Skip to content

The wind is in from Africa

2018 April 12
by Rachel Turiel

Hello Dear Ones,

I’m not entirely sure what to write about here anymore, what with my varied audience (Hello, 11-year old Iris and 80+ year old Tutu!) and having sort of said it all before. But you’re still here! And I’m deeply grateful for that.

Did you want to know about our greenhouse and cold frames? About how in April I’m remembering that eating locally is not about searching out what you most desire as if combing through shiny stones on the beach, but more like getting doused by the hide tide of spinach. It’s the vegetarian coming of Frankenstein: chard, kale, spinach, arugula swelling under spring conditions, requiring us to stay home and eat salad.


Rosie in Athens, with the Parthenon silhouetted on hill behind her. What you can’t see: cats, everywhere feral cats, who are fed and loved by the locals.

Or, did you want to hear about how we just returned from a trip to Greece and Israel with my parents? How right now I am drinking Arabic coffee (where the grounds remain in the cup extracting ever more jitters as you drink), bought from Mustafa in Haifa, who brewed his with cardamom and was wise enough to serve very small amounts.

Col lounging on an Israeli artist’s sculpture made of old military equipment in the Golan Heights where we met U.N. “military observers” from New Zealand who were keeping an eye on the border of Israel and Syria, making sure agreements were kept.

We spent a few days on the lovely Greek island, Rhodes (charmingly spelled Ρόδος in Greek and charmingly pronounced “Row-dose” by the locals), where generations of Turiels lived for at least 450 years, speaking their own language (Ladino – mix of Spanish and Hebrew), marrying distant cousins and living very good lives under the Mediterranean shade of fig trees while trying to avoid the wrath of each new wave of conquerors (Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans, Italians, and eventually the Nazis, who took every last Jew on Rhodes).

Found in the beautiful “new” synagogue, built in 1571.

Names of the Rhodes men, women and children with the last name Turiel who died in the concentration camps.

The ancient wall outside the old Jewish quarter of Rhodes, Greece.

From nearly 100-year old photos we found my father’s mother’s house on Rhodes. (We tried to find my grandfather’s house from the cryptic words he wrote after sailing from Rhodes to America in 1920: “Go to seahorse fountain, look across, above the wine seller, that was our place.” We ate dolmas, hummus, feta and enormous beans called “gigantes,” everything lubed with local olive oil. We woke up to African soil blown across the Mediterranean Sea coating our rental car. For days I sang Joni Mitchell’s lyrics “The wind is in from Africa/last night I couldn’t sleep.”

Col eating a giant shrimp still wearing it’s head, tail and numerous legs…shudder…and a plate of gigantes.

Futbol at the Roman ruins at Bet She’an National Park, Israel. Israel had a lot of brutal regime-change throughout its millennia of recorded history. 

Israel was a whirlwind of historical sites and intensity. “Jerusalem is a heavy city. Dense with God,” our tour guide said. “God is everywhere,” my dad suggested. “Maybe a little bit more God in Jerusalem,” she countered.

We were in Jerusalem on Passover and Easter Sunday, where the church bells rang (and rang and rang…) from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to have risen from his tomb. Not a quarter-mile away Jews of all types made pilgrimages to the Western (wailing) Wall (including Hasidic Jews dressed for Russian winter, and a fierce 10-year old American girl determined to lodge her message to God between the 2000+ year old stones on the “women’s side” of the wall despite getting thwarted by women so deep in their religious trance-walk towards the wall they may not have noticed they were throwing elbows like pro soccer players). And not a quarter-mile from the wall sits the Dome of the Rock, 3rd holiest of Muslim sites, where Mohammed ascended to heaven on his white-winged horse. No non-Muslim can enter, despite it being built on the ruins of the destroyed 1st and 2nd Jewish temple. Oy vey; a very heavy city.

On a lighter note (pun intended), the Dead Sea was wonderfully buoyant and festive. Beyoncé playing on the loud-speaker as people of all nations dipped in the healing waters, floating like corks. Those are the hills of Jordan across the Dead Sea.

Dan, taking advantage of the healing mud of the Dead Sea.

The Mahane Yehuda (Jewish Market) was a highlight, as was all the food in Israel. We bought za’atar and “chicken spice:” rosemary, paprika, dried citrus peels, sea salt, which we’ve already added to “backyard” chicken soup. (We also brought home dried figs, apricots, halvah, chocolate, apricot bars, coffee…)

If you make Aliyah (Any Jews of “the diaspora” moving to the homeland of Israel), these men will give you a kilo of dried figs. Otherwise, it’s 100 shekels.

There’s so much more to say about Israel. Like, how we almost got used to the young Israeli soldiers, male and female, riding the bus with semi-automatic weapons slung over their shoulders. (Though, the ultra-orthodox families with their traditional garb, gender divisions and solemn faces appeared somehow more foreign). Or, how the inside of Israeli and Arabic falafel was deliciously green with minced parsley. Or, how I don’t think I ate quite enough tahini sauce ladled over cucumber and tomato salads. Or how, my whole Jewish identity is in a bit of upheaval now, contemplating the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which no one is a winner, even as one side gains land and another side gains international sympathy. In which each side has found ways to justify murder and history has become a bendable story.

And, I’m wondering how we can hold fast to our differing heritages, stories, traditions without creating a wall of separation around ourselves or making others wrong for theirs? (This goes for the macro: Israel/Palestine and also the micro: our own families). When do our stories of victimhood cause more suffering than empowerment? I think I need a post-Israel ” Jewish heritage and non-violence” support group. You feel me?


