ISRAEL: The plate of plenty hummus -- Israel breaks Lebanon's record
A 6.5-yard satellite dish with more than 9,000 pounds of hummus, the stuff of both consensus and controversy in the Middle East.The new record beats one set only two months ago in Lebanon, which has been waging a culinary-rights war with Israel for the last two years. In the past, Lebanese industrialists have pushed for registration of falafel, tabouleh and other elements of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine as Lebanese to protect them from what they call plundering by the Israeli market.
Hummus doesn't belong to anybody, says Jawdat Ibrahim, proprietor of the Abu Gosh restaurant and the organizer of the event. He hadn't slept in two days but he was beaming, groom-like, and patiently received one media crew after the other covering the event, which turned into a sunny street-party for all, including many Jewish guests who came to celebrate with their Arab neighbors.
The village near Jerusalem is a popular domestic tourism site. On weekends, thousands of visitors stream in, heading to the many restaurants that have long become a meeting place for politicians, journalists, diplomats and any Israelis Jews who crave Arab food and a whiff of the Arab world too but no longer venture into Jerusalem's Old City.
The one thing all people in the Middle East have in common is their love of hummus, said Ibrahim, who sees his restaurant as something of a metaphor for the region. No matter what people discuss, agree or disagree on — they always do it over a plate a hummus.
And undoubtedly, the dispute in the region is serious and calls for alot of hummus. It's going to be one long discussion. Zuheir Baloul, a prominent Israeli Arab journalist invited to host the event, joked that never mind the countless mediators the region has known from Kissinger to Mitchell: it's hummus that's the real Middle East mediator.
The mayor, Salim Jaber, extended wishes for a peaceful and prosperous year "from the village of peace and coexistence to our neighbors in Lebanon and all Arab countries." Hummus is a symbol of the region's culture we are all part of, he said. Ibrahim said his next project would be to work with the Lebanese on a new joint world record.This might take a while. Until then, Ibrahim's determined to defend his title. Competition is healthy, he said.
And it is certainly a better way of competing than using violence, said Jack Brockbank, the Guinness World Record adjudicator. Given the nature of the competition, this may not be his last visit to the region: "Yes, I realize this could be an ongoing battle."
— Batsheva Sobelman, in Abu Gosh.
Photos: Satellite dishful of hummus; Jawdat Ibrahim shaking hands yet again; clip of the street party; Jack Brockbank of Guiness World Records/ Batsheva Sobelman.