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Learning How to be a good Hostess at the Spur of the Moment.

Updated on July 19, 2013

Aeschylus said

"What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?"

Entering a tight knit Community

In all of the preceding hubs, I have either written recipes or shared a glimpse into our life in Israel. In my very first hub on this subject, From the Suburbs of Chicago to a Farm in Israel, I mention how warm and gracious the Israeli people are. In this hub, I'd like to expound on that sentiment. The first time I visited Israel was on my honeymoon. How crazy that it was also the first time that I met my husband's family. They were unable to be at our wedding so several of them were waiting excitedly at the airport. They brought me back to their home where the rest of the family was gathered to welcome their son back and to meet me. We were ushered into a room and seved tea and cookies. There was a big production of passing out the cups (I mean glasses) of tea and many comments on the cookies. Of course, I understood not a word of what they were saying. Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed. No worries! This was nothing compared to the next few days. I think I was held up to scrutiny by at least 10 different families that first day and countless more in the days that ensued. I sure did a lot of smiling! Then came the true test.....

Saturday afternoon Stroll in the Village

My husband's family lives in a village that is comprised of Jews from various areas. One commanality they had was reverence for the sabbath. Religious Jewish families do not travel on the sabbath, They go to the synagogue, share their meals with family and friends, pray, reflect, visit and relax. My first shabbat (sabbath) in Israel was spent at Miriam's house. After a delicious meal, my husband took me for a walk. He told me that that there were a few families that he wanted me to meet. Along we went. As we strolled, we met others doing the same thing. Parents, children, friends, all strolling, some munching on garanim (sunflower seeds) along the way. I would soon learn that these are a "staple" to any Israeli gathering. What a beautiful December day it was. Brisk and sunny! A welcome break from a cold Chicago winter!

Traditional "tea" in an Israeli Village

So we walked, my "husband and I" (I couldn't get enough of that phrase!) and we talked. He warned me about this neighbor and that one. He pointed out houses and people. He told me their stories. He introduced me, I shook hands, accepted kisses and returned warm embraces! I didn't really understand the words but I did understand the sentiment. They were genuinely happy to make my acquaintance and excited to show me their homes. When we got to the first home, we were ushered in with much ado and fanfare worthy of a king. We were served a pretty, light yellow tea along with a plate full of cookies. The tea was interesting and the cookies yummy. Yossi warned me not to eat too much. This was only our first stop! Boy, was he right. At each stop we would explain that we weren't hungry, that we had just come from visiting others but Israeli hopitality would not allow them to just sit and talk. There had to be food and drink. Tables were laden with cookies, cakes, bowls of fruit and nuts. Not only were things on the table but every now and then, someone would get up and pass them around. Often one of the women would take an apple or orange and a knife. They would peel, slice and pass each person a piece. This all done while regaling us with stories of my husband's youth!

A pictorial story of My First day visiting homes on an Israeli Village

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My first stop...a nice cup of tea.The next stop held a tasty selection of cakes.The tables seemed to get more and more laden with cakes and goodies.By our final stop, I began to feel myself floating like a guest at the Mad Hatter's Underwater Tea Party!
My first stop...a nice cup of tea.
My first stop...a nice cup of tea. | Source
The next stop held a tasty selection of cakes.
The next stop held a tasty selection of cakes. | Source
The tables seemed to get more and more laden with cakes and goodies.
The tables seemed to get more and more laden with cakes and goodies. | Source
By our final stop, I began to feel myself floating like a guest at the Mad Hatter's Underwater Tea Party!
By our final stop, I began to feel myself floating like a guest at the Mad Hatter's Underwater Tea Party! | Source

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said

"Hospitality sitting with gladness"

A traditional tea pot
A traditional tea pot | Source
Fresh fruit is good for almost any guest and takes almost no preparation.
Fresh fruit is good for almost any guest and takes almost no preparation. | Source
Nuts and dried fruits are always tasty and welcomed. They can keep for quite ahile.
Nuts and dried fruits are always tasty and welcomed. They can keep for quite ahile. | Source

Thomas Bailey Aldrich said:

"When friends are at your hearthside met, Sweet courtesy has done it's most if you have made each guest forget That he himself is not the host."


