first part of the story develops – and it becomes apparent that Ruby and Max are destined to take different roads in their lives, one of the interesting aspects of the story for Jewish readers will be what life would have been like for the only Jewish family in a small Southern town. The Sassaports operate a general dry goods store – as did many Jews in rural locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, but their connection to Judaism is tenuous at best.
In time, both Max and Ruby make their way to Atlanta, but with Ruby leaving when she is only 12 years old and Max waiting another six years before he ends up in Atlanta, neither one of them holds much hope that they will ever see each other again.
Max, however, meets up with a reporter for the Atlanta Journal known as Harold Ross (who would later go on, in real life, to found The New Yorker). Ross takes Max under his wing as a cub reporter and it’s in Max’s capacity as a reporter that he finds himself enmeshed in the Leo Frank trial.
As a press release for the novel explains: “1913. The year heart-sick Max travels to Atlanta to find Ruby, his lost love and childhood friend. And the year New York Jew, Leo Frank, is charged with the murder of a child laborer at the National Pencil Factory. Max is Jewish and Ruby’s Black. Their reunion takes place just as Frank is arrested, a racially charged event that sparks an explosion of antisemitism across the city of Atlanta.”
Although I had somewhat of a recollection of reading about the Leo Frank trial, reading about the events surrounding that trial and its aftermath comes as somewhat of a shock. Leo Frank was framed for the murder of a 13-year-old White girl but the degree to which the police and the prosecutor were determined to pursue a totally made-up case against an innocent Jewish businessman is still jarring to read. As well, when one contemplates how comfortable Donald Trump is with telling one lie after another to suit his agenda, it becomes much easier to understand how so many White authority figures in “Ain’t No Grave” were willing to engage in a total frame-up so as to enrage their White base. The role that many newspapers at the time played in stoking antisemitism also provides a salutary experience in how easy it has always been to dupe a huge proportion of the American public though fictitious media reporting. In 1915 it was through newspapers; today, it’s through the internet.
As the book’s press release notes the parallels between what was happening in the early years of the 20th century and what we are seeing playing out around the world today, “With global antisemitism on the rise, “Ain’t No Grave” draws attention to the fact that garden variety antisemitism can be stoked by bad actors and quickly explode into violence. Sometimes, the media play a role.”
The Jewish community of Atlanta in 1915 was so terrified by what was happening to Leo Frank that events at the time led to the creation of B’nai Brith’s Anti-Defamation League.
The juxtaposition of vicious antisemitism and anti-Black hatred in the Deep South with a love story between a White Jew and a Black woman makes for a compelling read. As a member of the Southeast ADL by the name of Sandra Brett noted after reading “Ain’t No Grave,” “Mary Glickman vividly captures milestones in the Leo Frank saga through sympathetic characters as real as the events surrounding them. She deftly intertwines Leo Frank’s trial and lynching with the founding of the ADL, the rebirth of a moribund KKK, and an interracial love story. Meticulously researched, fast-paced, and thoroughly original, Ain’t No Grave is a moving, satisfying read.”
And, as Pat Conroy, author of another best selling novel set in the Deep South – “Prince of Tides”, wrote about Mary Glickman: “Mary Glickman is a wonder.”

Buy this book on Amazon

Ain’t No Grave
By Mary Glickman
280 Pages,
Publication Date: July 2024
Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.


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Features

The environmental benefits of lawn care

(NC) Caring for your lawn isn’t just about aesthetics – it’s about nurturing a healthy ecosystem right in your own backyard. A well-maintained lawn not only adds charm to your property, it also plays a crucial role in supporting a healthier environment. Here are some of the ways that taking care of your lawn can benefit our surroundings.

Enhancing air quality: Your lawn acts as a natural air purifier, capturing dust, pollen and other airborne particles, making the air cleaner. Through photosynthesis, grass absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) and releases oxygen, helping to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Preventing soil erosion: Healthy lawns are crucial to preventing soil erosion. The dense grassroot keeps the soil in place, minimizing the risk of decay caused by water or wind. Soil erosion not only strips away valuable topsoil, it can also pollute nearby water bodies.

Cooling outdoor spaces: Compared to urban areas filled with buildings and concrete, places with more grass and trees are noticeably cooler. Additionally, it requires less energy to cool a building surrounded by grass than one surrounded by concrete. A lush lawn not only keeps your outdoor area cooler but could also lower air conditioning bills.

Ensuring clean water: Maintaining a healthy lawn contributes to better water quality. The thick grass cover is a natural filter for rainwater, cutting down on runoff and stopping pollutants from reaching waterways.

How to keep your lawn healthy

To keep your lawn healthy, it’s important to focus on three areas: fertilizing, watering and cutting.

Fertilize: Plants need the proper balance of nutrients to grow and stay healthy. Fertilizer ensures your lawn has all the nutrients it needs in the proper amounts to grow. Fertilize your lawn every other month, beginning in the spring when it starts to turn green, and continue until just before the ground freezes to promote thick, healthy growth that can fight off weeds.

Water: Regular watering is essential to maintaining a healthy lawn. Water your lawn early in the morning to reduce evaporation and fungal growth.

Cut: Mowing your lawn correctly can greatly influence its health. Keep your mower blades sharp and set your mower to the correct height for your grass type.

When fall begins, it’s important to continue caring for your lawn to ensure it remains healthy. Fertilizing in the fall helps strengthen roots and provides essential nutrients for the colder months. Additionally, keep up with watering if there is insufficient rainfall and continue mowing until the cold weather hits.

A vibrant lawn isn’t just a patch of green – it’s a miniature ecosystem that offers a variety of environmental benefits. By taking care of your lawn, you’re enhancing your property’s appeal and playing a vital role in preserving our planet’s health.

Find more information on lawn care and environmental benefits at fertilizercanada.ca/lawncare.

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Features

4 things to know about the Canadian Dental Care Plan

(NC) Have you heard about the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP)? It’s a federal government program that helps reduce the cost of dental care for Canadian residents with a family income under $90,000 who do not have access to dental insurance.

Here are four things you should know about the plan.

What does it cover?
The plan helps cover a wide range of oral health services for eligible Canadians, such as examinations, teeth cleaning, X-rays, fillings, dentures, root canals and oral surgeries. Some services may only be available as of November 2024 and will require prior approval on the recommendation of an oral health provider.

When can I apply?
The application process began in stages, starting with seniors. As of June 27, 2024, two more groups can sign up for the plan: children under the age of 18 and adults with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate.

When will other adults be able to apply?
All other eligible Canadian residents will be able to apply in 2025. Once fully rolled out, the plan aims to help reduce the cost of dental care for up to 9 million Canadians.

Does it fully cover all dental expenses?
The CDCP will reimburse a portion of the cost, based on established plan fees and your annual family income. There are three tiers of coverage that are based on household income.

  • If you have a family income lower than $70,000, 100 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered;
  • If your family income is between $70,000 and $79,999, 60 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered;
  • If your family income is between $80,000 and $89,999, 40 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered.

The plan may not cover the full cost of your treatment, even if you have a family income lower than $70,000. You may have to pay a portion of the cost if the plan’s established fees are lower than what your provider normally charges. Additionally, you may agree to receive treatment that is not covered by the plan.

Before receiving oral health-care, you should always confirm that your provider is accepting CDCP members, that they will bill Sun Life for direct payment and ask about any costs that won’t be covered by the plan.

Learn more about the plan at canada.ca/dental.

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