There’s the Rub — in Tel Aviv


Tierra couldn’t be more Los Angeles. But for this nouveau combination of mostly organic restaurant, massage parlor and oxygen bar, you’ll have to go to Tel Aviv, where this combo venue clearly out-Hollywoods Hollywood.

The only thing missing — so far — is a Hollywood-style patron, such as Madonna or Oprah. In the meantime, you can settle happily for Yaniv Ben Rachamin, the handsome young waiter. On a recent visit, he needed some crib notes to describe the eclectic menu offerings, but he’s surefooted and helpfully well muscled for any visitors who order the seven-minute, 22-sheckel (about $4) massage with their entree.

Like the others of the wait staff, Ben Rachamin is a certified masseuse. His specialty happens to be a Chinese-style regimen whose name he had trouble translating into English. But as he willingly demonstrated, the good fight against carpal tunnel syndrome knows no language barriers. You just remain at your table in your chair and let him go to work.

Tierra’s setting in its bustling, mostly residential neighborhood is stylish coffeehouse; the food is inventive. One typical appetizer consisted of figs stuffed with mushrooms, macadamia nuts and chicken — flavored with cardamom, cinnamon and a Hindu date dressing (34 sheckels). Not all the entrees strain to be eccentric; there’s “grilled pullet and polenta” for 58 sheckels and “calamari paperdello” for 54 sheckels. Some menu offerings are mouth watering; others more creative than tasty. But there’s a full bar to wash everything down.

Co-owner Yonatan Galili says he keeps the menu as organic as possible — except when going exclusively organic would raise prices. He’s gone through several career iterations, including successful industrial engineer, to reach this entrepreneurial exploration of the mind/body/stomach connection.

He sees the massages as a way for a person/diner to “be with himself for seven minutes.” He adds: “We are very aware of the Western way of life. We serve food that is friendly to the stomach so you can eat here and then later keep on working.”

Of course, another option is to get high at the oxygen bar and forget all about working. Galili has two flavors of oxygen — “secret” concoctions created specially by an expert in designing flavors for oxygen bars. One is to relax you; the other to energize you.

The giddy feeling that ensues doesn’t seem quite legal, but apparently, it’s OK to inhale. Just be glad that you’re not the one flying the airplane home.

Tierra is located at Yirmiyahu 54, Tel Aviv, 03-604-7222. Hours: 9 a.m. to last customer.

 

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen: Kindness Starts at Home


 

When the doorbell rings at the Cohens’ Pico-Robertson home — or more accurately when the door edges open, since it’s almost never locked — the littlest of Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen’s six kids grab their shoes. If it’s someone dropping off donated food or clothing, they start shlepping things in while the older ones begin sorting and organizing. If it’s someone coming to collect those items, the kids take them through the living room and yard to help them pack up the day’s offerings — unserved food salvaged from caterers; groceries donated by local markets; or furniture, clothing, toys and electronics that the area’s wealthy families don’t want, and that one of the 52 families that depend on the Cohens sorely needs.

The Cohens’ cramped three-bedroom home is the headquarters, warehouse and distribution center for Global Kindness/L.A. Chesed, the network the Cohens founded less than three years ago.

With caring brown eyes peeking out of her broad face, Yaelle, in her late 30s, is a pint-sized Moroccan tornado in bright yellow-and-orange sneakers. In a perpetually hoarse voice, she answers about 35 phone calls a day from donors and people desperate for help.

The Cohens understand desperation. Eight years ago, Nouriel’s beauty supply business went under, and the family had to give up their Beverly Hills home. He hasn’t had steady employment since then and has had to rely on his parents and family to get by.

“But now when you look ahead, you can see that was all for the purpose of good, because we had to really feel what was going on in people’s hearts and minds when they are really down,” says Nouriel, whose distinguished gray beard and smiling blue eyes do little to attest to his Persian ancestry.

The Cohens raise money to help families with rent, bills, day-school tuition or transportation. They help with bar mitzvahs, and have sent families housekeepers and gardeners to restore dignity to rundown homes.

Late every Friday afternoon the family gets a load of challah the kosher bakeries didn’t sell, and the kids, ages 1 through 12, wheel strollers and carts through the neighborhood doling out the loaves.

They host huge Shabbos lunches and singles events and help a handful of families in Canada, New York and Israel.

Often, they become de facto social workers, referring families to resources for abuse, addiction or mental health issues.

The Cohen operation shuts down from 5-8:30 p.m., so the family can have dinner, do homework and get through bedtime. But other than that, they’re on.

And on Chanukah, the Cohens sent their clients’ wish lists to Chabad of Malibu, where families purchased and wrapped the gifts. Those packages were set up in a dream-like display on the ornate furniture left over from wealthier times in the Cohen’s living room/dining room.

