This spring, the air of the ancient streets of the holy cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem smells sweet. At home, people work with their neighbors and relatives to make a special biscuit that is very special for both Muslims and Christians. Ravan Ghats, a Christian woman living in Bethlehem who is a chef by profession, told me that “Easter cannot be without routine because it brings happiness.”
Rawan Bazbazat, a Muslim woman living in Jerusalem who is a teacher by profession, has been making these sweets with her mother since childhood. “We always have a routine on Eid al-Fitr,” she says. We cannot celebrate this festival without it.
The usual is made from semolina and ghee (butter can also be used instead of ghee) and is added by crushing cherries and raisins. This little biscuit melts in your mouth and it is also very beautiful to look at. Before baking, it is mixed with pistachios and rose water or walnuts, cinnamon and sugar or a little oil or butter with date paste.
The routine of these three flavors is then poured into a wooden dish called ‘Qalb’ or a spoon called ‘Malakat’. The palm fronds are round in shape, while the pistachios are oval in shape and slightly smaller in size than the walnuts. Every year, Muslim and Christian families, especially in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East in general, make Eid al-Fitr and Easter a tradition, and another similar biscuit, the “cocktail,” is prepared.
This year’s Easter will be on April 17. The Christian community celebrates this festival in memory of Jesus, who spent 40 days in the desert fasting. Many believers these days also avoid the use of animal products and alcohol. This year, the Muslim religious festival of Eid al-Fitr will also be on May 2. It comes at the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan, a month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.
Ramadan and Easter are coming together which is very good
Bazbazat says that this time Ramadan and Easter are coming together which is very good. “If you go to Jerusalem, you will see both Muslims and Christians fasting. It’s very special. ” The routine work in joint family homes is divided into groups. When to remove sweets from the stove, what to design, each has different responsibilities.
It is also a source of beautiful memories for those who celebrate Easter and Eid al-Fitr. “We are three families and we are neighbors,” says Rawan Ghats. We all get together in a house and make a routine. This is a very happy time. ”
In Bazbazat’s house, he and his sisters, aunts, cousins, mother and grandmother all work together before Eid. “Sometimes you feel very hungry while making it,” she says. You want to taste everything but no one can touch it before Eid. On Eid, you can eat as much as you want.
Ghats remembers her childhood when she saw her mother and tried to make a flower-shaped routine. His mother does a great job of decorating. At midnight on the fortieth day, he and his family pick up the dyed eggs, and they all hit them. The person whose egg eventually survives to be eaten eats it and is eaten with it as usual.
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Muslim families usually spend the first day of Eid together
Muslim families usually spend the first day of Eid together and send kayaks and usual plates to each other’s homes. The next day he invites guests to his house and serves them with coffee. “Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem have a lot to share,” she said. They live in the same house in the same city.
Important ingredients commonly used in the Palestinian territories, such as dates and walnuts, are grown locally. The date palm, the best of which is Majidul, comes from the city of Jericho and the Jordan Valley in the east of the West Bank. Many people are planting walnut trees in their homes while they are also found in mountainous areas.
The owner of the Fada Restaurant and Caf ‘in Bethlehem and an internationally acclaimed chef, Fadi Katan remembers his childhood with the usual scent when his grandmother used to do it. “When my grandmother and her neighbors were making a fuss, all my efforts failed. I was told to sit back and enjoy the scent. Yes, I was allowed to grind walnuts.
According to Charles Perry, a medieval cuisine and author, the “traditional” Iranian biscuit is a type of “klachug” which is mentioned in medieval Arabic textbooks as “klaija”. This biscuit was made by mixing fat and butter and was designed like many other geometric shapes, including fish and birds.
Foods from different cultures have influenced each other in the past due to trade, so there may be even more sweet biscuits than usual. According to a book by Ibn Mubarak Shah which was later translated into English by Professor Daniel Newman and published under the title ‘Sultans Fest 2020’, between 1250-1517 in Egypt when an army of slave soldiers called.
The country was ruled by a medieval biscuit, in which dates, rose liqueur, saffron and spices were added. According to historian Charles Al-Hayek, who runs his YouTube channel and Instagram account on Middle Eastern culture, the tradition of distributing sweets on Eid al-Fitr began in the Fatimid caliphate during the tenth to twelfth centuries.
This was the time when the caliph would distribute sweets to all the people, including the employees, before the Eid prayers. According to ‘Chef in Disguise’, these sweets also had phrases written on them, such as ‘Eat and give thanks, blessings are safe with sugar’. Tradition turned into private homes.
Many, including Chef Fadi Katan, say that the custom of molding the routine into various shapes, such as sun and star designs, came from the ancient religions that worshiped nature, but according to the Christian tradition, the palm-filled routine (which is round).
Represents Jesus’ crown of thorns, while the pistachio-filled routine resembles the tomb where Jesus was buried. Normal design has no special symbolic significance in Islam but it is still very important for the bazaar. “When I make a routine, I look at them and think, ‘Wow, I’m an artist,'” she says.
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Sweet shops on Eid days
While many people usually make it at home, this biscuit is also available per kg at many sweet shops on Eid days. The Eiffel Suites in Ramallah, Palestine, are one of the oldest confectionery shops in the world, and many locals suggest buying them here. Another popular store is Acre Suites, which has several branches.
The oldest store in Jerusalem is Zlatimo, which was founded in 1860 and now has branches in Jordan and also delivers sweets to the United States through Amazon. However, people living outside the region can buy the usual from local bakeries in the Middle East or make their own at home.
In fact, many bakers, such as Ahmed Shakir of Eiffel Suites, believe that the quality of home-made biscuits differs from those made in shops. “It’s a tradition found in Palestinian families,” he says. Ahmed Shakir says that as a child he used to go to the nearby bakery ‘Fern Al-Arabi’ with his mother carrying a normal tray and bake it in the wood stoves made there. “Before I got home, I used to eat a couple of fresh meals.