From Hebrew to Hummus, Hovav shares stuff that makes Israel Jewish

Gil Hovav reaches for a glass of wine as he takes questions during a demonstration program on making hummus at Temple Shalom. (Community photo by Jesssica Budnick)

While other speakers in the Innovation Series address rocket science, defense, the environment and building community, one speaker chose a completely different topic – the perfect plate of hummus.
Gil Hovav, an author and culinary journalist, was the second speaker in the series this month. He spoke October 1, at The Temple, where he reflected on his great-grandfather, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the architect of the modern Hebrew language, and the resistance he faced, especially among ultra-Orthodox Jews, to reviving Hebrew as a spoken language.
But on October 2, at Temple Shalom, he demonstrated how to make hummus.
The pasty dip made from chickpeas doesn’t look so appetizing, Hovav admitted, but it is arguably the national food of Israel, and a dish with a long history. In fact, Hovav maintains it is mentioned in the Book of Ruth.
In modern times, hummus has been caught up in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Lebanon actually sued Israel in the International Court at the Hague, claiming it had invented the dish and Israel had usurped the name.
“They lost,” Hovav said.
Turning to the demonstration, Hovav offered tips for making hummus “like a real Jerusalemite. For one, don’t skimp on the tahini – the base ingredient.
“When you buy tahini, buy the most expensive brand,” he said. “Tahini is not that expensive.”
He also said to zest the entire lemon peel – yellow and white.
Hold the oil, he said. “Tahini is oil.”
And add the water used to cook the chickpeas, which Hovav said is full of protein.
He offered two additional tips for hummus lovers: Never refrigerate it. (The protein in the dip makes it jell up) Also, when flying EL Al, always order the glatt kosher hummus. (For some reason, it just tastes better.)
When talking about his great-grandfather the previous night at The Temple, Hovav painted a picture of a man struggling to give the burgeoning Jewish state a key ingredient for independence: a common language
To this day, Hovav said, his family graves on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem are desecrated by the Neturei Karta,a group of extremist Orthodox Jews, who object to Ben Yehuda’s revival of a language they believe should only be used for liturgical purposes.
But Ben-Yehuda, a lexicographer, newspaper editor and Zionist who immigrated to Israel from tsarist Russia in 1881, had other plans. He wanted to develop a language to replace Yiddish, which could be spoken by Jews already living in the land and for those who would soon make aliyah.
“Hebrew wasn’t his goal,” Hovav said. “Hebrew was the means. The goal was Zionism.”
But Jews who lived in Palestine, which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire at the time, were not Zionists, made Hebrew a tough sell.

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