Chong: Restaurant promotes peace, conversation over cultural dish

Prompted by recent, intense violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a restaurant owner in Israel has offered a 50 percent discount to Israelis and Palestinians who dine together.

Israeli Hummus Bar owner Kobi Tzafrir expressed the idea that by offering this deal, he can help tensions between Jews and Arabs—if only a little. While only 10 tables have actually received this discount since Tzafrir first advertised it, the tiny restaurant has been thrown into the spotlight.

Hummus is a chickpea paste that is very popular throughout the Middle East and beyond, with Israeli and Palestinian restaurants competing to make the best kind. According to hummus researcher and journalist Shooky Galili, a well-known hummus restaurant can draw Israelis into a Palestinian neighborhood where they would usually not venture. While Tzafrir’s hummus deal is a very small step forward in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is a step forward nonetheless.

Judging by the intensity of conflict between Israel and Palestine, common ground between the two nations is hard to find. Hummus, however, is one similarity—albeit a small one. “If you eat good hummus, you will feel the love from the person who made it,” Tzafrir said. “You don’t want to stab him.”

Food uniting people of different cultures is not unheard of and is definitely not out of the question for peacekeeping attempts. Food is a representation of one’s culture. Hopefully, the classic dish can make some Israelis and Palestinians realize that they—despite all else—may not be as different as they think.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for decades, with incremental progress constantly undermined by violent flare-ups. In dealing with two countries with such a long history of violence, it is hard to find a middle ground in negotiations.

According to Al Jazeera, the violence between Israel and Palestine has killed 8 Israelis and 56 Palestinians since the beginning of October. Because of the sense of imminent danger that both Israelis and Palestinians face, restaurant-goers are more fearful of traveling far from home.

The mainstream media has been accused of broadcasting the violence between Israel and Palestine incorrectly by falsely framing stories and offering little context. There have been complaints from both sides of the conflict regarding the way that they are portrayed in the media. Tzafrir also addressed this issue, saying that the news only shows extremists. By offering his discounts, he brings to attention that fact that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are good people.

In Tzafrir’s viral Facebook post, he states that in his restaurant, “There are no Arabs, but also no Jews. We have human beings!” Tzafrir humanizes the two ethnicities in hopes that others will realize and share his view that we are all people.

Israel and Palestine are two nations with different cultures, beliefs, histories and religions. Despite this, Tzafrir’s small gesture speaks volumes in the hopes to show these countries that these differences are not a reason for bloodshed.