We were Jews in Egypt…and Iraq, and…

In my grandmother’s time, making what we Iraqis call silan (see-lan), a syrup, made from dates, was a daylong labor of love. She cooked and stirred and squeezed the dates dry in cheesecloth for hours. I watched how the brown juice turned into thick syrup, silan! Iraqi dates deliver the thickest syrup. The mixture in the pot glistened. “It’s not ready till you see that shine,” she taught me. When you mix finely ground walnuts with the silan (usually at around a 4:1 ratio of silan to nuts) to thicken the texture into a “mortar,” you have Iraqi haroset. And now, this once laborious process has been dramatically changed by imported silan, found in any good Arab and Middle Eastern grocery store.

Rachel Wahba is a writer, psychotherapist, and co-founder of Olivia Travel/Companies. An Iraqi -Egyptian Jew, born in India, she grew up in Japan. 

The many dimensions of 

displacement and exile are a constant theme in her work as a writer, therapist, and in her activism as a Mizrahi Jew who grew up stateless. 

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© Copyright 2015 Rachel Wahba Writer, Speaker, Psychotherapist