Carol Novis

TREES AND SHOWERS: An early photo of Villa Melchett, above, and a recent image, below.

Living Like a Lord

As the waters of the Sea of Galilee lapped at the foot of the back garden, I rocked gently in a hammock and pondered the possibilities. Should I stroll down to the beach, where the children played in the sand? Feed the carp in the fishpond, or curl up with a book in the Bedouin-style tent on the lawn? Head to the kitchen for a snack of cheeses from a local boutique dairy, along with a freshly ground cappuccino? Or merely roll over in my hammock, mesmerized by the peace and privacy of Villa Melchett, a luxurious estate with a history.

Fear of Frying — A Healthy Holiday

There’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news: A single latke contains about 65 to 100 calories. (And who eats just one?) The sour cream? Another 60 calories per glob. Other Hanukkah foods, such as fritters in syrup eaten by Sephardi Jews and deep fried chicken, popular with Jews in Italy, are not much of a dietary improvement. As for soufganiot, the jelly doughnuts that are popular Hanukkah fare in Israel, count on about 400 calories a pop, and don’t even think about the cholesterol and fat content. In short, a healthy and happy Hanukkah is probably a contradiction in terms.

SUGAR HIGH: Teyglach is a treat often found on the holiday tables of Jews who are of Lithuanian origin.

The Teyglach Challenge

Along with the custom of eating apples, honey and round challah for Rosh Hashanah, many Jewish cultures have developed their own traditional holiday foods. Some Jews of Sephardic origin, for example, serve a baked fish head to symbolize “the head and not the tail,” while in Egypt, black-eyed peas and pomegranates are featured as symbols of abundance. In America, a case might be made for brisket as the star of the holiday table.

Fruit of the Beautiful Tree

“This is a good year for etrogs,” said Levi Zagelbaum, a wholesaler who is president of the Esrog Headquarters Inc. in New York. Despite the fact that the fruit was picked especially early in the season in Israel, in observance of shmitta (the biblical commandment to let soil lie fallow every seventh year), Zagelbaum has high hopes that the green etrogs will ripen in time for Sukkot and help him recoup his investment. Most of Zagelbaum’s stock of several thousand is imported from the Holy Land. Each piece of fruit, together with a lulav made from palm frond, myrtle and willow, will be sold for an average of $50, with the most expensive going for $120.

Doughy Ruminations — The Meaning of Bread

‘Bread is life,” said Noam Ben-Yossef, curator of the exhibition Bread: Daily and Divine, which is currently on display at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. “It symbolizes a multitude of things, from fertility, to plenty, to civilization itself.”

Understanding the Exodus Personally: The Kibbutz Haggadah

On Passover, Jews are told to read the Haggadah (literally “the telling”) as if one personally had been a slave in Egypt and then redeemed. By individualizing the text, each person confronts the narrative in new ways, in terms of his or her own life and times.The result has been a multiplicity of Haggadot through the ages, each

Unpacking the Mysteries of the Purim Basket

When Susan Weidman Schneider and her family left New York for Washington, D.C., eight years ago, she found herself dizzied by the chaos of the move. Then the doorbell rang.“My friend and rabbi, Avis Miller, was there with a daffodil and a package of mishloach manot for Purim,” she recalled. “It was enormously sweet of her.”For Schneider,

An Old Holiday Favorite Gets a Refill Fast Forward

If there’s anything that illustrates Israel’s growing culinary sophistication, it’s the recent transformation of the Hanukkah soufgania — or jelly doughnut. Traditionally injected with strawberry jelly and dusted with powdered sugar, the soufgania has experienced an upgrade. Doughnuts are now available with fillings ranging

Paying Homage to a Fruit Rich in History — and Seeds

At the Rosh Hashanah table, as at all Jewish holiday meals, symbolic foods take pride of place. For the New Year, they will include two round challahs — symbolizing the cycle of life — apples and honey for a sweet year, and sometimes even beets, leeks and a fish head.But to Israeli-American food writer Ann Kleinberg, no symbolic food has the