Can Food Bridge the Israeli-Palestinian Divide?
There's no shortage of news from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the latest confirms that Palestinians are having trouble selling their products in Israeli markets. While we're not here to come down on either side of the fight, a recent crop of news from the region makes us wonder: Could food bridge the divide between the warring states?
Some say that Tel Aviv restaurants are riding on a new foodie trend: "gourmet" Palestinian dishes. While Naama Shefi writes in the Jewish Daily Forward that it's not unusual for Israelis to travel to get their fill of hummus and other Mediterannean eats, restaurants in town have begun to serve traditional Palestinian dishes like shish barak (Arab ravioli) and knafeh (a doughy, goat cheese dessert).
While some may take offense at these dishes, the chefs see it as respectful to the Palestinian cuisine. Said Maoz Alonim of The Basta, a restaurant in Tel Aviv, "There is tremendous Palestinian influence in our kitchen... It’s important to show respect to the culture this food came from. I don’t separate my political views from my cooking." One reason Shefi mentions for the growing popularity of Palestinian food in Israeli kitchens: the liberal atmosphere in Tel Aviv, where it's OK to be pro-Palestine.
However, it's not a total peace offering at the table. Recently, a new documentary called Falafel Road, premiered that followed two young artists' investigation into well, the falafel. After visiting 20 different falafel restaurants throughout London in 2010, Israeli artist Oreet Ashery and Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour documented each meal and asked the question: Did the Israelis steal the falafel from Palestinians? Said Sanour to Al Jazeera, "It was never about establishing falafel's origins. This project is very much about a foreign culture coming in and colonizng the culture of the Arabs."