Regan Weiss is the Distribution Associate at Jerusalem U, which creates and distributes innovative and stimulating feature films and film-based educational programs with the goal of making young Jews feel proud of being Jewish and emotionally connected to Israel.
To most in the United States, hummus is just a trendy superfood, a delicious condiment, something to dip your veggies in. But in Israel, hummus is the main dish that encapsulates every group of Israeli society. Do you like it thick or creamy, lemony or garlicky, musabaha or ful (fava beans)? Do you eat it with a pita, by the spoonful, or perhaps with an onion? Jewish, Palestinian, Christian, or Muslim, every Israeli has an opinion on what and who makes the best hummus.
In their feature documentary Hummus: The Movie, Jerusalem U and documentarian Oren Rosenfeld explore the diversity of Israel through three of the country’s best hummus-makers.
There is Suheila Al Hindi, the only Muslim woman in the Acre Arab market to own her own restaurant. Her dedication to her family’s business earned her the Golden Pita Award for Israel’s best hummus.
Then we have Christian Arab Jalil Dabit from Ramle. Jalil seeks to continue the legacy of his family’s long standing hummusia (hummus restaurant) while searching for ways to innovate and make it his own mark.
Lastly, there is Eliyahu Shmueli, a Hasidic Jew who seems to discover hummus-making through chance (or perhaps divine intervention). His devotion to support his family leads him to grow an empire of highly successful hummusias across Israel.
These three characters couldn’t be more different, and yet they are painters of the same picture that is the perfect hummus.
Filmmaker Oren Rosenfeld puts it best:
“When you’re hungry, all differences melt away and you just think, ‘I want to get my hands on a good bowl of hummus.’ Religion and conflict aren’t important. Food has the power to do that, to connect people, and once you’ve eaten, then you can talk.”
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t conflict in hummus. The film was inspired by the aptly named “hummus wars” – a back-and-forth competition between Lebanese and Israeli hummus-makers for the Guiness World Record for “The World’s Largest Serving of Hummus.” Although a Lebanese hummus-maker currently holds the record at a huge 23,042 lb (10,451 kg), in 2009 Israelis decided to challenge Lebanon’s 2 ton record. (And they were successful until the Lebanese reclaimed the title in 2010.) How did they do it? By coming together in Abu Gosh, an Arab town just outside of Jerusalem famous for its delicious hummus. As Rosenfeld observes, “They come from different backgrounds – Christian, Muslim, Jewish. The one thing that unites them, aside from their love of hummus, is the fact that they all live in Israel.” It is truly amazing that such a seemingly simple food is actually quite a complicated science, and that a complicated place like Israel can be simplified by the single food, hummus.
No matter how you prefer your hummus, don’t miss Jerusalem U, The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and JNF’s Hummus: The Movie Screening for Israel’s 70th, on April 24th. Tickets available for purchase here.
This is just one of many cool events celebrating Israel’s 70th birthday next week. Check out the rest of the lineup at gobejewish.com!