Dozens of Arab and Jewish chefs took part in A-Sham Arab Food Festival in Haifa this year, to prepare Turkish and Ottoman-inspired dishes at tens of restaurants in the city.
Salah Kordi’s lahmacun transported me to Istanbul’s Besiktas neighborhood and the restaurant below the apartment where I would buy Turkish meat pizzas to go. But while the spices and crisp flatbread were familiar, Kordi substituted ground beef with amberjackcaught off the coast of his hometown of Jaffa.
Kordi, a chef at Al-Ashi restaurant in Jaffa, was one of dozens of Arab and Jewish chefs who descended Dec. 6-7 on Haifa’s downtown for the fourth annual A-Sham Arab Food Festival. This year’s festival featured Turkish and Ottoman-inspired dishes at 32 different restaurants and venues in the revitalized area around the city’s port.
“Listen, the Ottomans were here 400 years,” Kordi told Al-Monitor. “My grandmother cooked this food: stuffed vegetables, stuffed grape leaves, shishbarak, kishek, lahma ba’ajin, kubbeh” — all traditional Palestinian dishes with influences from around the former Ottoman Empire.
Lahma ba’ajin is the Arabic cognate of the Turkish lahmacun, a flatbread topped with ground meat, herbs and spices. Kordi’s dish pays homage to the popular Turkish street food but gives it a Palestinian twist by incorporating onions and sumac and paper-thin Druze pita instead of thicker dough.
The A-Sham Arab Food Festival is part of a broader, monthlong celebration known as Holiday of Holidays held annually in Haifa in December to mark the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and Christmas (and Muslim holidays when they intersect with the solar calendar). This year’s events include concerts, performances, pop-up shops, street fairs, art exhibits, lectures, parades and of course food.
Haifa, Israel’s northern port and third-largest city, is approximately 11% Arab and is celebrated for its Jewish-Arab coexistence.
“Our dream was to use food to convey messages to people around Israel and outside Israel, and we thought that this is the basic thing that is shared between people all around the world,” Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, founder of the A-Sham Arab Food Festival, told Al-Monitor.
Atamna-Ismaeel, a microbiologist by profession, said her love affair with cooking began when she was four years old and would cook with her grandmother. She went on to become the first Arab winner of TV show “MasterChef Israel” in 2014. Later that year, she launched the A-Sham festival to bring Israeli and Arab chefs together, pairing them in the kitchen to foster Jewish-Arab coexistence. But now, she said, “It’s happening so we’re not talking about it anymore. I think we have bigger things to talk about.”
This year, the Haifa foodscape featured “the sultans’ feasts of the imperial Ottoman palaces brought to life.” Atamna-Ismaeel said the reason for shifting from Arab to Turkish cuisine is to demonstrate that while Israeli-Turkish relations may be strained, cultural ties between the peoples are steadfast.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have witnessed a downturn in the years since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which Israeli troops boarded a Turkish-flagged ship attempting to break the blockade by Israel and Egypt on the Gaza Strip. Nine activists, many of them Turks, died in the incident, and 10 Israeli soldiers were wounded. Turkey and Israel restored full diplomatic relations in 2016, but Ankara withdrew its ambassador and ordered Israel’s ambassador to leave after deadly clashes on the Israel-Gaza border in May.
“I thought it would be nice to show that we really want them to go back to normal. We want true peace,” Atamna-Ismaeel said.
In addition to the Turkish food, the festival included lectures about Ottoman cuisine, tours of Ottoman architecture in Haifa, Turkish singers, pop-up shops selling Turkish ceramics, lamps and sweets, and two visiting Turkish chefs preparing their dishes at local restaurants.
Maksut Askar of Istanbul’s Neolokal and Kemal Demirasal of Alancha in Alacati, a popular holiday resort near Izmir, brought a taste of the modern Turkish culinary scene to Haifa for the festival. Askar told Al-Monitor, “There’s no such thing as Ottoman cuisine. There’s no such thing as Turkish cuisine either, because the cuisine is all about what geography gives you.”
Askar said there were many similarities between some varieties of Turkish food and the Levantine cuisine endemic to Israel. Levantine cuisine “is not very different so far from where I am from,” said Askar, who hails from the southern Turkish city of Antakya. “It’s the same lens, it’s the same people.”
Nonetheless, he came to Israel with 36 kilograms (79 pounds) of ingredients to prepare 12 dishes with great exactitude to those found in his Istanbul restaurant. One of his signature dishes, called Hummus and Anatolian Landscapes, was made with local hummus, however.
Demirasal drew from his Aegean coastal cuisine and prepared cacik — his own twist on the Turkish variation of Greek tzatziki — with seafood orzo (similar to pilau, lamb and baklava) at Hanamal 24 restaurant in Haifa.
Askar and Demirasal told Al-Monitor that neither of them faced pressure to boycott the Israeli festival for political reasons, and were proud to attend.
