When it comes to the High Holidays, festive meals aren't complete without turban-shaped challahs, pomegranates and apples and honey. As a dinner guest, supportive family member and friend, you may be on the lookout for thoughtful gifts. Turns out, in Israel, Rosh Hashanah is a traditional time to exchange presents.
To simplify your shopping, here are creative buys and unique ways to enhance your holidays. With plenty of options for online and phone purchases, you'll also save precious time for the more spiritual preparations of the holidays. What's more, your shopping for gifts is dual purpose if you also like the idea of supporting the Israeli economy.
Create a soulful environment in preparation for the Days of Awe with awesome Jewish melodies. If you don't yet know the inspiring music of Yosef Karduner, listen in at www.breslov.com/music. Groove with Israeli folk, rock and other favorites at www.NMC-Music.co.il, including the "Best of David Broza," "Chava Alberstein: The Early Years" boxed set, and much more. Although the NMC site doesn't always translate well into English, particularly with pricing icons, the site's offerings are extensive and delivered worldwide.
Sometimes the best gift is a nongift. Bring justice to the world while supporting Web sites for terror victims in honor or memory of your loved ones. Reliable organizations include www.OneFamilyFund.org, and www.Natal.org.il/eng/eindex.aspx. Send a care package to a terror victim at www.JewishUniverse.net/fly_cake/index.htm, (877) 359-2225.
Support the volunteers who provide emergency on-site first aid, rescue, recovery and identification of terror attack victims to ensure proper burial at www.Zaka.org.il. Help Israel's hungry at www.YadEliezer.org. And at www.OneIsraelFund.org, provide humanitarian assistance to Jews living in the territories and those displaced by the Gaza pullout.
If a contribution to the table is in order, and you haven't yet sampled sweets from Max Brenner, the self-described bald man, your tastebuds will delight in these gourmet kosher chocolates. Nuts are classic caramelized pecans smothered in rich milk chocolate. Chicao are bittersweet or milk-chocolate discs dotted with roasted cocoa bean pieces. There are many other choices, as well.
Prices range from $4.25 for a single chocolate tablet; $6.25 for hot chocolate mixes in white, milk, dark and dark blended, with orchid oil or orange peel oil; and $7.25 for milk-chocolate hazelnut pralines, dark chocolate cognac truffles and other specialties.
Unique Max Brenner serving utensils, including a hot chocolate cup that features a tea light heating element in its base, are also available. www.chocosphere.com, (877) 992-4626.
To bring the taste of Israel to your dinner table, www.IsraeliWishes.com offers a variety of Yad Mordechai Israeli honey starting at $1.79, plus shipping, for 30 grams of natural honey, (888) 901-4269. At www.Judaism.com, (800) 583-2476, you will find contemporary-style handmade glass plates adorned with Hebrew blessings and pomegranates, symbols of fertility traditionally included in the Rosh Hashanah meal, by Andreas Meyer of Nahariya Studios of Israel ($50). Or go classic and serve up the amber-colored nectar in a dome-shaped sterling plate made in Israel.
Enjoy a Wissotsky Tea Gift Box ($20) after dinner. And develop your shofar-blowing skills with your own shofar ($25 and up) at www.JudaicaGiftStore.com.
If you prefer a more modernist look to your gifts, www.AnatMayer.com offers a variety of unique honey dishes and spoons for $55 and up. Her hand-painted creations are sold along with holiday challah covers, wine trivets and other gifts.
For yourself or the love of your life, Israeli jewelry designer Michal Negrin celebrates the "pleasure of being a woman" with elaborate Victorian and art nouveau-inspired jewelry. Packed with crystals, vintage-looking elements and plenty of whimsical details, pieces are available in both classic and outrageous color combinations. Although her work is viewable at her namesake site, www.Michal-Negrin.co.il, it is not sold there. For orders, visit www.mavrikjewelry.com or call (877) 885-1828. Mavrik also offers other intricate earrings, necklaces and other pieces incorporating beading, crystals and unique designs by fellow Israeli designer Ayala Bar.
After Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, decorate a friend's sukkah with stunning Israeli posters, postcards, silk screens and fine art prints with kabbalistic themes direct from Tzfat. Peruse David Friedman's online portfolio at www.Kosmic-Kabbalah.com and Avraham Loewenthal's Tzaft Gallery of Mystical Art at www.KabbalahArt.com. Both offer intriguing designs, overseas shipping and payment by credit card.
Prepare your loved ones for the fun of the intermediate days of Sukkot Chol HaMoed with excellent Israeli film releases on DVD. The Sukkot-inspired "Ushpizin" turns this traditional term for sukkah guests into a laugh-out-loud look inside the traditionally closed world of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Available in Hebrew with English subtitles, this best-selling DVD is currently on sale for $13 through Oct. 3 at www.israel-catalog.com.
Another winning title, "Walk on Water," puts a feel-good twist on an Israeli spy thriller layered with both the shadows of the Holocaust and the demands of life during the intifada.
For a vast listing of more online shopping opportunities, visit www.ShopinIsrael.com, which offers everything from fine foods to art work. Artist Shraga Landesman, for instance, showcases his pomegranate-themed "Ner Tamid," a beautiful adornment for any High Holiday table.