Sampling Israeli Hospitality

Needless to say, I about floated home that first day, both literally and figuratively! Literally because I probably drank about a gallon of tea and figuratively because of all the warm fuzzies I received that day. I was euphoric. I was made to feel special and so very welcome. I am here to tell you that it was a feeling that never ended. I was in Israel that visit for 2 weeks. I did not return again until 9 years later when I moved to the village. The very same hopitality I had encountered as a visitor was extended once again to me. Any time of day was a good time to visit, gossip or just say "hey". It was never too early or too late for a cup of coffee or tea. You never had to call ahead or wait for an invitation. There was a warm welcome for everyone, along with something tasty. Conversely, I had to learn to be prepared for unexpected company. There was always an extra cake in the freezer and plenty of coffee and tea. It was different from what I was used to and took me a bit of time to acclimate. I remeber feeling like I was in summer camp or a college dorm. There was always someone to talk to, visit with and share a meal or a snack. There were impromptu barbeques, picnics and campfires. Friendships were forged and bonded. Memories were created. In all my years (and there's been a lot of them!) I have never felt the warmth, love and kindness from neighbors, friends, co workers and strangers that I did in Israel! And I will always be grateful that they took a young woman from Chicago who didn't speak ther language, understand all their customs and ways, and they accepted her...welcomed her... taught her...and made her their own!

Good Foods to keep on hand for unexpected guests

Pantry
Refrigerator
Freezer
Assorted nuts
Assorted cheeses
ice cream cake
Dried fruits
refrigerator cookies
cheese cake
Crackers
ready to bake crescent rolls
ready to bake bread/rolls
fresh fruit
fresh fruit/vegetables
frozen fruit
tea/coffee/beverages
dip/sour cream
whipped topping

Easy things you can have ready when you are hostessing.

Being a good hostess means more than just having the right food. It also means having the right atmosphere and activities for your guests, as well. It is a good idea to ensure thay you won't have to spend too much time on serving and preparing. A good hostess should be able to sit down and enjoy his/her own event with his/her guests.

I recommend prering as much ahead of time as possible. unless you are having a dinner party, keep you refreshments simple and plentiful.

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    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Ah, thank you my friend, Colin! You are alwaus too sweet. I am also on my second cup of coffee, a little chilly here in Az and rain (gasp!) is expected this weekend! Yes, a reality TV show...but, hmmm, who will we rival? HoneyBB or The Kardashians? All is quiet here with kids and 4 cats, all asleep! 6:50 am, Az mountain time!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      ...well Randi I do know one thing - you are a perfect Hub hostess and I thank you for taking the time to explain and share with us your cultural roots and family heritage -I often think with your writing you could present a really interesting reality tv show - sending you warm wishes from a cold lake with no snow yet - it's been all rain although right now with 2nd cup of coffee I am watching the sun rise over the lake with Japanese koto and flute music with two well fed pussycats

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thanks so much for visiting Nell!And such very different behavior from my fellow Americans! It wa very hard when I came back here! I had different expectations, the least of which, a warm welcome! I'm prety sure I would like the gypsy community!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      It sounds absolutely wonderful! in fact its a bit like when I married into the Gypsy community, loads of food, welcomes, food again, curtains, welcomes, makeup, tea sets, welcomes and well, welcomes! haha! lovely hub, nell

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Suzie, thank you so much for reading and your warm comments! I have found so many kindred spirits here on hubpages and our similar experiences definitely fit that bill. Middle eastern countries are interesting as in the public sees them as terrorists and war strewn. Sadly, much of that is true but what people don't see on the news, is the day to day life. The warm, generous people who are your neighbors and your friends! hmmm?...another hub, here?

