When anxiety overload attacks and you can’t figure out how you are going to navigate the checkout lines, the traffic snarls, the work load for even another day, it’s time to stop, breathe deeply, enjoy the quiet and the clear skies, and get some historical perspective. And, as always, Jerusalem has a story to tell about making do in anxious times. And food.
October 6, 1973. A beautiful, sunny autumn day in Jerusalem. Yom Kippur – the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. The city was at a standstill as it, along with the rest of the country, closed down for 25 hours to commemorate the solemn holiday. Suddenly, that afternoon, air raid sirens began to wail. There must be a glitch in the system, people thought. But it wasn’t a glitch. As reservists were called from synagogue services and homes to their bases it became clear that Israel had been militarily attacked in the north and the south, from Syria and from Egypt. The Israel Defense Forces were mobilized. Israel was at war.
But what about Jerusalem? It had only been 6 years since the Six-Day War when Israeli forces captured the eastern part of Jerusalem and tore down the wall dividing the city. Jerusalemites feared that the Jordanians, who were still sitting on the sidelines, would seize the moment to invade the city and try to recapture it. All schools, colleges and the Hebrew University were shut down. The massive call up of reserves drained Jerusalem of manpower and left stores and businesses unable to open. An immediate curfew and blackout was instituted to protect the population in case of air attacks. Jerusalem was sheltering at home.
The supply lines to the city were also affected. Because the war began as a surprise, with little warning, there were not enough provisions at hand to feed a large standing army. To compensate, all agricultural production was first sent to the front lines and only what was left found its way to Jerusalem. This led to a severe shortage of eggs, dairy products and vegetables for Jerusalem’s civilian population with cases of people actually bribing the grocer to get a few extra eggs.
But, Jerusalemites are nothing if not resourceful – no eggs, no milk, no butter, no meat - doesn’t mean that they didn’t eat. All kinds of recipes were developed to cook and bake with substitutes, and passed around from household to household (and this is before anyone ever heard of vegan!) One of the most famous recipes is for Jerusalem Crazy Cake – a chocolate cake that kids love to make and to eat, with no eggs or dairy! (see below)
The war, that lasted almost 3 weeks, ended in a cease-fire when Israel crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt and regained the Golan Heights from the Syrians. And, the Jordanians never attacked Israel or Jerusalem.
The Yom Kippur War was the fiercest war in Israel’s history, second only to the War of Independence. However, the tragic experience of this war eventually led to Israel and Egypt signing a peace treaty six years later.
And back to today – if you just want a great, easy vegan cake – try this
Jerusalem Crazy Cake – (in Hebrew it even rhymes!)
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp kosher salt
• 1 tsp white vinegar
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 1 cup water
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make 3 holes in the dry ingredients. Pour the vinegar in one hole, the vanilla in another hole and the vegetable oil in the third hold. Then pour the water over the whole thing and mix well. Pour into a greased 8 inch cake pan and bake for 35 minutes.
You can top it with sugar, as Jerusalemites did, or with your favorite frosting.