Israel

From Seattle to Hebron: The Story of an Amazing Life

Telling the life story of Rabbi Dov Cohen, To Rise Above begins in Seattle, WA in the early 1900’s and via train and ship takes readers to pre-state Palestine. As a young boy Dov lived in the idyllic (and rare) circumstances of a wealthy Orthodox Jewish family in Seattle. Fully dedicated to observance of Jewish law, the family was also able to take part fully in local life due to their financial success and broadmindedness.

But all was not well in paradise. Dov’s brother went off to NY to study in yeshiva and came back unmotivated and uninterested in continuing his Torah education. His observance level was not one of a young man excited about being an Orthodox Jew. Dov’s mother realized that the US offered nothing like the Torah education she wished for her sons. She then took the dramatic step of traveling with 13 year old Dov across the world to seek out a place in Palestine that would provide the education she wanted for Dov.

And this is when the journey through the history and Jewish life of pre-state Israel begins. It wasn’t easy to find a yeshiva for Dov. After false starts in Tel Aviv, Dov ends up learning in the Jewish holy city of Hevron (Hebron) at the Slabodka Yeshiva. Dov’s mother returns to the US and they meet again only after 10 years.

The Slabodka Yeshiva, Hevron 1920’s

Slabodka was a flagship of the mussar movement dedicated to living at the highest standards of Jewish ethical behavior. It is fascinating to read about the experiences of a young American Jew living within the Jewish community of Hevron and pre-independence Israel of the 1920’s. Daily life is described showing the intensity of the yeshiva students and their everyday idealism as well as the difficulty of being a teenager so far from his family. The author doesn’t whitewash over various tensions which exist within the yeshiva. Readers will be hardpressed to find other books in English which offer such detailed insight into this flourishing Jewish community.

Images from the Hevron Massacre, 1929

In painful detail, Dov describes the experiences of living through the Hevron massacre of 1929.  The violent rioting by Arabs and murder of over 60 Jews could easily have been stopped by British police on the scene. Dov describes the incredible scenes of suffering as the British authorities do nothing to stop the Arab pogrom. This is a must read for anyone interested in Hevron and the events of 1929.

Dov relocates with his yeshiva (post-riot referred to as the Hevron Yeshiva) to Jerusalem in the wake of the riots. The dislocation and confusion Dov experiences would today be quickly labeled as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The book eventually reaches 1948 and Israeli independence.  Dov serves as the first Rabbi of the Israeli Air Force which is fascinating because although he was part of the Haredi community, he saw his work as a mission to ensure that the new institutions of the nascent Jewish state were set up taking into account Jewish tradition to whatever extent possible.

We follow Dov Cohen through the development of Israel and his life. The end of the book contains a fascinating copy of notes that he kept on a daily basis documenting his efforts at self-improvement proving that he was truly a student of Slabodka who tried to live according to the ideals of mussar until the end of his life.

This book is a must-read for those interested in the history of the Jewish community of Hevron and pre-independence Israel as well as those stirred by mussar.

 

Chanukah Inspired by the Land of Israel: Food & Spirituality

7 fruits pic

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum’s new book

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum has just published a new book called The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel (Menorah-Books). The Torah singles out seven fruits (olives, dates and much more!) which grow in Israel for special mention. These foods thus have a special status in Jewish law and tradition. and Chana Bracha has created a guide which focuses on these specific species in a big way. Yes, it is a a cookbook, but it also is filled with nutritional and spiritual information about all the fruits and recipes. Rebbetzin Siegelbaum has gathered into one book what seems to be anything that can be learned about each of these fruits. The book also includes art and photographs which make the book look and feel more like a treasury of information rather than “only” a cookbook.  Rebbetzin Siegelbaum is a super busy educator, director of a well known women’s seminary (B’erot Bat Ayin) and currently planning a speaking tour to the USA as well as preparing for family visits from Denmark so I appreciate that she made time to participate in 8 for 8 in honor of Chanukah 2014 as we meet a different cookbook author each day of the holiday.