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi btrbell,

      What a wonderful emotive piece. Ypor feelings of total unconditional acceptance within a different culture I relate sooo much to. It brought back amazing memories of such a similar experience I had in Turkey many times. Your experience sounds fantastic and it is wonderful when even with a language barrier, the sentiment and acceptance you got was genuine. It could have been my story in many ways so thank you for igniting those incredible memories of human kindness. VU, across and shared!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Eddy, thank you so much for your, always encouraging and heartfelt words! I somehow missed these comments ands do apologise for a less than hasty reply! Take care!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub and thank you for sharing.

      Take care my friend and have a wonderful day.

      Eddy.

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      So happy to see you here, rgmg50. Israel is a pretty amazing place! Glad you got to experience it!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Ah, Cris, long time no see! So happy fir your visit. I know what you mean. This series has made me very homesick for my "adopted" family. It almost feels like when you press really hard on a sore tooth! Yes, we are much to busy and "polite" to be impulsive and "drop" by a friend's house or share and impromptu meal as some of us used to do. One of the hardest things about moving back here was giving that up! Thank you for your beautiful....you can drop by anytime! xoxo

    • profile image

      rgmg50 4 years ago

      I was blessed to visit Israel in October 2008. Your hub has made me 'homesick' for Israel and the food. Thanks for sharing.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Lovely write about lovely people and the food galore and drinks! How wonderful it is to experience such culture- it reminds me so much of the Asian hospitality. Now, you just made me miss them. :( Here, in our busy world up north, we have to buzz our own family and friends first before we could see them for a drink or something. And, to me it feels like like calling my doctor for an appointment. Lol! Reality sucks sometimes, eh?

      Voted up and you are beautiful btrbell!

      Love always from the sky~

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Yes, Leslie! I see that you see how my mind works! Food and men! Would that neither one would ever have the negative effects on me that they often do! Thank you so much for your always encouraging comments and your share!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you, Carol! Yes my ex-husband was born and raised in that village. It was a beautiful place to live and if I wasn't divorced, I would have stayed there!

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Acarter, thank you so much for stopping by and your warm comments! I agree completely. I think that there were many times. I had to apologize for my countries insanity! Thanks so much for the votes!

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 4 years ago

      Of COURSE there had to be food and drink - they're jews, for christ sake! LOL..

      and if you don't eat? You must be ill?

      omg...this was the best yet, Randi - made me feel so warm and fuzzy all over!

      love how your 'husbands'(i like the sound of it too) family accepted you as their own without question or hesitation - it's a truly beautiful thing..

      Thank you for sharing this heart-warming story, my friend!

      sharing it forward!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      How lovely when people lovingly reach out to you. Of course there was a lot of food. Many people associate food with love. I assume you were married when you moved to the village, and that you enjoyed your time there. A lot different than where we live. Always enjoy your recounts of life and culture.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      This is a beautiful story btrbell I really loved it...thank you for sharing it with us...it really left me feeling that I wish we westerners were as hospitable and welcoming as this...voted up,awesome & shared...cheers

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Chris, thank you so much. You may or may not know that Israelis in genral are considered very tough, course and lack tact. These traits can be very fitting but it is only the exterior. That is why they are called Sabras (a cactus indigeneous to the middle east) because they are prickly on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside! thank you for reading and your compliments!

      Randi

    • btrbell profile image
      Author

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Richard, YOU are always welcome, if you don't mind tripping over a few cats or kids! And there is always tea or coffee in this house (hot chocolate, too!) Thank you for stopping by!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      That is beautiful. Their hospitality is an example for us. I am glad you were inspired to write this. I really think we all have much more to put onto paper than we give ourselves credit for. Nicely done. Thank you.

      Chris

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Sound like a great way to get fat! lol Seriously, the relationships seem so open and wanted, unlike many here that are commonly felt to be more of a bother. It's habit that we say, "Stop by any time. Just give us a call first to make sure we're home." What we're really saying is either "Give us a chance to prepare something", or "Give us a chance to make an excuse." I felt as though I was welcome in this hub. Got any tea? : )