Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Abu Ghosh

Hummus, hummus, hummus. A delectable spread, hailing from the Middle East, made from mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Surely, it is impossible to come to Israel without hearing about hummus. Oh, how very prideful Israelis are about this tasty Middle Eastern dip, eaten voraciously throughout the world wide though native to this very region. Hummus just so happens to be one of the staple items (and arguably the favorite) in a local Israeli's diet, along with shawarma, falafels, barakas and fresh fruits and veggies. And so, it was no surprise then, a few days ago, when Rafi's school friends insisted that I try the "world's best hummus." Only then, would I be able to say, that I had officially planted roots in Israel.

A typical Israeli spread
Abu Ghosh
So, off we went last weekend to Abu Ghosh, an Arab town located along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, about six short miles west of central Jerusalem. This small town has been known mostly for its positive relations with the Jewish community ever since they willingly took a neutral stance in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Out of the 36 different Arab communities in the hills leading into Jerusalem, this was the solitary muslim community that kept their roads open for the Jewish people to bring in aid and supplies during the bitter conflict. President Yitzhak Rabin once said that, "From here it is possible to open and close the gates to Jerusalem."

View of the quaint town Abu Ghosh
However, in January of 2010, Abu Ghosh became famous for quite another reason and likely, you will not guess be able to guess it. So, what was it? Earlier this very year, the town of Abu Ghosh set the Guinness World Record for the largest dish of hummus ever recorded. Jawadat Ibrahim, the owner of a popular Abu Ghosh hummus restaurant, organized the big event which brought together 50 different Jewish and Israeli-Arab chefs from around Israel who worked together to cook the superhuman sized dish of hummus. The final dish was 20 feet long, weighing just under 9,000 pounds! This was twice as much as the previous record, which had been set by locals in Beirut, Lebanon a year earlier. Much to the dismay of the town of Abu Ghosh, Lebanon reclaimed the title from Israel in May 2010, surpassing the Abu Ghosh record from January 2010. The battle continues on to this day, with Lebanon in the lead. Who knew how fiercely proud Middle Easterns were about their hummus!

The record breaking hummus from Abu Ghosh (Jan 2010)
Lebanon's May 2010 record-breaking hummus platter
Our savory snacks in Abu Ghosh
I had to try this hummus for myself. I insisted that we go right away. After all, the hummus had broken records! Thus, on my first visit into a local Abu Ghosh restaurant last weekend, I was lucky enough to try some of this historic and delicious, mouth-watering hummus that I had heard all about. Paired with platefuls of warm pita bread, freshly roasted tomato dip, juicy pickles, peppered chips, a grand pipe of hookah, and thirst-quenching limonana (a crisp lemonade drink laced with mint), it was truly an authentic Israeli lunch in a typical middle eastern setting that left me wanting more and more. It did not hurt to have the beautiful sun slowly sinking in the background, coloring the sky with oranges, reds and amber hues. I can honestly now say that fresh Israeli hummus, made on the spot from plump garbanzo beans, is nothing like the store-bought versions we have back in the United States. I am so glad I made the trip to Abu Ghosh for a taste of some authentic hummus made by people who are genuinely proud to prepare it. If you ever make it to Israel, a brief stop in Abu Ghosh will be well worth the journey for your soon-to-be-thankful taste buds. Likely, it will be difficult for you to pick from the 20-something odd choices of hummus available on the spot.
Rafi and friends having some hookah
Rafi and I eagerly awaiting our hummus platter
Sun setting on our way out of Abu Ghosh

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