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Galleys of the book before printing

What stands out for you about celebrating Chanukah as you grew up? Any special food memories?

I grew up in Denmark in a very assimilated home, but I do remember the Chanukah candles that we lit that stands out in my mind. We definitely didn’t have sufganiot, but we did have something like wafers that we made on a special wafer pan, they were like pancakes but they weren’t just for Chanukah. Perhaps we did have latkes with apple sauce and of course I especially liked the applesauce.

How has your Chanukah changed since you moved to Israel?

Chanukah has become much more meaningful since moving to Israel and becoming Torah observant. The belief in miracles and in how Hashem runs the world is a central part of my life now. However, the light of Chanukah in exile, in the dark Denmark was special because it was a light within a darker darkness, the darkness of assimilation. It was the light the kept the Jewish flame alive within all the darkness of the values of the Western world which are often so foreign or opposed to Jewish values.

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The author with her parents

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Author with her husband

What do you do during Chanukah to create a memorable holiday atmosphere for your family? 

I bought my husband a very special Chanukiah (menorah), which we light at the entrance of our home with real olive oil.

The olive tree, which is the first tree recorded after the destruction of the flood, is the fruit of redemption. Its foliage is evergreen and its oil lights eternally, even during exile through the holy menorah of Chanukah. The bitterness of the olive alludes to a higher realm beyond what can be revealed as sweet in this world. When Hashem created Original Light, He saw that it was too good to be revealed for the people of this world. Therefore, He hid it away for the righteous in the World to Come. We can get a glimpse of this hidden light (Ohr Haganuz) every year on Chanukah, when we light the Chanukiah, the Chanukah lamp. After the destruction of both Temples, only the Chanukah lights, representing the flames of olive oil burning in the holy Menorah, accompany us throughout our spiritual darkness and light the way to redemption.

Are you eating different foods for Chanukah now than you did in the past? What are they?

I make latkes for my family but I minimize eating them myself as fried food is not so healthy. I also make a healthier version of the latkes by baking them rather than frying. I like to include other vegetables in the latkes such as zucchini, and carrots. We also eat milk products on Chanukah to commemorate Yehudit, the heroine of the Chanukah Story who fed Holofernes the general of the king of Assyrian milk before killing him and thus causing the  victory for the Jews.

What are the top food questions people ask you about for Chanukah? For other holidays?

People ask me how to stay healthy during Chanukah and I tell them about sugarless whole-wheat sufganiot with cream of dates, and baked sweet-potato latkes. In my book I shared my recipes for such desserts.  The recipes are not typical Jewish foods recipes or holiday recipes. Rather, my style of cooking is more natural and nutritious. The desserts are sugarless and I include many salads and try to avoid fried food.

 Latkes or sufganiot?

None of the above, thank you!

chanukah2What is one dish you must eat during Chanukah no matter what?

Quinoa with olive oil and za’atar or natural sea salt! That’s one of my favorite foods during the week and on Chanukah I may splurge more on the olive oil.

Which recipe would you like to share with us for Chanukah?

I’d like to share a simple dip which is based on olive oil and is something which can be used very often. After the recipe, I’ll share an excerpt from The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel which speaks about olive oil, the Temple and Chanukah.

OLIVE OIL WITH ZA’ATAR (HYSSOP MIXTURE)

An easy dip to complement your bread and salads

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup za’atar mixture

Mix the olive oil and za’atar mixture well with a spoon and pour into

a nice glass jar, which you can keep on your dinner table, ready to

sprinkle over your whole wheat bread, grains and vegetables.

Instead of serving butter, fill a small condiment dish with extra virgin

olive oil and za’atar for use on grains, bread and potatoes, or drizzle

it over sauteed vegetables before serving.

