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Cookbook for Jewish holiday of Shavuot honors hostages still held captive in Gaza: 'Food is home'

In honor of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a volunteer organization founded by relatives of abductees in Gaza, has dedicated a cookbook the group produced called “Shavuot of Longing.” 

Shavuot this year takes place beginning the evening of Tuesday, June 11, 2024, and runs through Thursday, June 13, 2024. 

The introduction to “Shavuot of Longing” expresses the pain the families are enduring around yet another holiday without their loved ones. 


“Shavuot in Hebrew means ‘weeks,’ but we’ve been endlessly yearning for their return for many months now,” the group says. “How we yearn for the day when we will be able to prepare the recipes found in the book with them.”

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum was set up less than 24 hours after the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas terror attacks in southern Israel, according to the group’s website. Hamas terrorists killed over 1,200 people in the attacks — and roughly 125 of the 252 Israelis and foreigners abducted are still being held hostage in Gaza, multiple sources report.

Person with Israeli flag

During Shavuot, homes and synagogues are adorned with flowers. 

It is a holiday custom to stay up all night to study the Torah, especially the Book of Ruth, and to read the Ten Commandments in the morning. 

It’s “connected to the Shavuot holiday, to the dairy food and to the ‘family-ness’ of the holiday.” 

Lir Alter, a forum volunteer and a creator of the cookbook, said another custom on Shavuot is to eat meals prepared with dairy. 

She told Fox News Digital that’s why the cookbook contains “a lot of cheesecakes and quiche … and lasagna. [It’s] connected to the Shavuot holiday, to the dairy food and to the ‘family-ness’ of the holiday.” 

None of the recipes contain meat — and many are Middle Eastern, such as tomato and pepper soup from the Negev and Moroccan cookies.

"Savuot Of Longing" cookbook cover

Vegan-friendly dishes include salads, vegetables, fruit and tahini, plus hummus and baba ganoush.

All told, the book contains 75 recipes across 180 pages — “from the pastry they start their mornings with, to the warming winter soup, to the dessert that sweetens their hearts,” the group says.

‘Food is very meaningful’

Alter told Fox News Digital, “When you talk to the Jewish people, food is a very meaningful part of our everyday life. We gather every Friday [for Shabbat dinner], and we gather every holiday … We wanted to keep the hostages in our hearts by thinking of them in a positive way, and we feel food is a positive way to show it.” 


The cookbook begins with an optimistic quote from freed hostage Luis Har, 71, who expressed the hope of cooking with the hostages soon. 

Har, a grandfather of 10, was rescued from Gaza with his brother-in-law by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Feb. 12, 2024, after spending 129 days in captivity, according to multiple sources.

Luis Har profile

A video shows Har being warmly greeted by people at an Israeli market who are elated to see him again. One asked him, “When are you going to be making pizzas again?”

“Grandpa Luis’ Pizza” is the first recipe featured in the “Shavuot of Longing” cookbook. 

Alter told Fox News Digital that the group wanted the book to be hopeful. “As he came back, [they] are all going to come back — and we are going to have a huge party!”

The cookbook was printed at Be’eri Printers, a large printing house in Kibbutz Be’eri just three miles from Gaza. 

The cookbook was printed at Be’eri Printers, a large printing house in Kibbutz Be’eri just three miles from Gaza and known as Israel’s “Ground Zero.”


Nearly one in 10 of its over 1,000 residents were killed by Hamas terrorists, and at least 26 were kidnapped, according to multiple reports. Despite the tragedy and destruction, Be’eri Printers reopened just 10 days after Oct. 7, said Alter.

Yossi Sharabi, 53, along with his brother, Eli, 55, are Kibbutz Be’eri residents who were abducted during those attacks, according to reports. A little more than three months later, Yossi Sharabi was likely accidentally killed during an IDF air strike in Gaza.

Yossi, Eli, Sharon Sharabi

The Facebook page of The Genesis Prize, an award that celebrates Jewish achievement, shows a picture of the men’s brother, Sharon Sharabi, holding up signs of both of them.

