How hummus became a peace offering in Israel

A restaurant north of Tel Aviv is offering 50 percent off hummus plates for mixed parties of Arabs and Jews, cooking up a bite of harmony in times of crisis. 

PRNewsFoto/Boar's Head Brand/PR Newsire
Boar's Head, one of the nation's leading providers of premium delicatessen products, introduces new Boar's Head Hummus in four varieties: Traditional, Roasted Red Pepper, Roasted Pine Nut and Roasted Chipotle Pepper.

Amid mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, there is a glimmer of harmony: a bowl of hummus.

Last week, a restaurant called Hummus Bar in a village about 25 miles north of Tel Aviv introduced a special discount, offering a half off deal for mixed parties of Arab and Jewish diners.

"Afraid of Arabs? Afraid of Jews? We do not have Arabs! With us there are no Arabs, but also no Jews. With us there are people!" Hummus Bar’s manager, Kobi Tzafrir, wrote on the restaurant's Facebook page in Hebrew, “And genuine excellent Arabic hummus! And Jewish, excellent praiseworthy falafel with free refill on every hummus, whether you’re Arabs, Jews, Christians, or Indians.”

It goes on to explain the terms of the offer: “Special bargain: 50% discount on hummus to a table where Arabs and Jews sit together.”

The post has garnered more than 5,000 likes and hundreds of comments praising Tzafrir’s small gesture toward peace.

The customer response, he told NBC News, was fast and astounding. By Monday, less than a week since the post went up on Oct. 13, Arab and Jewish mixed tables have become a trend, including groups of cops as well as emergency responders.

Because Hummus Bar’s kitchen is both kosher and halal, the Times of Israel reports, observant Jews and Muslims should have no religious objections to dining at the restaurant.

Hummus, a dip made from mashed garbanzo beans, is ubiquitous in the Middle East and is enjoyed by Arabs, Jews, and pretty much everyone else in the world who has ever tasted it.

Hummus Bar’s discount comes at a time of increasing violence in the region. In the past month, nearly 50 people have died in the fighting, most of them Palestinians. In many cases, the fatalities followed knife attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, which prompted Israeli troops to respond with gunfire.

The intensifying conflicts prompted a last-minute visit from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who urged both sides to be proactive about preventing further violence.

"No society should have to live in fear. No society can afford to see its youth suffer in hopelessness," he said, according to a UN statement. “This conflict has gone on for far too long. We must, for the future of our children, turn back from this dangerous abyss."

For Tzafrir, it’s precisely these past weeks of near-daily attacks that led to his congenial offer.

"I always had Arab clients and Arab workers that are very nice and when the last round of violence started I felt very uncomfortable," Tzafrir told NBC. "The situation is absurd and I thought that I can bring a smile to people's faces."

Tzafrir told the Times of Israel that both Israelis and Palestinians have supported the Hummus Bar’s facilitation of these little moments of peace. The idea, he says, was to push back against the rising bilateral extremism. And what could be a better offering than hummus?

“If there’s anything that can bring together these peoples, it’s hummus,” he said.

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