Some thoughts on Chanukah: The Olive Oil in the Temple (excerpted from Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel)

It is interesting to note that the biblical lamp oil – the olive oil used for the Menorah in the Temple – had to be of the highest quality, even superior to today’s extra virgin olive oil. The Torah instructs the children of Israel “to bring clear olive oil beaten for light, to set up the lamp continually.” Rashi explains the word כּתִָית /katit – ‘beaten’ (used today to refer to virgin olive oil) as follows: “He pounds the olives in a mortar, but must not grind them in a mill, so that there may be no sediment.” He further explains the continued processing of olive oil: “After he has thus extracted the first drop of oil, he may bring the olives into the mill and grind them. The second oil [obtained by grinding] is unfit for use in the candelabrum but is permissible for meal offerings…” For this reason, even today, when lighting the Chanukiah, it is recommended to use the very best olive oil. Using the highest quality olive oil for the lights of Chanukah is a segulah (spiritual remedy) for begetting righteous children, as it states, “…your children [shall be] like olive plants round about your table.”Rabbanit Yamima Mizrachi further explains that although it is permissible to use any kind of oil for the Chanukah candelabra, the Chanukiah that we have today is in commemoration of the Menorah in the Temple, which used only the purest olive oil. Therefore, if we want all the spiritual remedies of the Menorah in the Temple – righteous children, good memory, wisdom, good vision, spiritual and physical health, it is important to use the very best quality olive oil for the Chanukah lights.

 

Orly Ziv – Israeli Culinary Tourism Pioneer & Author: Chanukah (Day 3 of 8 for 8!)

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We are celebrating day 3 of our effort to meet a cookbook author for each day of Chanukah with Orly Ziv of Israel. Orly offers a wonderful insight into Israel through her culinary tours and through her writing. And I really appreciate that she has agreed to join the 8 for 8 project: Eight cookbook authors for the 8 days of Chanukah! Orly  is a pioneer in Israeli culinary tourism, which is all the rage these days. She is a trained dietitian who has been using her passion for the produce and dishes of Israel and the Mediterranean to introduce tourists to Israel. Via shopping trips to the local markets and cooking classes in her kitchen, Orly has helped many to fall in love with Israel and her food. After many of her visitors had said repeatedly “you ought to write a book”, she did and Cook in Israel was born.

Orly Shuk

The Machane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem

Orly shuk hacarmel

Shuk Hacarmel in Tel Aviv

What stands out for you about celebrating Chanukah as you grew up? What about when raising a family? Any special food memories?

Lighting the candles everyday was and still is our tradition every year. I have warm memories from the Levivot (latkes) my mother used to make which I also make for my children. Recipes for my different types of Levivot are included in my cookbook. The traditional ones I make with potatoes but I also like to diversify by using grated carrots as an option to enrich the nutritional value .

How has your Chanukah changed since you became a chef and author?

Practically speaking, not really. Although every year I try new recipes but at the end of the day my family ask for my originals 🙂

What do you do during Chanukah to create a memorable holiday atmosphere for your family? 

We make time to get together every evening to light the candles and of course, to eat.

Are you eating different foods for Chanukah now than you did in the past? What are they?

I like to make the zucchini latkes recipe from my cookbook and serve them with yogurt.

What are the top questions people ask you about cooking for Chanukah? For other holidays?

My guests are often not Jewish and we talk about the significance of eating fried food as a symbol of the oil tin miracle of Chanukah. I am careful to explain that the Jewish holidays always involve special foods to symbolize the specific holiday. Non-Jewish people find it very interesting and different from their own culture.

What is one dish you must eat during Chanukah no matter what?

Levivot! (latkes)

Finally: On the  Latkes or sufganiot debate, your vote?

Latkes

What recipes can you share with us for this Chanukah?

I want to share some of my favorites. Of course, Levivot (latkes). As people outside of Israel are increasingly aware, donuts (soufganiyot) are also a big part of Chanukah in Israel, so I am going to share a recipe for those as well. And something less traditional, Zucchini Pancakes. Enjoy and Chag Urim Sameach (Happy Festival of Lights)!

Chanukah-Levivot-13-Large-257x300Hanukkah Levivot

Often called latkes, these Eastern European Jewish potato pancakes are delicious no matter the name. Fried foods are served on Hanukkah since the oil represents the miracle of one night’s worth of oil lasting for eight days during the rededication of the Second Temple.

