In the mountains of Peru, a bright and beautiful blue color covers many windows and doors. The blue in Peru is the same blue that catches the attention of millions of tourists when they visit the mystical Israeli city of Tsfat. This similarity is no coincidence. Peru’s blue comes from the Spanish, who received it from the Muslim community. In Tsfat, that same blue comes directly from Muslim mysticism, a very heavy influence on Kabbalah and the center of Jewish mysticism, Tsfat.
Does the origin of the blue color make it any less Peruvian? Or any less associated with Tsfat? This week, an opinion piece was published in The Daily Free Press questioning the origin of Israeli food, going so far as to ask “is the lack of unique local heritage, or a lack of generations of traditions and culture, a significant enough reason to mislabel someone else’s?” completely ignoring thousands of years of Jewish history that contributed to Israeli culture today.
According to the article, Israel has no right to claim a cuisine of it’s own because of it’s people’s nomadic history. The author clearly doesn’t know much about Jewish cuisine or history. Jews were in the Middle East long before the Ottoman Empire spread it’s wings over the area, and our influence is felt in the most unlikely of cuisines. A nomadic lifestyle for 2,000 years did not hinder the growth of our food culture but in fact nurtured it. The dishes that we developed to accommodate our nomadic lifestyle and our particular religious regulations are distinctly Jewish. The thousands of Jews who were kicked out of Arab lands brought with them particular foods, including the Jewish tradition of slow cooker stews to accommodate a prohibition on cooking over the Sabbath. Israel’s food culture is not one of theft, but an example of the oldest tradition in history, where people share and collaborate on dishes, learn from each other and make it their own. To claim that this is theft ignores a similar course that takes place in all parts of history — where Portuguese Jews influenced today’s British fish and chips, where Arab influence contributed to what we now know of as a taco, and where Muslim Mysticism influenced doors and windows in the mountains of Peru.