Israeli bakery inspires pampering, progress

By Sagi Melamed

Something about walking into a high-quality bakery is special. The aroma of baking. The stacks of breads and pastries. But more than that is the special energy of the customers. The look in their eyes as they lick their lips. Anticipation thrills their senses. The challenge of choosing just the right delicacy from an array that delights the senses. 

The conscience wrestles with desires. A nuclear Iran. Elections 2015. Senior police officers under investigation for sexual harassment.  Rocket-high housing prices. Trouble over our northern border. Increasing Jew-hatred around the world. 

So many vexations try the souls of the Israeli population. So Israelis are certainly entitled to visit a good bakery once in a while, to pamper themselves with tastes and smells.

Such were my thoughts as I entered the Eva and Batya bakery on Moshav Tzippori, which neighbors Hoshaya.

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Full disclosure: I have a particular weakness for bakeries. In 1990, I fulfilled my childhood dream when I worked as a baker in the Harvest Bakery in New Haven, Connecticut. Something about baking is primordial and creative. Mixing flour, yeast, water, salt, sugar and other ingredients, hand-kneading them and creating fragrant hot bread. When I travel, I find myself sniffing out special bakeries. I remember Paris more for its patisseries than its museums.

Betsy and I first visited this special little bakery one Friday morning about two years ago, a few days after hearing rumors of its opening. Behind the counter stood a young woman, Ma’ayan, who told me her childhood dream had been to be a cake and bread baker. After her army service, she started studying toward an academic degree, but she quickly decided that dreams should be fulfilled and switched to learning the art of patisserie.

Ma’ayan named her bakery after her two grandmothers. In the Israeli melting pot tradition, she combined Grandma Batya’s fragrances of the Kurdish kitchen with Grandma Eva’s refined European touch to create a unique style, tasty and aromatic, based on locally grown products.

Two years on, Eva and Batya employs seven women, two of them with special needs. The bakery on Tzippori and a store in Ramat Yishai are small and intimate, but the shelves are laden with  breads made of rye, organic spelt, whole wheat, beets and more. A little refrigerated section is full of homemade cakes: pear, strawberry, cheese, chocolate, poppy seed. On the counter is an eye-catching array of pastries, rolls, homemade granola and fancy cookies.

A Chinese proverb suggests that someone with only two coins should buy two things: bread, to live; and a flower, to have something to live for. Bread from Eva and Batya satisfies both requirements.

Starting a new business in Israel is not easy. It takes vision, determination, hard work, location, good products, and more. Ma’ayan’s success in achieving her childhood dream and establishing a successful business in the Lower Galilee is therefore encouraging.

Bakeries played a key role in the development of the Zionist enterprise in the Land of Israel. The annals of kibbutzim are replete with stories of hardworking kibbutznikim rising at dawn to a slice of bread hot from the oven, spread with oil and salt. This fresh-baked bread represented a little pampering for the country’s founders and builders.

Like bakeries, Israel has come a long way since then, for good and for ill. But one thing remains the same: All Israelis are entitled, every so often, to go into a good bakery and pamper themselves a little.

Sagi Melamed lives with his family in the community of Hoshaya in the Galilee.  He serves as vice president of external affairs at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, and as chief instructor of the Hoshaya Karate Club. Melamed received his master’s degree from Harvard University in Middle Eastern studies with a specialty in conflict resolution.  His book “Son of My Land” was published in 2013.  Contact him at [email protected]