4-5 potatoes, peeled

2 Tbs. flour or potato flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. salt (less if you want to eat them with sugar)

Ground pepper (omit if you want to eat them with sugar)

Oil, for frying

  1.                   Grate the potatoes using the coarse side of a box grater. Put in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  2.                    Put the shredded potato in a bowl and mix with the flour, eggs, salt and pepper.
  3.                     Heat the oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan (it should fully coat the bottom of the pan).
  4.                   Add batter by the tablespoonful and fry on both sides until evenly browned and crispy. Transfer to a wire rack while you finish cooking  the remaining pancakes.
  5.                    Serve immediately with sour cream or sugar.

Variation:

Add 1 grated onion, 2 grated carrots, or 1 grated sweet potato to the mixture before frying.

TIP: Keeping the hot pancakes on a wire rack instead of paper towels keeps them nice and crispy.

Serves 6

Soufganiyot

Probably the most famous Israeli Hanukkah food, soufganiyot are fried donuts. While they are commonly filled with jelly or other fillings, this recipe makes easy drop donuts. The cheese in the dough gives them a particularly wonderful texture.

Sufganyot-32 (Large)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1¼ cup self-rising flour

250 g (1 cup) soft white cheese (like ricotta)

2 eggs

2 Tbs. canola oil

¼ cup sugar

Zest of ½ lemon (optional)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Oil, for frying

Powdered sugar

Strawberry jam (optional)

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cheese, eggs, canola oil, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  1. Pour oil into a small, deep pot so it comes up about 7 cm.
  1. Using a spoon, make small balls with the dough. Working in batches, drop them into the hot oil and fry until golden. Transfer to a wire rack or a paper-towel lined plate.
  1. Top with powdered sugar and serve with strawberry jam, if you like.

Serves 6

 

Zucchini Pancakes

These zucchini pancakes are another variation on Hanukkah latkes. They taste wonderfully fresh, especially if you serve them with minted yogurt.

Zucchini-Pancakes-45 (Large)

6 zucchini

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup flour

Salt & pepper

½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ cup finely chopped fresh mint

Canola oil, for frying

 

 

 

  1. Grate the zucchini using the coarse side of a box grater. Put in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  1. Put the eggs, flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix to combine.
  1. Mix in the zucchini, parsley and mint.
  1. Heat the canola oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan (it should fully coat the bottom of the pan).
  1. Form the zucchini mixture into patties and carefully put in the hot oil. Fry on both sides until evenly browned and crispy.
  1. Serve with sour cream or yogurt mixed with chopped fresh mint.

TIP: Put a piece of carrot in the pan while frying to prevent the oil from burning.

Serves 4 to 6

 

A Hanukkah Music Video Which Has (surprise!) Great Music

Many holiday music videos are fun to watch or have a great message. But the music? Sometimes mediocre. But Shtar, a Jewish hip hop band of Yanks and Brits in Israel has solved the problem. A holiday music video with terrific music.  Full disclosure – Shtar were clients of mine for a bit – which makes this video all the more a pleasure. Also….the band members (as well as the very talented video editor and director Brian Spector are all neighbors of mine (cool, no?).

Enjoy. It is a wonderful song and video.

 

Meet Orly Ziv Creator of Cook in Israel – Our First Author Interview.

Authors are fascinating and important people. I also admit that as a publicist, I am biased. However, it is important to remember these are the people who actually have dreamed of a book and published it. I always say “Mazel Tov” to an author when they contact me. I explain that just getting the book out is worthy of being acknowledged. If authors didn’t stick to it and actually publish their books, what would the world be like? It is not a pretty thought.

I work with authors every day. They are often unsung heroes, many times well known. Some are confident of success, others quite doubtful. But they all share the success of publishing their books. Their experiences are interesting and often quite helpful to others. With that in mind I am going to offer occasional interviews here with published authors. I will usually focus on people who are or have been clients. I am confident that their reflections and experiences will be of interest to many and might just help the person writing a book right now or an author wondering how to make their book a success.

