Plant Strong and Pillar of Defense

A few years ago I realized I didn’t know how to eat. I knew how to chew and swallow, but I didn’t know what to eat, how much and when. In an attempt to figure this out, I flirted with macrobiotics. Whole grains seaweed and cooked veggies became my staples until my gastro-intestinal system told me and everyone within a half kilometer who had a nose to smell and ears to hear that my macrobiotic menu was endangering the environment.

To heal I consulted a food guru in Tel Aviv who told me my insides were fermented. He also told me I have Type O blood. “You’re a hunter,” he said in his French accent, sipping Espresso. He read my eyeballs, diagnosed my tongue and fingered my pulse, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. According to his diagnosis, I had been a killer of animals in a past life and therefore twice a week I should eat meat, specifically steak, specifically filet mignon. Along with the steaks, he prescribed thirty tiny white homeopathic pills a day. He told me exactly what to eat and drink and when. This was what I sought: Food Rules, including how many times to chew (60) before swallowing.

Six months later when my cholesterol leaped off the chart, the guru looked surprised. I understood then the guru did not deserve his title and decided to drop the menu, the pills and try to eat a balanced diet.

This worked for some time, though I recall Passover of 2011 as a particularly unbalanced period, when I ate fried matza with maple syrup every day.

Everything changed last year at this time. On Nov. 15, 2011 the kitchen sink backed up and David underwent triple by-pass heart surgery. I immediately saw the connection: What coagulated in the pipe under the sink mirrored the goop stuck in David’s arteries. Both were clogged with oily muck.

While David was still in Intensive Care after the operation, I started reading blogs and books about heart disease. I started with Wendy Solganik’s blog at  because she’s related to my brother and continued reading because it’s a great blog. That led me to Dr. Caldwell B. Esselsytn’s  Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (“The book behind Bill Clinton’s life-changing plant-based diet.”) and The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, MD (“The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted.”)

While David learned to breathe and walk again at Hadassah Hospital, I rid the house of all processed foods. I was angry and showed no mercy for ketchup, syrup or soup powder. Though I did not pour out my olive oil (especially not into the sink), I did vow not to use it as food. I controlled my anger long enough as any mature Type O hunter would so that, rather than throw my organic eggs into the wadi below the house, I merely set them gently into the trash can. I made room in the fridge for fresh green leafy chard and spinach and allowed myself the luxury of the most expensive apples. Price was not an issue since I was not buying meat fish cheese eggs or any science project that marketing people call food.

Since last November I have tried to become what is called “plant-strong”, eating only, well, plants, you know, things that grow in the earth, things that have neither a mother nor eyes.

It may seem sacrilegious to write about food when Israel is bombing Gaza and Gaza is bombing Israel. Boys will be boys, as we’ve seen over the past forty-five years in Israel. So be it. I am sure there is no lack of opinionated pundits commenting on the cloudy operation. For me this week is the anniversary of David’s survival from open-heart surgery and that of our campaign into healthy eating and I will be damned if “Pillar of Defense” will make me feel guilty for discussing our routine, that idyllic routine (shigra) that all the radio announcers say we should return to even if the sirens go off a few times a day. This is the same routine that contributes to our resilience—as in hosen leumi, that enviable national resilience that gives us strength to survive war after war. Let’s hear it for Routine and Resilience. Let’s hear it for oatmeal and millet. Salt is out; lemon juice and spices are in. Bread is rye;  drink is water. I have cleared the clutter, not only from my desk, but also from my plate. I feel good, look good enough and all my numbers fall within the parenthesis on the blood tests.

Eating well is about living well, feeling totally present vibrant creative and clear. Sometimes I can even remember what happened last week. Eating well means I can throw out my statins and acetylsalicylic acids, trust the earth and green veggies, rather than pharmaceutical companies.

I do not impose my ways on others, other than David. In fact, I am only too happy to eat out a few times a month and cheat on this new regime, if manners demand. David is one healthy dude now. No more clogged arteries. No more processed eggplant salad or processed humus while watching TV. He lost weight; he exercises. He eats white meat of chicken and turkey, but in moderation and not at home.

The house finally smells good and we are both looking forward to another healthy year of oats beans broccoli rice. And we don’t intend to let any Fajr-5 missiles ruin our fun.

About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
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9 Responses to Plant Strong and Pillar of Defense

  1. If we, collectively, focused on thriving, as I gather from your post that you are, our caring for what we eat could support us as your lifestyle change is supporting you and David. Care for the foods we eat can expand to care for all that we consume–thoughts, propaganda, etc. May this be a healthy year for all of us and our neighbors.


  2. Rena Yechieli says:


    Yes! Wonderful!

    You describe a coming into awareness of what we eat and its connection to who we are as best as anyone, and I’d like to add just two quotes:

    “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” (Michael Pollan)

    (Emphasis on the first two words! Eat FOOD, not “edible food-like substances.”)

    and, closer to my heart:

    “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” (Leo Tolstoy)

    Health and peace to all beings,



  3. estherhecht says:

    There is something ghastly about the name of the current “operation,” which in Hebrew is “pillar of cloud.” That biblical term suggests that God is leading us (and, of course, is on our side). But it’s men (or as you call them, boys) who make wars. I would like to think that God has better, more constructive things to do with his/her time.
    Your energy is well directed toward keeping those you love alive and well. I hope this is a recipe for success.


    • Esther, Any thoughts about why it’s called Pillar of Cloud in Hebrew and Pillar of Defense in English??


      • estherhecht says:

        To confuse the enemy.
        Seriously, because “Pillar of Cloud” makes absolutely no sense in English (not that it does in Hebrew either). And to tell the world that we are defending ourselves. That’s also why our army is called the Israel Defense Forces. We are always on the defensive, never on the offensive.


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