It’s odd being here in Jerusalem in the run-up to Christmas, since Christmas is just a regular working day here.
Everywhere else I’ve ever lived in the world, Christmas was always a pretty big deal. Here in the Jewish state, it’s non-existent.
So I’m feeling a little out of step with mainstream society here. But I guess that’s how Jews always felt everywhere I’ve ever lived, now that I reflect on it.
Anyway, this week is Hanukkah, which several Israelis have told me is the “fun” Jewish holiday, the holiday all about the kids, pretty much.
How can it not be fun, when it’s mostly about sparkly lights everywhere, all kinds of family activities and some of the most fantastical deep-fried jelly-filled donuts you could possibly ingest.
“Just think, this is the only country in the world where there are Hanukkah decorations up everywhere,” said one American-Israeli friend as we drove through downtown Jerusalem, whose streets are festooned with Hanukkah lights and menorahs. “There’s no place else like it.”
She’s got a point there.
I read that the bakery and coffee shop chain Roladin has the best – and the most varied selection – of Hanukkah donuts, called “ sufganiyot” in Hebrew.
Enough reason to go, right?
Ohmigosh. I have never seen such a selection of donuts in my life. There were the crème brulee ones, the tiramisu ones, the pistachio ones, the cheesecake ones, the drown-yourself-in-chocolate ones.
Roladin’s store window in Mamilla Mall looked like a donut painting. Passersby stopped and snapped photos of the display – before going in and buying a bunch.
Had to see what all the fuss was about. So, I first opted for a tiramisu one, mostly because it comes with a plastic squirter on top filled with tiramisu-flavored cream that you inject into the already cream-filled donut. Never seen anything like it.
And then, well, had to try the crème brûlée one too, because, well, who’s ever tasted a crème brûlée donut?
“Do you like Hanukkah?” I asked the young Israeli girl who waited on me at Roladin.
“Love it,” she replied. “So much fun.”
“But I have to really be careful,” she said, pointing to the display.
“Can you imagine how fat you could get eating all those donuts?”
Daniela Deane, a former Washington Post reporter, is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem.