BLTs and pork chops are not the first things that come to mind when you think about Israel. But, as it turns out, the Holy Land and swines go way back. In today’s episode, we go down a piggish path to encounter this most unlikely of Israeli animals.
Not once, but twice, does the Bible admonish us to abstain from eating the flesh of the pig. And though there are many other animals we are commanded to avoid, the pig has—over the centuries—become the quintessential symbol of all that is unkosher, impure, and morally reprehensible. But was that always the case? In an episode that starts in prehistoric times and ends in the 21st century, we explore the place of all kinds of porcines—from piggy banks to pork sausages and from wild boars to Iron Age bones—in Israeli society.
In the prologue, “Of Their Flesh You Shall Not Eat,” Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen introduces host Mishy Harman to a celebrity piglet, whose discovery—in an eighth-century BCE home in Jerusalem—challenges the entire tale we have been telling ourselves for centuries. Could it be that people living right next to Solomon’s Temple, at the time of Isaiah and Amos, ate pork?
Act I: “Breaking the Pig.” All little Davie wanted was a Bart Simpson doll. But instead, his father bought him a porcelain pig. Etgar Keret‘s most widely read short story is about that pig, Margolis, and about true friendship. The short story has entered the Israeli Ministry of Education’s official curriculum, so basically every single Israeli teenager has not only read it, but indeed been quizzed about it. Luckily for you, all you have to do is listen to Juliana Mazzola read it. Or Matias composed and performed the original music in this piece.
Act II: “A ‘Zionist’ Pig.” Producer Yoshi Fields has spent the greater part of the last year thinking about pigs. He doesn’t eat them (he’s more of a fish-and-the-very-occasional-chicken-breast kind of vegetarian), but he went up and down the country tracing the history of pork in the Holy Land. He learned how, over the decades, pigs have symbolized wildly different things to different Israelis: from a promise of a new and pragmatic Zionism to a threat to our national identity; from an emblem of religious liberty to a prime example of menacing assimilation; from a secular badge of honor to a struggle between socialism and capitalism.
Act III: “Where the Wild Things Are.” When Marie Röder was 8 years old, she survived a terrifying encounter with a wild boar in the depths of Berlin’s dark Tegeler Forst. The frightening experience stayed with her, and—for the next 20 years—boars have regularly appeared in her nightmares. So during the COVID-19 pandemic, as wild boars took over the streets of Haifa, she decided to confront her demons in a DIY form of exposure therapy.
Zev Levi and Yochai Maital scored and sound-designed the episode with music from Blue Dot Sessions. Sela Waisblum created the mix. Thanks to our dubbers, David Harman, Asaf Bar Yossef, Ksenia Miliutinskaia, and Boaz Dekel, and to Zvi Lederman, Niva Ashkenazi, Michael Vivier, Alicia Vergara, Michael Friedman, Wayne Hoffman, Esther Werdiger, Yuval Cherlow, Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Matan Abrahams, Anne Silber, Haim Oron, Roee Gilron, Sheila Lambert, Erica Frederick, Jeff Feig, and Joy Levitt.
The end song, “Ze Lo Kaze Muzar Lifgosh Hazir Bar” (It’s Not So Strange to Meet a Wild Boar), was written and performed by Rock City Haifa.
Listen to the episode here, or download it from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.
