fbpx

Attacking Israeli Food? Your Racism Is Showing

Every Friday, my mother and her 11 brothers and sisters have lunch at my grandmother Hela’s home in Petah Tikva.

There, they find dozens of pots simmering on stoves filled with various dishes that had been prepared with love all day — some even overnight. These Fridays, my grandmother serves her famous kubbah, a Mizrahi dish that takes hours to prepare. Each grandson picks his kubbah’s flavor: okra, pink beets, pumpkin, spicy kubbah and more.

My grandmother always insists on sending my mother home with a bag of homemade hummus, amba (Iraqi spicy mango spread), hard-boiled eggs, fried eggplants and arok, (fried vegetable patties.) On Shabbat morning, we stuff all of these flavors into pita bread, creating a sabich, a traditional Iraqi Jewish sandwich.

My Iraqi mother honors her mother by cooking traditional Iraqi Jewish dishes.
She has this in common with my Tunisian father and his 15 siblings, who also prepare their grandmother’s North African Jewish recipes.

Recently, anti-Israel activists launched a campaign to obliterate my grandmother’s Shabbat lunches. Or so it felt that way.

This attack was in reaction to a post on a website called Hey Alma, which asked people to announce their “unpopular Jewish food opinions.”

“No such thing as Israeli cuisine!” posted one Ashkenazi Jew. “Israeli salad and Israeli couscous aren’t Israeli, they’re Arab foods that have been culturally appropriated,” wrote another Ashkenazi anti-Zionist, receiving more than 1,000 “likes.”

By declaring Israeli cuisine doesn’t exist, these anti-Zionists are stealing Mizrahi recipes and delivering them to regimes that ethnically cleansed us.

Saying Israel has no food or culture is the politically correct way of being racist toward Mizrahim.

After the majority of Mizrahi Jews fled for their lives to escape anti-Semitic regimes throughout the Middle East, they resettled in Israel. We identify our food as Israeli because as members of the Jewish state we can cook it without the fear of being massacred.

Now anti-Zionists proclaim that our cuisine is stolen from the Arab world.

This claim is laughable at its core; the Arab world is an imperial-colonial project designed to erase minorities and their culture in the Middle East and North Africa. The land where my grandmother learned to cook with her grandmother was not Arab — it was once a multi-ethnic state.

But in their quest to strip Israel of its culture, these activists dubbed my grandma’s recipes that she brought from Baghdad as appropriated from the Arab world that butchered her family.

By accusing Mizrahi Jews of cultural appropriation, these extremists essentially deny 53% of Israeli Jews who came to Israel from the Middle East and North Africa, the right to partake in our heritage. It is racism and anti-Semitism for the price of one.

Saying Israel has no food or culture is the politically correct way of being racist toward Mizrahim. These bigots aren’t just stealing our culture, they are claiming we have none.

It’s not the first time Hey Alma contributed, deliberately or not, to this anti-Mizrahi erasure. The website frequently posts about Ashkenazi food and culture but seldom posts about Mizrahim, our food, or our heritage.

The goal of this campaign? Dehumanization. No nation lacks cuisine. Deprive Jews and Israelis of a culture, and you deprive us of our humanity.

Perhaps that is the root of the divide between some American Jews and Israelis: apathy via dehumanization.

American Jews become anti-Zionists because they struggle to empathize with Israelis. They wish we ate bagels and lox instead of hummus and sabich, listened to Barbra Streisand and not Omer Adam. They are alienated by how Israel, unlike most American Jewish spaces, adopts Mizrahi culture. They wish our national language was Yiddish and not Hebrew and Arabic, that we cared more about their interpretation of tikkun olam instead of our survival.

Along with dishes from all global Jewry, Mizrahi cuisine is a part of the emerging Israeli cuisine, and that’s a hard fact for anti-Zionists to swallow.


Hen Mazzig is an Israeli writer, speaker and activist. He is a senior fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute. Follow him: @HenMazzig

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 1880 Century Park East, Los Angeles, CA, 90067, https://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Culture

Latest Articles
Latest

Netflix Under Fire for Streaming “Blood Libel” Movie

Netflix is currently facing criticism for promoting a movie that’s been accused of spreading blood libels about Israeli soldiers’ treatment of Palestinians.

Twitter Files: With Trust in Media at All-Time Low, Substack Comes to the Rescue

A biased media is fueling the success of alternatives like Substack, for the simple reason that readers want to trust what they read. Digital revolution or not, that truth will never get old.

Israeli UFC Fighter Natan Levy Calls out Kanye after 2nd Unanimous Victory

Israeli UFC fighter Natan Levy won his second fight in the Octagon on Saturday night in Orlando. Levy went the distance with his opponent, Genaro...

“Beyond the Bolex” A Must-See Documentary For Anyone Researching Their Ancestors

Limited streaming release this weekend: A film that will inspire all viewers to ask questions about the great-grandparents that they may have never met.

Torah Portion Va-Yeitzei – From Tents to a Stairway to Heaven

    From a Tents to a Stairway to Heaven Thoughts on Torah Portion Vayeitzei 2022 (adapted from previous versions)   I can imagine Jacob justifiably bemoaning his fate...

Hollywood

Podcasts

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

x
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap