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A piece of kosher text By Ayşe Burcu Atabey April 2, 2013

Posted by usbngo in Older Posts.

Believe or not, throughout the 6 months that I have been living in Thessaloniki the biggest problem I had to face wasnot the integration in the new society or homesickness. Actually I was not able to notice that I had such a big problem – until I got tired of pasta and tuna fish that I always eat. There were even nights I found myself in a situation in which I felt like crying, even getting crazy and escaping to Turkey thinking about the food of my mother in despair. Yes, my biggest problem was the lack of that kind of completely perfect dinner with, I do not know, soup, meat…

In Turkey, for breakfast we have a menu which consists of olives, cheese, honey, marmalade, tomatoes and eggs and which is completed with a glass of tea. Let’s put it this way. In none of the European countries there is the same breakfast culture. But I have nothing to say since I can find all these stuff in Greece and put them on my breakfast table. Nevertheless, imagine yourself preparing soup, beans and rice menu upon coming home with exhaust. It is impossible to be able to do this every time. It is more impossible if your experience with the housework is not so great. It is even more impossible if you are lazy to cook. So every time it is pasta which saves your life!

When I got so sick and tired of eating pasta, I asked my Serbian colleague in the office who brings those delicious meals like beans and stuffed cabbage to work every day if she could bring lunch to me, as well. Of course she could, with pleasure! But the problem did not disappear this way. I, who did not spend a day without eating steak or chicken, turned into a big vegetarian because of halal meat issue. I would not eat the meat of any animal which was not cut in the name of the Creator. You can never understand how depressed I was because of this!

Since my roommate is Greek and she knows Thessaloniki very well, I asked her to find me halal meat. She, as well, knew how I was longing for real food and how miserable I was. She was going to find me what I asked for. But in Thessaloniki there is not a big Muslim community, how come we could find halal meat? Eventually, I decided to take action, indeed it was what I had had to do in the beginning. I searched about the standards of the kosher food and the restaurants of the Jewish, who are quite a lot in Thessaloniki. The standards of the halal and the kosher meat were almost the same. And there were two kosher restaurants which got their certificates from the rabbi in Thessaloniki. I said “hayde, pame” (let’s go) to the Jewish restaurant!

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Together with my roommate Christina, we were talking to the receptionist of the hotel where the kosher restaurant was, thinking how strange maybe we seemed to him. Yes, there was kosher food that evening, but probably she did not understand what exactly we wanted and that was why she did that most strange thing I have experienced in my life and called the rabbi to the reception to talk to us! The rabbi was a very nice person in his middle ages with a haji appearance. Most probably he was an alien like me and did not know Greek like me. He welcomed us in a very friendly way. I told him I am a Muslim, I could not eat meat here, but as I understood the standard of the kosher meat of the Jewish is almost the same as of ours so I could eat kosher meat. The rabbi confirmed me and invited us to the restaurant upstairs.

In the restaurant there was just a group of Hebrews as guests apart from us. Christina was saying to me she was experiencing something strange that she would never forget in her life and always tell everyone, looking at my face. I was feeling the same. Thessaloniki, this hotel, the rabbi, the Hebrews and that kosher meat… A unique dinner… Upon learning there was not kosher food every time in the hotel but they were serving it because there were Hebrew tourists, I said “yes, the Creator is with me!” The dishes were coming one by one. Within our chat, we ate the warm vegetable soup with great pleasure. It was so delicious as if my mother cooked it. After came our salad, just of my taste, with tomatoes, pepper, lettuce and onions. During the period I have been here as oppose to what I do in Turkey, I had not eaten one single plate of salad with onions.

Our chat was deepening and while I was having the best time of my life eating my kosher meat, I was telling Christina the beautiful story of the beautiful prophet Joseph, from the veil to the palace. Christina asked me why this story is important for Muslims. I explained her that all the prophets are important for us as, all of them were sent by the same Creator. When we were eating our apple desserts with cinnamon, the rabbi came to us to ask if we liked the food and to say goodbye to us. That evening kosher dinner, the following day synagogue and then Ayşe and Christina are Jewish I was joking…

While leaving the hotel I was thinking that I should come here frequently and organize an intercultural event there with the volunteers of the NGO, United Societies of Balkans, where I am a volunteer, as well, at the present time. Salamaleykum!

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