- Israel StoryGoing, Going, GoneIn our season finale, we tell four short stories of things that, like our current season, are coming to an end—from a toddler parting with a ‘special friend’ to a couple seeing their life’s work go up in flames, and from a stubborn holdout in a dying industry to an unusually long marriage January 19, 2022
- Israel StorySbarro—20 Years LaterOn Aug. 9, 2001, 22-year-old Izz al-Din al-Masri blew himself up at a Sbarro branch in Jerusalem, killing 15 Israelis and injuring over 130. This particular attack is still etched in the collective memory. This week, we visit those most affected by the tragedy. December 31, 2021
- Israel StoryShatnezIn Israel, there are many things that usually don’t—and according to some, never should—mix: Jerusalemites and the beach, Tel Avivans and the Kotel, HaPoel and Macabbi fans, ‘Haaretz’ and ‘Yisrael HaYom’ readers. But our episode today explores the most complicated and fundamental duo in terms of mixing and not mixing: Jews and Arabs.December 17, 2021
- Israel StoryMoon ShotThe most inspiring, audacious, and famous example of Israeli ‘do-it-yourself’ ingenuity in recent history December 6, 2021
- Israel StoryLost and Found—Part IIIn an episode that explores a central religious taboo and pushes the boundaries of what many might deem acceptable within Jewish tradition, we ask whether Cat Stevens was onto something when he sang that ‘the first cut is the deepest’November 15, 2021
- Israel StoryLost and Found—Part IForgotten glasses, a misplaced eye (!), and an ancient Jacuzzi? In today’s episode, the first in a two-part series on losing and finding, we explore what we find when we lose things, and what we lose once we find them. November 8, 2021
- Israel StorySoul FoodWhile we won’t be sampling fried okra, collard greens, or macaroni and cheese, our 70th episode introduces us to two women for whom soul and food are completely intertwined October 25, 2021
- Israel StoryPigging OutBLTs and pork chops are not the first things that come to mind when you think about Israel. But, as it turns out, the Holy Land and swines go way back. In today’s episode, we go down a piggish path to encounter this most unlikely of Israeli animals. October 11, 2021
- Israel StoryNo Place Like HomeSukkot is, really, the holiday of temporary homes. And in our episode today we hear two very different stories: the first about one of Israel’s most popular children’s books and the second about a South Sudanese asylum seeker. But both of them are, deep down, about the same thing—making a home. September 27, 2021
- Israel StoryA Day at the YWhat many of us missed most during the pandemic was a sense of community. So, for our season opener, we went to a place that is all about community to find out what it feels like—and sounds like—when a diverse community tries to regroup.September 6, 2021
- Israel StoryGame ChangerWith the fate of the Tokyo Olympic Games still up in the air, our season finale tells the story of a dream to introduce a sport to a nation, and a nation to a sport. But it is a dream made up of as much pain and disappointment as it is joy and triumph.February 2, 2021
- Israel StoryThe Stories We KilledLike everything in life, stories die. And, more often than not, we are the killers. Today, a behind-the-scenes peek into some of the stories you didn’t get to hear this year. January 29, 2021
- Israel StoryTell Saki—Part II We conclude our two-part Tell Saki story by returning to the soldiers after the battle and following their respective journeys—full of pain and regret, but also full of longing and camaraderie—in the years since the Yom Kippur War January 26, 2021
- Israel StoryTell Saki—Part I Today we embark on a two-episode journey back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and specifically to one small hill—a dormant volcanic tell—in the southern Golan Heights. There, we follow a group of young IDF soldiers who, trapped in a small bunker for 36 intense hours, went to hell and back. January 5, 2021
- Israel StoryRound TripMany of us would normally be on the move around this time of year. But 2020 has been everything but normal. So today, we bring you two less-than-normal travel stories about people going back home—but doing so having gained a new understanding of the place from which they come. December 29, 2020
- Israel StoryThe PrincessMost Israelis remember the 2005 disengagement from Gaza as a dramatic moment of national upheaval. But for Hodaya Azulay of the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, the drama was of a different nature altogether—it marked a traumatic turning point in her relationship with her favorite mare, Sheleg.December 1, 2020
- Israel StoryHorsing AroundCowgirls with oversize belt buckles and horse breeders fantasizing about producing world champions are not exactly what come to mind when you think of Israel. But today we take you into arenas, rings, and stables around the country to uncover a surprising subculture of equine enthusiasts.November 17, 2020
- Israel StoryThe Last LaughForty years after Carl Sagan’s ‘Golden Records’ began their long voyage into the depths of outer space, Eyal Gever—an Israeli high-tech-wunderkind-turned-conceptual-artist—received an unusual call: NASA asked him to create the first artwork to be printed in space. What, he now had to decide, truly captured the essence of humanity? October 27, 2020