Cook in Israel

For our initial interview I am excited to introduce Orly Ziv who is a culinary tour guide from Tel Aviv, Israel. A lifelong food lover, Orly worked for many years as a clinical nutritionist before launching her company Cook in Israel in 2009 where she offers culinary tours around Israel and intimate cooking classes in her home. Orly’s first book Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration has received wonderful reviews and has been selling well in the US and Israel. A quick look at the reader reviews on Amazon and the excitement of readers is obvious. I have had the honor of being the publicist for Cook in Israel and it has been a terrific process (plus the preserved lemons recipe is amazing!).

 Orly, what made you decide to write a cookbook?

I’ve been asked several times by my guests about a cookbook of my own. I was encouraged to do it by one of my guests who is a chef from California who told me “just do it” so I did! I also wanted to leave some of my recipes as a legacy to my children.

What vision did you have in mind when you set out to write the book? Did the finished book match that?  How long did it take?

I had in mind to bring out the inspiration of the Israeli melting pot through cultures and flavors and of course my personal home cooking based on my family’s preference and my personal taste. I included all the recipes I teach in my classes that are successful and added recipes for Jewish holidays. I wanted to emphasize daily home cooking  and easy to make recipes with a short list of ingredients and very simple, easy to follow instructions. My vision is to use ingredients as everywhere else but the spices and the cooking techniques we use are different and this what makes it Israeli. My vision was also to bring the flavors of Israel to the world and to introduce Israel to more people through our food, culture and flavors.

The finished book matches exactly what I had in mind. It took 6 month to work on the book.

 What surprised you while writing the book? Is there anything you would do differently?

What surprised me is how easy it can be when you follow your vision.

 What advice do you have for someone who would like to publish a cookbook?

Make sure to have a personal touch in your book and include  added value for the readers. My added value is the simplicity of preparing the recipes and the inspiration of the flavors. For example, including a recipe for a typical Israeli salad with the addition of avocado and pomegranate seeds is an unusual combination which makes for a really nice difference.

 Now that your book is published, how have you found the experience? What is it like to see your book in stores? On Amazon?

It is exciting to see my cookbook in the stores and also to know that the book now has a life of its own. Marketing and bringing the book to the knowledge the readers is the hard work.

 What have been some of the most effective methods for promoting your book?

Reviews, Facebook and email marketing.

What are 3 food tips you can offer people for Passover?

If you like almonds there are delicious cakes you can make based on almond meal.

Look for flourless cakes instead of trying to substitute the flour in regular cakes.

I always prefer bake instead of frying.

 Can you please share a recipe  which you didn’t include in your book?

Sure! Chocolate and Almonds Cake great for Pesach (Passover). Recipe below.

 

A Personal Recipe from Orly Ziv

Chocolate and Almond Cake - Kosher for Passover. Great year round.

Chocolate and Almond Cake – Kosher for Passover. Great year round.

Chocolate & Almonds Cake

Kosher for Passover

 

Ingredients

200 gr. chocolate chopped

200 gr. butter

200 gr. ground almonds

1 cup sugar

5 eggs separated

 

 

 

 

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 1800C (3500F).
  2. Melt the chocolate with the butter.
  3. Mix gently into the melted chocolate the yolks and the almonds.
  4. Beat the whites with the sugar until a firm foam is created.
  5. Fold gently the beaten whites into the chocolate almonds mixture.
  6. Bake about 30 min until a toothpick inserted in the center comes up clean.

 

Translating Hebrew Literature to English…..What About Slang and Natalie Portman?!

Jessica Steinberg has an interesting new piece on The Times of Israel about writer and translator Assaf Gavron. He describes stepping into the lives of the characters he writes about as well the challenge of translating Hebrew into English. What does he do with idioms such as “chaval al hazman”…..is it ““a waste of time” or  “fuhgeddaboudit”? Read more here.writers-block

New Law Defends Authors in Israel

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The Knesset – Israeli Parliament, Jerusalem

Next month  a new Israeli law (Law for the Protection of Literature and Authors in Israel)  will take effect which aims to protect the income of authors. Israel is a book crazy country. And to cash in on this, the large bookstore chains have taken to offering books for sale in bundles or in “buy one get one free” deals which translate to impossibly low prices for books while hurting the royalties of authors.  In addition, the killer prices have skewed the market often ignoring quality books in favor of those that store owners see as a sure thing. Time will tell if lawmakers have been able to help Israeli authors and literature against what often seems to be the heartless industry of book selling.

Cook in Israel – If Life Gives You Lemons…..Preserve Them.

I am excited to be working on publicity for the new cookbook succinctly entitled Cook in Israel. Author Orly Ziv is a culinary tour guide in Israel. She takes people to the places that provide the best produce and food making for a different experience than most tourists have. For foodies…..this is really a great way to get to know Israel from a different angle. Orly also teaches cooking in her home in Tel Aviv. Her new book is a great way to take the flavors and colors of Israeli food home or for those abroad to experience and learn Israeli cooking at home. After looking through the book (there are 100 recipes, they all look terrific) I chose to make the preserved lemons. I buy something like this in the supermarket and have been looking for a way to make it home. I am providing some pictures here. This is not professional food photography but I think it  may get you to pucker your lips anyway. Check back here in a week or so when I open the jar and test this lemon delicacy.

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The Top 50 Hebrew Books of All Time – In Honor of Book Week (from Makor Rishon)

Mak

In honor of Israel’s Book Week, the popular Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon  published results of a reader poll of the top 50 Hebrew books of all time.  The poll was run via their weekend magazine (so hip it hurts)  Motzash  which means “Saturday night” in a slangy sort of way. The poll picked many books which, in my opinion,  quite simply had to be on the list. But, as is the case with such polls, more recent titles seem to slip through to the top.  I can’t help but think  this is a case of recent literary memory winning over books read years ago. As always, “out of sight, out of mind”.

Regardless, this is an worthwhile list and many of the titles have been translated into English. For those interested in improving their Hebrew or becoming more familiar with the cultural context of Israeli life,  try to read in Hebrew! If you are relatively fluent, keep a dictionary nearby and look up a few words here and there or use the context to help you and “lo yikre klum” as they say in Hebrew….nothing (bad) will happen!

A look at the top five:

First place is  Our Holocaust by Amir Guttfreund.   A prize winner, a mega-bestseller.  Historical fiction which offers an inside look at how the holocaust touched (touches) so much of Israeli life.

Second place is  Tale of Love & Darkness by Amos Oz. Bestseller translated into over 20 languages! Autobiographical, first published in 2002.

Third:  Adjusting Sights by Haim Sabato.  A bestselling game changer in Israeli literature as it is historical fiction/memoir written by a Rabbi. Gently weaves religious references and sources into the dramatic story of yeshiva students called up to fight in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Fourth: Uri by Esther Streit-Vertzel  (this is a classic children’s title)

Fifth:  “Guy Oni” – Valley of Strength (sounds much better in Hebrew).  It has been translated into English by The Toby Press.  Written by Shulamit Lapid (mother of Israel’s latest political star Yair Lapid), this title has become an Israeli classic telling the story of early Zionist pioneering through the journey of the young Fania. This was rare as women were often written out early Zionist history. Lapid has helped rectify this.

Focus on Book Week in Israel: No snobs. Top authors writing for children.

 

Book Week Starts in Israel.

Book week has started in Israel.  The inevitable newspaper articles are starting to appear and I’ll post what I think is interesting when & if I see it.  Jessica Steinberg writes in The Times of Israel about some of Israel’s bestselling authors who write children’s titles as well as adult literature.  As always, Jessica offers a “top 5” – this time:  the top five reasons these authors write children’s books.

The article begins:

“There’s that moment in the day, particularly for parents of small children, when the frenetic activity calms down and that small child, or sometimes more than one, cuddles up, resting head on shoulder for the bedtime story. It’s a nighttime ritual that’s repeated the world over — and, clearly, during the day as well. But it is that evening reading, the bedtime story that’s often handled by the parent returning home from work, that has impressed several generations of Israeli novelists.”

Read the full story here.