The Israeli Pavilion at Winnipeg Folkorama: An Appropriation of Arab Culture by Lawrence Sutherland

The Israeli Pavilion

Appropriation of Arab Cuisine

In the 2014 Folklorama ‘Travel Guide’ ‘Hummus’, ‘Falafel’, ‘Pita Bread’ and ‘Potato Borekas’ are all mentioned as being served at the Israeli ‘Pavilion’.

1 According to Issat al-Atawneh, a Bedouin Sheikh who lived in the city of Hebron, located within the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’:

“Another thing, they are appropriating our traditional dress and food. For instance, you have the humus, fallafel and other dishes. These are all ours, but now they are Israeli.”

1[The Palestinians: Portrait of a People in Conflict – Frank H. Epp 1976.]


2Some sources trace the name ‘Falafel’ to the Arabic word ‘falafil’, meaning ‘pepper’, and that the Arabic word is preceded by the Persian ‘pilpil’, from the Sanskrit word ‘pippali’, meaning ‘long pepper’.

Moreover, an earlier ‘filfal’, from Aramaic ‘pilpal’, meaning ‘small round thing, peppercorn’, derived from ‘palpel’, meaning ‘to be round, roll’.

Therefore, in origin, ‘Falafel’ would be ‘rollers, little balls’. phrase ‘pha la phel’ meaning ‘of many beans’.

A common theory of the origin of ‘Falafel’ is that the dish originated in Egypt, possibly eaten by Copts [a member of the Coptic Church, the native Christian Church in Egypt] as a replacement for meat during ‘Lent’ or ‘Lenten’.

Since Alexandria is a port city, it was possible to export ‘Falafel’ to other areas in the Middle East.

Furthermore, ‘Falafel’ is considered a national dish of Egypt, Palestine and also Israel. Resentment exists amongst many Palestinians for what they see as the ‘appropriation’ of their dish by Israelis.

In fact, the Lebanese ‘Industrialists’ Association’ has raised assertions of ‘Copyright Infringement’ against Israel concerning ‘Falafel’.

Therefore, although ‘Falafel’ may play an important role in Israeli cuisine, it originated as an Arab dish, not as a Jewish dish.

2[Wikipedia – June 21, 2014.]

Pita Bread

3Another appropriated food item being served at the Israeli ‘Pavilion’ is ‘Pita Bread’. ‘Kmaj’ is the real name for the Arabic bread known as ‘Pita’ in the West, therefore, ‘Pita Bread’ is a traditional Arab bread not a Jewish bread.

3[Classic Palestinian Cuisine – Christiane Dabdoub Nasser – 2001.]

4Another Arab dish that has been appropriated by Jews is ‘Hummus’, an Arabic word meaning ‘chickpeas’. The complete name for this prepared spread in Arabic is ‘Hummus bi tahina’, which simply means ‘chickpeas with tahini’.

The earliest known recipes for a dish similar to ‘Hummus bi tahina’ are recorded in cookbooks published in Cairo, Egypt, in the ‘thirteenth’ century.

For Palestinians and Jordanians, ‘Hummus’ has long been a staple dish, often served warm, with bread, for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

In October 2008, the ‘Association of Lebanese Industrialists’ petitioned to the Lebanese ‘Ministry of Economy and Trade’ to request ‘Protected Status’ from the European Commission for ‘Hummus’ as a uniquely Lebanese food, similar to the ‘Protected Geographical Status Rights’ held over regional food items by various European Union countries.

Fadi Abboud, president of the ‘Association of Lebanese Industrialists’, stated that:

“Israelis have usurped several Lebanese and oriental products.”

According to Abboud, Lebanon exported the first ‘Hummus’ dish in 1959.

In response to Fadi Abboud’s statement, Shooky Galili, an Israeli journalist specializing in food and who also happens to write a blog dedicated to ‘Hummus’ said:

“…Hummus is a centuries old Arab dish…”

Furthermore, a reason for the popularity of ‘Hummus’ in Israel is the fact that it is made from ingredients that, following Kashrut [Jewish dietary laws], can be combined with both meat and dairy meals.

As a result of its popularity, Israelis elevated ‘Hummus’ to become a ‘national food symbol’.

Gil Hovav, an Israeli food editor interviewed in 2008 on the BBC program ‘Cooking in the Danger Zone’: Israel and the Palestinian Territories’, noted that like many dishes considered to be Israeli ‘national foods’, ‘Hummus’ is actually an Arab dish.

“’Hummus’ is Arabic, Falafel, our national dish, our national Israeli dish, is completely Arabic and this salad that we call an Israeli Salad, actually it’s an Arab salad, Palestinian salad.”

4[Wikipedia – July 15, 2014.]

Potato Borekas

5’Borekas’ [also known as Borek, Burek and other variants] is a family of baked filled pastries made of a thin flaky dough known as ‘phyllo’ [or yufka].

‘Borekas’ can be filled with cheese, often feta, sirene or kasar, minced meat, potato or vegetables.

Borekas have their ‘origin’ in Turkish cuisine and is one of the most significant and ancient ‘elements’ of the Turkish cuisine, having been developed by the Turks of Central Asia before their westward migration to Anatolia.

In the Turkish language, ‘Borekas’ refers to any dish made with ‘yufka’ [phyllo dough].

The name comes from the Turkic root ‘bur’ meaning ‘to twist’.
‘Borekas’ may be prepared in a large pan and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries.

The top of the ‘Borekas’ is often sprinkled with ‘sesame seeds’.

Modern Turkey enjoys a wide variety of regional variations of ‘Borekas’ among the different ‘cultures’ and ‘ethnicities’ composing it.

Furthermore, ‘Borekas’ are very popular in the cuisines of the former ‘Ottoman Empire’, especially in North Africa and throughout the Balkans.

The Southern Slavic cuisines, historically developed by people living in close contact with the Turkic peoples of Asia and Europe, also features derivatives of the ‘Borekas’ pastry.

‘Borekas’ were also enthusiastically adopted by the ‘Ottoman’ Jewish communities and therefore, became part of the traditional cuisine of ‘Mizrahi’ and ‘Sephardic’ Jews.

5[Wikipedia – July 2014.]

6Originally from Turkey, ‘Borekas’ [which comes from the Turkish word boerek, or pie] belong within the larger category of small savoury pies common throughout the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia.


Appropriating traditional Arab food dishes and presenting them as traditional Israeli food dishes is not an acceptable practice and should not be condoned.

7Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former Israel ‘Deputy Foreign Minister’ and ‘Member’ of the Knesset has declared that:

“to occupy and control the lives of millions of Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria, and to negate their right to create their own state and future in peace, side by side with the State of Israel, is not just, is not moral, and is not Judaism.”

7[Bitter Harvest – A Modern History of Palestine – Sami Hadawi 1991.]

The Palestinian quest for statehood has been an ongoing struggle for ‘sixty-six’ years. Let there be peace between these tw

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