-insert huge segue here-

Or did you maybe want to hear how I had a fancypants NYC literary agent who loved my memoir about Col’s premature birth at 25 weeks and finding fellowship in the foreign land of the Denver Ronald McDonald House where we lived for four months. He sent it to 15 big, commercial publishing houses, all of whom sent the nicest rejections, after which my agent broke up with me and now I have absolutely no idea what to do? Taking suggestions!


Or, perhaps you wanted to hear how I told Dan last night that we had two big things to celebrate. One was that when we all woke up late due to jet lag, Col whispered to me, “I’m worried that I’ll be late to school because Rosie takes so long to get ready.” He didn’t threaten, blame, judge or accuse Rose. He expressed his feelings and sought support. This day might become the new holy day in our house, commemorating the possibility of peace.

And, later, when I told Rose that she had a birthday party to go to that same afternoon, she scurried around trying to find a present for her friend and then told me, “Mama, I’m a bit annoyed that you didn’t tell me about this party until today. I really like to have time to make a card.” Again, no blame or judgment, just a clear expression of feelings and letting me know what’s important to her (time to prepare gifts). Double holy day!

What else? I’m trying to re-create all this amazing food we ate in the Mediterranean: roasted eggplant with tahini dressing, cilantro marinade, shaksuka. Recipes coming soon.

Birdwatching in style in the Galilee.



16 Responses leave one →
  1. Cecile permalink
    April 12, 2018

    I appreciate your writing tremendously, and would buy and devour every book you write.
    (I’m the 40 year old woman that bridges the gap between Iris and Tutu)

  2. Valeta permalink
    April 12, 2018

    …and I’m the 65 year old between the octogenarians who appreciate and need to read everything you write And will ask writing friends for publishing referrals. Keep on keeping on, Rachel. I already am reading all your published books with joy. Never, ever give up. Lead with self-trusting love to light the way thru any rejections…which is really the true Way. #1 fan

  3. Amber Lena permalink
    April 12, 2018

    Wow. That list of names. I’ve been considering a trip to Israel, so thank you for this. XOXOXO

  4. April 12, 2018

    How I love reading you. Yours words touch me deeply and resonate. Your sarcasm is delicious and your parenting is inspiring! Please keep sharing here!

  5. Jo Hadley permalink
    April 12, 2018

    So much in this blog, Rachel. But probably I was the most struck by the long list of deceased Turiels in Rhodes. So devastating. I had no idea about this family history of yours. That made me want to cry very hard. :(

  6. Sara permalink
    April 12, 2018

    With that opening I was afraid you were going to say you were closing down the blog. Don’t do that!

    Love all the rambling parts of this. I show up for all of it. Keep writing, please.

  7. Nancy permalink
    April 12, 2018

    Oh Rachel. I love your writing! It’s food for the soul! I always am awaiting the next “chapter”. Your trip sounds amazing and the results of your guidance for expression of feelings is impressive. I was saddened by the list of Turiels. And yet you found the father’s mother’s home. Sad and sweet together. Keep up the great writing! And Thank you!

  8. anon permalink
    April 13, 2018

    I can not even put into words how incredible your blog was to read this morning.I love how you can express so much in such incredible ways and made your trip so real. And I so understand all those feelings after being in Israel. So intense.

  9. Brenda permalink
    April 13, 2018

    What a wonderful trip you all had. I’m so glad you got to do this, what a special trip of a lifetime. I also was so sad to see the long list of Turiel’s. I love your writing also, and read everything (unless somehow it slips by), you post….keep it up! And with this horrible wind we are having….don’t get blown into the next state!

  10. Elizabeth permalink
    April 13, 2018

    So much to say about these topics… it’s wonderful that you were able to go on this trip with both your parents and your children. You must have felt the weight of that visit and that company as you went. Sometimes I think about what Europe would have looked like if the 6 million european jews had not been killed. In what ways they could have impacted european society today. If you have a chance to watch the movie “hanna arendt” from 2012, or read the book she wrote in the sixties… she’s a voice I find very helpful.

    Best from a european follower!

  11. April 14, 2018

    You may find company in Sarah Glidden’s graphic memoir “How to understand Israel in 60 days” <3

  12. M moon permalink
    April 19, 2018

    I enjoy your writing so much. Please keep going. I deeply appreciate the ongoing sometimes repetitive non-violent communication parenting posts. Don’t worry I need reminding. Give it all to me the trips, the kale, rambles. Thank you so much.

  13. sarahkeith valentine permalink
    April 27, 2018

    this is my favorite blog. your family is such an inspiration! i hope you get your book published. sending love

  14. Rachel permalink
    May 3, 2018

    I love your writing and what you share in your writing. I asked my husband for any suggestions on how to get published, he’s a writer. He suggested sending chapters or small bits of your memoir to literary magazines like glimmer train, the sun and…..shoot. One more that I forgot the name of.
    There is a lot of reading happening in this household and you truly do make an impact on me whenever I read something of yours. Your metaphors! They are always amazing, and you, like all great writers, make them seem so easy.

  15. Vic permalink
    May 3, 2018

    “so deep in their religious trance-walk toward the wall they may not have noticed…”. Love that mental image!

  16. Andrea permalink
    May 3, 2018

    Rachael – everything you write lifts me, inspires me, makes me laugh, makes me wonder and daydream. It is such a gift you share and I am so grateful!

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: