Why do Palestinians mix Hebrew with Arabic
Israelis and Palestinians run restaurants : Love goes through the stomach - and hate?
This one, says Oz Ben David, putting the plate on the table in his hand - this is who we are. Next to him is his friend and business partner Jalil Dabit. Both with black beards, dark eyes and slightly gray hair. Ben David, 36, is Israeli. Dabit, 34, is a Palestinian. In front of them is the plate with hummus and tomato sauce. This, says Dabit, tells the story of the Middle East.
The history of the Middle East is first and foremost a story of two peoples. A pretty bloody one, but that's not what it should be about for once. Because what works in Berlin is what has been unthinkable in the Middle East for almost 70 years - peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis. Dabit and Ben David have identified one of the key ingredients of this success: the chickpea.
It's a warm Saturday in May, Ben David has just opened the doors of his Kanaan restaurant on Kopenhagener Strasse in Prenzlauer Berg, and the first guests are already arriving. In the kitchen, the staff is still hurrying back and forth, somewhat unorganized. All of them are young, all of them talk confused. Syrians, Palestinians, Swedes, Russians and Israelis work in Canaan and speak a mishmash of English, Hebrew and Arabic. Oz Ben David calls out some instructions over the counter. The traditional lime lemonade in a large plastic tank is already scheduled. The Arabs and Israelis who come here are all looking for the same thing: the taste of hummus, of home. Ben David swears that even a woman in a burqa had lunch served by him, the Jew, on the small terrace of the Canaan.
The family has been in the chickpea business for 400 years
And that while Israel has been experiencing what some are already calling a third intifada, a violent uprising by the Palestinians, for six months now. More than 30 Israelis have been killed since then, mostly with knife wounds. Security forces killed more than 200 Palestinians, most of them assassins.
The conflict seems distant when Jalil Dabit looks over the shoulder of his staff, who are touching the hummus. Dabit makes sure that everyone follows his recipe exactly. Jalil Dabit's family has allegedly been in the chickpea business for over 400 years. One of his ancestors is said to have already prepared hummus for the Ottoman army. What is certain is that his grandfather had a restaurant, his father anyway. It is called "Samirs" and is still operated by Dabit in Ramla, Israel. But the story goes back much further. Chickpeas were cultivated in Asia Minor as early as 8,000 years ago in the Stone Age, and people in ancient Troy probably also lived on them. And many Muslims believe that Sultan Saladin not only freed Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the 12th century, but also came up with the idea of mashing chickpeas with a little sesame paste and olive oil to a pulp.
For several decades, however, hummus has been at least as controversial as the two-state solution. If you want to understand the tragic absurdity of the Middle East conflict, it might be best to start by understanding the dispute over hummus. Because what is more political than food? Eating can mean home - or foreigners. Affiliation or demarcation. A familiar smell involuntarily provokes memories, beautiful or painful. A dish is worth a thousand words.
The record is ten tons of hummus
In any case, hummus is a national dish for Arabs and Israelis alike. In addition to the Israelis, the Palestinians, Lebanese, Egyptians and anyone else in the region claim not only to have invented hummus, but also to know the only right way to prepare it. The quarrel between Israel and Lebanon, where many Palestinian refugees live, is the bitterest.
In 2009, chefs in Lebanon prepared two tons of hummus for an entry in the Guinness Book. In the following year Israel retaliated, the cooks borrowed a satellite dish from a television station and filled it with four tons of hummus. At the moment the Lebanese are back in front: ten tons. That would have been clarified - but there has not yet been an argument about taste.
They made short work of it in Canaan. "Best Hummus in Town" is written on a sign in front of the entrance. Difficult to prove or disprove, every better kebab shop sells some. "I didn't bring the hummus to Berlin," says Jalil Dabit, "I brought the hummus to Berlin."
It was always his dream, says Dabit, to expand the family business. Then his girlfriend went to Berlin to do her doctorate. While strolling through Neukölln and after trying a number of snacks, Dabit decided that this city was just what he was missing. Someone who prepares hummus the way it would be prepared in Israel or Palestine, and not the way German city dwellers believe that it should taste good.
The market is there, and for years more and more Israelis have been drawn to Berlin. The embassy does not know exactly how many, assuming around 15,000, because many have a second passport and do not appear in the statistics. Palestinians are even more difficult to count because they have no state. One thing is certain: there are many.
Dabit's partner, Oz Ben David, recognized this early on. He came to Berlin as a marketing expert, his job was to make it easier for people like Dabit to enter the European market. An acquaintance brought the two together and they are now friends.
Is he afraid that one day he will have a knife in his back?
"We are proof that it works," says Ben David. "With us it doesn't matter where you come from, with us it matters what story you have to tell."
Not everyone likes the story of the two of them, the Israeli and the Palestinian, who run a restaurant together. Jalil Dabit had to hear that that was typical again: the Arab in the kitchen, the Jew at the cash register. People also shook their heads about Ben David. How could he work with someone like that? Isn't he afraid of having a knife in his back one day?
No, he didn't, and Dabit isn't often in the kitchen anymore either. He gave the staff precise instructions, and if a new dish is to be on the menu, he has to approve it. A waiter brings the latest creation. Watermelon with mint leaves and feta cheese. “Quite good,” says Dabit. He rocks his head thoughtfully. "Some will like it, others not at all," he says. It is very special. Then he nods. Special is good, special is allowed on the card.
Dabit and Ben David have carried the story of their partnership onto the menu. They are proud of a dish that has allegedly been torn from their hands since they invented it. From guests from different countries.
The exact recipe for international understanding is secret, of course. Just this much: the hummus is prepared in the style of Dabit's family. The shakshuka, a traditional Jewish dish made of poached eggs in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions, was contributed by Ben David's grandmother. They combined both and christened the new dish Hummschuka. “We believe that when you bring two strange things together, something stronger, better becomes of them,” says Oz Ben David.
Eating as a statement is also available elsewhere
“There is a story behind every dish, every recipe stands for something,” says Dabit. But the fact that they mix up traditional dishes here is not only symbolic, but also a sales strategy. For example the Malawach, traditional Yemeni puff pastry-like bread that is usually served with a boiled egg and vegetables. There is also cheese and tomato sauce here. The Italians like it, it reminds them of pizza. But there is also beetroot and sheep cheese, something for guests from the Balkans. For the cautious and conservative Germans, says Ben David, they have also come up with something: “Potato pancakes with hummus! So they have something familiar and learn something new at the same time. "
Yes, do they sometimes talk about politics? - "No," says Dabit. “Never,” says Ben David. What they do stand for themselves.
There is also food as a statement elsewhere. In Pittsburgh, the eatery "Conflict Kitchen" made fame. There dishes are served from countries with which the USA is in dispute. One of their first menus consisted of Palestinian hummus and shawarma. Currently on the map: Chorescht-e fesendschan. Chicken with pomegranate is what people eat in Iran. And a snack in Kfar Vitkin, Israel, offers a 50 percent discount. Assuming a Palestinian and an Israeli share a menu and sit together at the same table.
Noa Provizor is committed to peace - with fashion
The fact that this discount campaign made it into the news around the world says a lot about a country where every friendly gesture between Israelis and Palestinians is considered a rarity. It's different in Berlin and Noa Durum Provizor thinks he knows why. The 32-year-old Israeli eats more often in Canaan, but unlike the operators she is very political. She was a peace activist and refused to do military service, which is also mandatory for women in Israel. “Berlin opens your mind,” says Provizor. In Israel there is always this latent danger, the omnipresent military. “You just have to look around, the city is so diverse. Here I had room for new thoughts for the first time. "
One idea was to design backpacks from the material of the keffiyeh, the “Palituch”. "When Israelis see this pattern, they think they're about to get a rock on their head," says Provizor with a mild smile. “I wanted to remove the keffiyeh from the militant context.” Next to her is one of these rucksacks, sewn in a factory in Hebron, West Bank.
Hebron, of all people. The city 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem stands like no other place for the hatred that divides Jews and Palestinians, a hatred that is older than the State of Israel. In 1929 there was a massacre there in which 67 Jews were killed. They had lived there with their neighbors for centuries. One rumor was enough and the killing began. Long before the illegal settlement, long before the first Intifada.
In Canaan they therefore refer to a tradition that goes back even further. “Canaan,” says Jalil Dabit, “existed before Palestine and Israel.” The name refers to the promised land that God promised Abraham. And Abraham as the tribal father accept representatives of all three book religions - Christians, Jews and Muslims - equally.
The death strip used to be near the restaurant
Oz Ben David wipes the last of the hummus off the plate with a piece of pita bread. “You are not afraid of what you know, what you have in common,” he says. They run their restaurant in a hut, a remnant of the GDR with a lot of concrete charm and wood paneling. They left the graffiti on the walls, but at least dumped some sand into the courtyard - a little bit of Tel Aviv. “We don't want to just overwrite the history of this place. Just add our elements so that something new can emerge, ”says Ben David.
The rattle of an ICE drowns it out. The railway line is below the terrace. An S-Bahn passes by every five minutes. The death strip ran here 25 years ago. Five people were shot on the then disused stretch between Schönhauser Allee and Gesundbrunnen when they tried to flee to the west. Three people died not far away when they threw themselves off a train at Bornholmer Strasse because the route to the border was the shortest there.
At first, Ben David didn't know what happened here. But he likes the idea that in such a place he is now bringing people from all parts of the world together. The reinforced concrete wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian Territories is twice as high in many places as the Berlin Wall used to be. It's easy to forget in Canaan.
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