April 15, 2024
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‘Hummus! The Movie’: A Delicious, Feel-Good Experience

Many of us recognize the name Oren Rosenfeld from the emotionally charged film “Beneath the Helmet,” which introduced us to the behind-the-scenes lives of several IDF soldiers protecting Israel. At only 39, Rosenfeld is the Founder and Director of Holyland Productions, which has produced highly acclaimed films, videos and TV programs for the past seven years. In keeping with this excellence, Rosenfeld’s “Hummus! The Movie” has been designated an Official Selection of the Seattle International Film Festival, Jewish Film Festival, UK Jewish Film Festival and many others. It is soon to be released throughout the country.

For those of us who seized the opportunity to see the charming film at the Puffin Cultural Forum on Sunday, January 29, it was indeed a welcome, feel-good experience during these recent days of confusion and conflict. The 80-minute film showcases the personal stories of three colorful hummus makers who love their lives and love making others happy with their hummus. Beyond the mystique, competition and religious and political divides, what emerges from the film is that food is a uniting power that can be used for good.

Despite the ongoing discussion of the origins of hummus involving every Middle Eastern country, the impressive statistic is that 25 percent of Middle East households eat hummus on a regular basis. In Ramle, an Arab-Jewish city not far from Lod, Samir, a 33-year-old Christian Arab, has been serving good, clean hummus to his Arab and Jewish patrons since his teens, alongside his father who has owned their restaurant for more than 60 years. Restless at this point in his life to expand, he offers his restaurant to up-and-coming rock stars and bands to perform in the evenings, to his father’s dismay and confusion. He also follows his fiancee to Berlin where she is studying and looks for a venue in which to open a branch of his hummus restaurant. He succeeds in his new venture and now travels back and forth between Berlin and Israel, operating his highly popular Middle Eastern restaurants.

Suheila from Acre is an anomaly. At the age of 50, and unmarried, she is the proprietress of a highly successful hummus restaurant bearing her name. Her clientele line up outside and are willing to wait even an hour to be seated. Her fame rests not only on the tastiness of the many varieties is of her hummus dishes but of her unmatched cleanliness and freshness. In her community, where women usually take a back seat, she is very much in the limelight and was even awarded the highly coveted “King of Hummus Award” by Yehoram Gaon at a contest viewed by the entire Israel. Her business acumen has supported her entire family, including her shiftless brother, for many years. She admits that she has sacrificed her personal life for her hummus but in the end is not sorry about her choice. She recently purchased a new apartment for herself in a modern building in Acre with Jewish as well as Arab tenants, so fortunately “it will be quiet.”

Eliyahu Shmueli drifted from job to job, at one time even working as a garbage collector, while seeking meaning to his life. On a trip North, he stopped at the small community in Yokneam and began to explore the possibility of opening up a hummus restaurant. After several trips to Uman, to meditate at the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Braslav, Eliyahu “sees the light,” marries a former accountant who equally “sees the light,” and they open an establishment that attracts Arabs and Jews who sit alongside each other while enjoying his excellent hummus. At one point, desperate to find the “magical” techina that will enhance his unequalled and highly kosher hummus, a miraculous delivery of techina, also highly kosher, arrives at his doorstep, saving the day. Now the proprietor of over 20 kosher hummus restaurants throughout Israel, Shmueli and expanding family are looking towards buying their dream farm and living happily ever after.

From Olivier, The Benedictine Monk from Abu Gosh, who supports his local hummus establishment weekly to the Lebanese restaurateur who won the British Guinness World of Records distinction for having produced the largest saucer of hummus at 10,000 kilograms, the film is a delightful smorgasbord of funny glimpses into the world of hummus and its universal appeal.

Following the film, the audience was treated to a collation featuring hummus offerings from three local establishments including Sababa and Mediterranea of Teaneck and Hummus Elite of Englewood.

Attendee Alan Schwartz commented, “The pleasure of the film is that it shows us that we can reduce our rivalries to something to laugh over rather than fight over.” Teaneck resident Rachel Frazer noted, “It was light but had a definite message. It was a feel-good movie which credited both Jews and Arabs.”

The Puffin Cultural Forum is a project of the Puffin Foundation Ltd. Director Andrew Lee is enthusiastic about its programs, which strive to bring thoughtful, socially relevant and provocative arts programming to all of the surrounding communities of our diverse area in the form of art exhibitions, music, dance, theater, author interviews, workshops, film series, lectures and dialogues. The Puffin Foundation, founded by Perry and Gladys Rosenstein, opens doors to artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations from all streams of thought.

By Pearl Markovitz

 

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