“We are here to prove that people can connect each other through food. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they belong. That’s what we do,” said Askar, before serving his dishes to a fully booked Rola Levantine Kitchen in Haifa.
The University of Cape Town campus. Photo: Adrian Frith via Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Cape Town, the top-ranking academic institution in Africa, is set to consider enforcing an academic boycott against Israel later this month.
The UCT Senate, a decision-making body comprised primarily of professors and administrators, endorsed a proposal on March 15 to bar the university from entering into any formal relationship with Israeli academic institutions that operate “in the occupied Palestinian territories,” or otherwise enable “gross human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the university said in a statement.
The campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
JNS.org – Students at Brown University voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum held between Tuesday and Thursday, calling on the school to separate itself from companies that conduct business with the State of Israel.
The tally was 69 percent in favor and 31 percent against.
Members of the pro-Israel community nationally and locally condemned the outcome.
“For the sake of My servant Yaakov, Yisrael My chosen one, I call you by name, I hail you by title, though you have not known Me.” Isaiah 45:4 (The Israel Bible™)
Many have seen similarities between the Biblical King Cyrus and President Donald Trump. (Breaking Israel News)
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!
Many are claiming this was a pre-election gift to Trump’s friend, Netanyahu, but it others see a much larger significance that transcends politics and enters into the realm of the Biblical. One such belief was expressed by Breaking Israel News publisher Rabbi Tuly Weisz, who noted that the announcement came on the Jewish holiday of Purim.
“The same days on which the Yehudim enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” Esther 9:22 (The Israel Bible™)
If there was ever a quintessentially Jewish holiday, it’s Purim, when the Jewish people were threatened by Haman, a descendant of Amalek, and saved by God’s hidden hand. Even so, we find examples of people from the Nations being inspired by the story of Purim and even gathering to mark the day alongside the Jewish people.
Protesters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags shout anti-Israel slogans during a demonstration in Amsterdam June 4, 2010. Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla has set off a diplomatic furor, drawing criticism from friends and foes alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which cal. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Demonstrators carrying Palestinian flags turned their backs on a Dutch chief rabbi during his eulogy at a vigil for Muslims killed in New Zealand.
The incident Sunday happened as Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs was discussing the meaning of a minute of silence at the gathering at the Dam Square World War II memorial monument. Thousands of people, many of them Muslims, gathered at the square to commemorate the 49 people slain Friday by a far-right killer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Hamas is now accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah of exploiting the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip to call on Palestinians to overthrow the Hamas regime. Fatah, for its part, is accusing the “dark forces” of Hamas of acting on orders from outside parties to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
The US administration says it will publish its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, known as the “Deal of the Century,” after the general elections in Israel on April 9
There is a difference between an “honest broker” and a “neutral arbiter.” In advance of the rollout of its Middle East peace plan, the Trump administration has taken a series of steps to ensure its role as the honest broker. The U.S. is not “neutral” between our ally, Israel, and the Palestinians who seek to replace it. But it won’t be easy to change presumptions that are deeply embedded in the
When the FBI informs us that parents are ready to spend up to $6.5 million in bribes to get their children into prestige colleges, it seemingly implies that all is very, very well in the American university. But Warren Treadgold tells us that’s an illusion.
He’s a distinguished professor of Byzantine history at St. Louis University who has also taught at Berkeley, FIU, Hillsdale, Stanford, and UCLA. Having entered college in 1967, he draws on long experience to both indict and offer a remedy of the most thoroughly left-wing major institution in America. His book, The University We Need (Encounter, 2018) presents its case with insight and a light touch.
The threat posed by Hezbollah and Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior operative in Hezbollah, was unmasked by Israel on Wednesday.
Daqduq was responsible for the “abduction and execution of five American servicemen in Iraq in 2007,” the IDF said. The role of Hezbollah members in neighboring states is an illustration of how groups allied with Iran are continuing to build a web linking Tehran to Beirut via a “road to the sea” that transits Iraq and Syria.
According to the IDF, the role of Daqduq includes establishing terror cells in Iraq to fight the US in 2006, stints training in Lebanon in 2013-2018 and now putting down roots in Syria.
Every few weeks, some political or national figure demands a national conversation about race. (Most recently, Senator Kamala Harris insisted, “We have not had these honest discussions about race.”)
What does a conversation about race mean? Invariably, an indictment of the fundamental unfairness of our country, the historical roots of racism in white supremacy, and the national guilt of white people.
Or, to put it more simply, why Senator Kamala Harris deserves to be in the White House.
We don’t have national conversations about anti-Semitism because the problem can’t be narrowed down to an easily blamed demographic. The Democrats invariably try to blame anti-Semitism on the usual suspects, white male Republicans living more than two hundred miles from a Starbucks, but the largest toll of violent anti-Semitic attacks tend to fall on New York City’s black neighborhoods.