In these turbulent times, with Israel and the Palestinian territories seemingly caught up in a new wave of violence, one man has taken a stand that has drawn a lot of attention. His simple message? Come and sit together, Arabs and Jews. Enjoy a meal. Learn to understand each other.
At least 44 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed since the beginning of this month over Israeli incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque compound – Islam’s third holiest place.
Kobi Tzafrir owns and manages the Hummus Bar at the M Mall in Kfar Vitkin, Israel. Amid all the rhetoric, charges and counter-charges, he’s trying in his own small way to foster some agreement between the two sides.
On October 13, Tzafrir made an offer for people to put aside their fears and share what they have in common: the love of good food. And at every table shared by at least one Jewish person and an Arab, he’s giving a 50 percent discount.
On Facebook, he posted “Scared of Arabs? Scared of Jews? By us we don’t have Arabs! But we also don’t have Jews. By us we’ve got human beings! And real excellent Arab hummus! And great Jewish falafel! And a free refill for every serving of hummus, whether you’re Arab, Jewish, Christian, Indian, etc.”
The kitchen is kosher, and therefore halal as well, meaning the only thing stopping observant Jews and Muslims is the will to dine together on the hummus with stewed chickpeas and msabaha — warm chickpeas swimming in tahini.
His message of reconciliation has since been shared hundreds of times and received thousands of “likes”, and it’s attracting comments from all sides.
“If there’s anything that can bring together these peoples, it’s hummus,” Tzafrir says.
He told The Times of Israel that the restaurant has served several sets of Arabs and Jews at the same tables since Hummus Bar first started advertising the deal.
Tzafrir said at least three tables took up the offer of discounted hummus on Monday. But there were more mixed tables, he said, with some customers turning down the offer to pay less – instead paying the full price to support the initiative.
Even before the offer, Arab guests would come to the cafe from Palestinian towns near Kfar Vitkin.
“A lot of customers now say they have seen the post and they tell me they’ve come to support the idea. Some Arabs come with Jewish friends, some Jewish families come alone. They’re all saying good things.”
In the Facebook post, Tzafrir said the offer would be valid for a few days. But after the positive response he received from guests and online, he is now considering keeping the discount, “maybe forever”.
Tzafrir told Al Jazeera he wanted to show that there are a lot of Arabs and Jews who are not taking part in the violent events reported in the media.
“We want to show that we’re all human beings, just like each other, not so different,” he said.