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Hummus brings Israelis, Palestinians to the table

Foodies from both groups say that their love for the savory spread forces them to meet.

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Every weekend, this quiet Israeli- Arab village in the Jerusalem hills becomes snarled with the traffic of hungry Israeli day-trippers.

They come here in search of hummus, and hustlers from rival restaurants ambush motorists with directions to famous eateries. Describing Abu Gosh as a "good hummus pit stop," Rami Dourant explains why he visits the village even though he can eat the chickpea dish in any Jewish city in Israel.

"We need to stick with the Arab tradition," says the Jewish organizational psychologist as he left Abu Gosh's Haji restaurant. "Jews sometimes come up with gimmicks for hummus that don't work."

While foreigners know it as a dainty Mediterranean dip found in boutique delis, hummus for Israelis and Palestinians is a savory sustenance devoured by the vat everywhere from dusty refugee camps in the West Bank to yuppie hot spots in Tel Aviv. Both staple and delicacy, it's a culinary icon that's a prism of the complex nexus between two neighboring peoples in constant strife.

Critics consider Israeli interpretations of hummus as merely byproducts of decades of Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land. But some see the spread as a glimmer of hope for reconciliation despite grim political prospects for peace.

"For me, hummus is a cultural place where Israelis and Arab cultures communicate and cooperate," says Shooky Galili, the editor of a Hebrew weblog entitled "Hummus for the masses." "There is no separation for me between Israeli and Arab food. I eat what's tasty." Galili's blog offers food reviews for the sort of Israelis who are willing to drive hours – usually to remote Arab villages – in search of the obscure "humusiya" restaurant rumored to serve up the best version of the spread. Indeed, in a place where Arabs and Jews are mostly segregated from one another, the dip is one of the few things that brings them together.

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