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March 22, 2017 10:45 am

New York Times Article Denies Israeli Nationality

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Israeli cuisine. Photo: Wikipedia.

A brief New York Times item appears online under the headline: “Israel’s Rich Culinary Legacy Revealed in a New Film.”

The article, about a documentary movie titled “In Search of Israeli Cuisine,” reports: “After watching this film, one has to conclude that with more than 100 nationalities living within the country’s borders, an Israeli cuisine resists easy definition.”

That seemed to me to be a strange sentence. It amounts to something of an assault on the proposition that the nationality of those living within Israel’s borders is, well, Israeli.

The Times isn’t referring to tourists or temporary visitors. It’s talking to a large degree about Jews whose families came to Israel from Morocco or Ethiopia or Poland or Germany or France or Yemen.

The chef who made the documentary, Michael Solomonov, uses less tendentious, and more sensible, language in an interview that will be published in an upcoming New York Times travel section:

…people are realizing the diversity you find over there. …You’ve got over 100 different cultures that have brought with them or maintained cooking traditions. The Jews that came post-diaspora, they brought with them cuisines of the land they lived in temporarily, but through the lens of Jewish cooking.

The distinction between a “culture” and a “nationality” may seem like a subtle one. But it’s nonetheless worth maintaining in the face of false accusations by opponents of Zionism that the Jews, or Israel, aren’t really a nation at all. Mr. Solomonov — who is trained as a cook, not a writer — can articulate it this accurately in his own words. It’s a shame that the professional writers and editors at the Times can’t.

As I’ve written elsewhere, sometimes the most telling New York Times coverage of Israel comes not on the editorial page or the front page, but in the movie reviews.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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  • Joy Daniels Brower

    Actually, I just saw that terrific film last night at the Palm Springs Jewish Film Festival! And it was just a totally enlightening and entertaining culinary tour of Israel and its incredible variety of nationalities and cultures – as seen through the eyes – and taste buds! – of a variety of chefs representing Jewish communities from many national and cultural traditions.. However, the NYT DOES express exactly what Solomonov, the trained chef who narrates this film, also purports: Namely, just as it’s often difficult to describes precisely what distinguishes “American” cuisine, which has been thoroughly enriched by so many different immigrant groups over the past three centuries, it’s also difficult to identify what exactly IS “Israeli” cuisine! The synergy of the immigrant cultures, mixed with those that are already established, continue to evolve into favorite dishes that have a definite “Israeli” vibe.

  • Lia

    Please go on ding what you do, Mr Stoll. Am Yisroel Chai!

  • Fromafar

    Imagine if the 1960 film “Exodous” were released today?
    The NYT would call it neo-colonial hate speech.