A sip of Jerusalem

BY Dan Magazine   DATE 22/05/2017

A tour in the footsteps of Jerusalem’s traditional beverages has a lot to teach us about their connection with the place and its geography. Come and taste Sus juice.

Sus juice

Sus juice

It is always fascinating to take a tour of Jerusalem, but not many of us get to sit in a traditional café at the heart of the Old City, with that old-times atmosphere, and listen to legends about the virtues of various beverages while sipping strong, Turkish coffee and playing backgammon.

This special experience is part of a tour initiated by the Tower of David Museum that traces Jerusalem’s traditional beverages in their local and geographical context. If you like – another way of getting to know the glass half-full.

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The warm Mediterranean climate contributed to the development of many traditional drinks throughout history. In Jerusalem, these were special beverages such as the Tamarindi, Shkedim (almond juice), Haruvim (Carob juice) and Sus (liquorice juice), each with its unique history and virtues.

Jerusalem’s traditional drinks can teach us a lot about the local community. People have always been wise to utilize the available raw materials for home and industrial production of food and beverages.

Through the local, traditional beverages we can get to know the land’s produce and the taste preferences of its inhabitants. Edna Asis, content developer at the Tower of David Museum, explains that “a significant part of our identity is manifested through food, beverages and the customs that accompany their production and consumption.

Today we look back in nostalgia on the traditional cafés that are disappearing, together with the traditional drinks. Food is attached to memories of the past. Today we are experiencing a digital revolution which is shaking the foundations of our existence, and as a reaction, people want to return to their grandparents’ food.”

Some of the traditional beverages cannot be found today, partly because industrial beverages have taken their place. However, some traditional foods and beverages have survived the dramatic changes brought about by technological revolutions in the food and beverages industry.

To your health!

Many virtues are attributed to the thirst-quenching carbo juice: it is excellent for digestion and may help in cases of cough and for the treatment of the respiratory system. Almond juice is thick and sweet, rich in calcium and vitamins and smells wonderfully.

The exotic sweet and sour Tamarhindi which came to Jerusalem from India through Egypt is used in many spice mixtures, and effectively treats inflammations and disturbances to the digestive system.

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One of Jerusalem’s most popular drinks is the Sus, made up of liquorice (a perennial that can be found in Jewish texts as early as the third century). In Jerusalem’s jargon it is called Bamblik. Liquorice has been used extensively for the preparation of foods, beverages, medicine and even Tabaco.

The local population used the plant’s root for the manufacturing of chewing gum, as a supplement for Tabaco, for the preparation of candy, as well as to spice up alcoholic beverages like the Arak.

The plant was also useful for various medicinal purposes: as an antipyretic, for the treatment of kidney, stomach and liver problems, as well as cough and throat pain. Today we can still find licorice sticks in the city’s markets, in the Old City, as well as in Machane Yehuda and in Ramle.

Of the plant’s many uses, the Sus beverages was very wide spread. Its taste is very sweet – in fact so sweet, that any drink you will have next will seem very sweet as well. After drinking Sus, a lingering sense of moisture remains in the throat.

The Arabs in Jerusalem drink Sus at the time of the Ramadan fast, in order to ease the sense of thirst. At the Shechem Gate you can still find the Sus merchant in his traditional outfit, carrying a copper jar from which he skillfully pours the Sus.

As part of the City Drinkers series which deals with Jerusalem’s unique beverages throughout history, the tour begins in the Tower of David Museum and passes through the Old City’s authentic food stands, shops and cafés. Other tours in the series follow Jerusalem’s wine industry, visit the old-time cafés where the budding state leaders would confer, and offer a tasty visit to the Herzl, Shapiro and Busters beer breweries.

The Tower of David Museum holds various tours for individuals, groups and on special order, for more information visit www.tod.org.il or call 02-6265333.

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Written by  Dan Magazine