Kaak Bilsacar - the lucky chain for Libyan and Tunisian Jews. Illustration: Nadav Yahel
Kaak Bilsacar - the lucky chain for Libyan and Tunisian Jews. Illustration: Nadav Yahel

Kaak Bilsacar

The lucky, and delicious, chain of Libyan Jews

Anyone who comes to a synagogue of Libyan expatriates on the eve of Shavuot, may find children wearing special necklaces around their necks – a string of large cookies, seasoned with rose water in a variety of shapes: hamsas, ladders, eye glasses, and even birds. Sometimes an eggshell is also threaded onto the boys’ necklace, one decorated with embroidery threads. Edna Stern from the Libyan Jewish Heritage Center says: “Kaak Bilsacar – the kaak of Libyan and Tunisian Jews – symbolizes the stories of the Torah. Since Shavuot is the holiday celebrating Moses descending with the tablets, the bird symbolizes the dove that Noah sent after the flood, the ladder symbolizes Jacob’s ladder, the eye glasses are for reading the Torah, and sometimes they also prepare kaak in the shape of different letters.”

Different families attribute different meanings to the different shapes and even add their own. “We make hamsa cookies against the evil eye, key cookies as a symbol for sustenance and fish cookies as a symbol for fertility,” says Aliza Tamm, a cook and recipe creator from Tripoli. “The Tunisian expatriates also make kaak bilsacar, but only the Tripolitan expatriates make a string out of them that the children wear when they go to the synagogue. I asked a lot of expatriates and no one knows the origin of the custom, but in my opinion they did it so that the children would have something to do and they would not be in the way of the adults during prayers.”

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