The caption beside it says, “My brother Yossi was killed in captivity. My brother Eli, who is still captive, doesn’t even know that his wife and two daughters were murdered on Oct. 7. We have already lost four family members — we refuse to bring back a fifth coffin.”

Yossi Sharabi and Eli Sharabi are described as devoted family men in the cookbook.


Recipes for their favorite dishes, Ma’akuda, Moroccan style potato pancakes, and spicy fish balls, are featured. 

‘Food is home’

Yossi Sharabi’s wife, Nira, told Fox News Digital via text, “Food at the Sharabi household has always been and will always be a family gathering point … Food is home, and home is in the hearts of Yossi and Eli.”

Spicy fish balls

Carmel Gat, 40, an occupational therapist who was staying with her parents, was also kidnapped from Kibbutz Be’eri. 

Her cousin, Gil Dickman, told Fox News Digital how Gat’s father hid himself in the bathroom, and through a crack in the window, watched helplessly as terrorists seized his daughter, son, daughter-in-law and grandchild from their home.

Terrorists shot and killed Gat’s mother a few minutes after she was kidnapped, Dickman said.

Gat’s favorite dessert, the chocolate log, has special meaning for his family. 

Gat’s relatives who were taken have survived — and now the family is anxiously awaiting her return. Dickman said he has hope because two hostages who were released on the 50th day of the war reported that Gat was helping them do exercises to stay fit. 

“She was sort of a guardian angel for them,” Dickman told Fox News Digital. 

Gat’s favorite dessert, the chocolate log, has special meaning for his family because their grandfather used to make it for them before he died in 2018, said Dickman.

Chocolate log

He said he hopes that Gat will somehow find out that people are baking this recipe. 

“For me, that’s a way of sending her a message that we’re still fighting for her, we still remember her,” he said. 

He said that because Hamas does not allow the Red Cross to visit hostages, they do not know anything about Gat’s condition at this time. 


“We fear the worst. We fear that her life is at risk and that her soul is at risk while she’s there … The relatives of women who can get pregnant and of men who can get abused really, really cry for the release of their loved ones.” 

He added, “The world has totally forgotten about Oct. 7. We have to remind them that there are still babies, elderly people, women and men being held by a terror organization. That’s a crime against humanity that’s being committed right now, a few kilometers from us, which is unbelievable.”

‘Prepared at every holiday’

Liri Albag, 19, another female hostage, was abducted along with four other female teenage soldiers from the Nahal Oz military base, according to The Jerusalem Post (66 soldiers were killed by Hamas terrorists at the base, other reports said). 

Albag’s mother, Shira, described her daughter via text to Fox News Digital as being “full of joy, with a rolling laugh and always a smile on her face.” 

She said her daughter is sociable, self-confident and optimistic — and dreamed of studying design. 

Shlomi Ziv rose cookies

Shira said her daughter loved to celebrate the holidays and set the holiday table at home. The recipe dedicated to her is “a recipe that Grandma Nira makes sure to prepare every holiday, and Lira loves it very much.” 

Itay Shenberger, a Hostage and Missing Families Forum volunteer and a creator of “Shavuot of Longing,” said the book’s call to action is for people to choose a recipe and dedicate it to the hostages on social media to raise awareness about them. 

He said he anticipates that “during Shavuot, there will be thousands and thousands of videos all around Facebook and Instagram … recipes dedicated to the hostages.”

On June 8, in the largest hostage recovery operation since the war started, the IDF safely rescued four hostages who were being held captive in Gaza: Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Andrey Kozlov, 27, as Fox News Digital previously reported. 

The book’s call to action is for people to choose a recipe and dedicate it to the hostages on social media to raise awareness of their plight. 

Ziv had been working as security at the music festival, where the daughter of the nurse who treated him at Sheba Medical Center was killed. He studied interior design and is described in “Shavuot of Longing” as being “the most fun-loving uncle” who is devoted to his family. 

“Shavuot of Longing” includes recipes for Ziv’s favorite dessert — rose cookies — as well as the orange cake that Almog Meir Jan loves.

“Shavuot of Longing” can be purchased in the U.S., Canada, Israel, Australia and the U.K. All proceeds are donations to The Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

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