Recently, Nouriel started a new business and it seems to be taking off. While he looks forward to giving his family more comfortable quarters, he thanks God for the new sensitivity they have.

“We see what people throw away — thousands and thousands of dollars worth of beautiful clothing,” Nouriel says. “Why would someone throw it away? Because it means nothing. Money comes and goes. The main thing is what you are doing in this life.”

For more information call (310) 286-0800.

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen and family

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Steven Firestein: Making Magic for Children

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Shabbat in Jerusalem


Friday in Israel is not really a work day, but a semi-holiday. Friday is not a holy day, but it has a special flavor because it is when we finalize our Shabbat preparations.

I used to live on a gorgeous street in Jerusalem, Rehov Caspi. The street boasts a view of the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, the Jordan Valley and the hills of Jordan, a mere 30 miles away. The street is perched above a hillside park called The Promenade, which also faces the Old City. A short two-block walk away is Derech Beit Lechem, a street full of small shops. This neighborhood is abuzz on Fridays.

I was privileged to be one of only two women who were welcome at "The Parliament," a group of 10 or so men who meet every Friday morning at 7 a.m. in Yonotan’s lighting store. The men are both Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and are mostly in their 60s and 70s. The elder parliamentarians are mostly from Eastern Europe and are old enough to be considered heroes of the War of Independence. One of the exciting aspects of living in contemporary Israel is that the founders of the country are still walking around.

During the meeting, Yonotan served small glasses of his special tea (black tea with sugar and fresh herbs), along with cheese borekas, olives and cucumbers. It’s a guy’s yackfest and I always felt like the proverbial fly on the wall. The conversations were lively, good-natured, where traditional morality prevailed while spanning the religious and political spectrums.

By 8:30 a.m. we’d all disperse for leisurely Shabbat shopping. Israelis, many of whom have survived the Holocaust or the siege of Jerusalem, will stock up on Friday as if the stores may not open for a week or more.

Hospitality is the rule and guests are considered a blessing. I never lacked invitations for Shabbat dinners and lunches as a single person, but I also loved hosting.

The small specialized stores of Derech Bet Lechem made shopping slower, but more fun and personal. The butchers subtly gave their approval when you purchased expensive cuts. Likewise, the baker let you know your good luck and good taste when buying the last box of date nut cookies and a sesame challah. The vegetable seller, a swarthy Sephardi, maintains a high testosterone environment and lots of photographs of ancient rabbis. Until you’ve tasted Israeli tomatoes and cucumbers, you simply do not know what the flavor should be.

Sundries and dairy products are purchased in the makolet, a small neighborhood market. This proprietor, Moshe, I saw more often than most of my friends. I cried with him when his mother died, and he cried with me when I had to move back to the United States. He gave me a bizarre blessing once, "Shabbat Achla!" The second word is "good" in Arabic.

Once the shopping was finished, I’d probably run into a neighbor and stop at a sidewalk cafe for a coffee. It’s not that I needed to drink anything after all the tea at Yonotan’s, but it was an excuse to sit and talk more.

Finally, I’d head home, shlepping my bags of whatever, and start chopping vegetable for salad, whipping up unbelievably rich tehina dip and boiling some soup. On Fridays, even the rock music stations help get you in the mood for Shabbat by switching their programming to shirim yafim, the beautiful songs from the early days of the state. The songs are sentimental and patriotic, and help you to slow down and appreciate Israel; that Israel actually exists.

In between preparing food, I’d set the table with a cloth only used on Shabbat and my strange but beautiful mismatched set of meat dishes. Each plate and bowl has a different Japanese pattern; but all being blue and white, they work together. I’d do any last-minute cleaning and straightening.

Once in a while, if I was very organized, I’d have the time for a tub bath, a real luxury because of water shortages, and an indulgence I permitted myself only for Shabbat. I have a special perfume, which I only use on Shabbats and holidays: Joy from France. Also, I have a special nightgown that I only wear on Shabbat, so that when I wake up, I know without a doubt what day it is.

When the guests would arrive, I’d have them leave their street shoes near the door and give them house shoes. It’s a custom I learned in Russia and Asia, which not only keeps the street filth out but puts most people at ease and makes them feel more at home.

What with the various blessings, many courses of the meal, the songs, and the Torah discussion, the Shabbat dinner usually runs at least two hours. Finally the well-fed guests waddle off and I put my feet up and began the long Shabbat rest.

What a glorious life. If you haven’t celebrated a Shabbat, give it a try. You may find, as I have, that it becomes the axis of your week.

Shabbat shalom!

Laurel Sternberg is a muralist who lives in Dana Point.