By JACOB KANTER, AP
Israel has taken the upper hand in a new kind of Mideast conflict, one in which bullets are replaced by chickpeas.
Using a satellite dish on loan from a nearby broadcast station, chefs in Abu Ghosh on Friday whipped up more than 4,000 kg. of humous, adding a Guinness world record to the Arab town's reputation for hospitality and harmony.
The cooks nearly doubled the previous record for the world's biggest serving of humous, set on October 24 by cooks in Lebanon. That record broke an earlier Israeli record and briefly put Lebanon ahead.
Hundreds of jubilant Israelis, a mix of Arabs and Jews, gathered around the giant dish, many of them dancing as a singer performed an Arabic love song to the beige chickpea paste.
The exact record set by the chefs, overseen by Abu Gosh Restaurant owner Jowdat Ibrahim, was 4,090 kg. The Lebanese record, set in Beirut by chef Ramzi Choueiri, was 2,056 kg.
"[The Lebanese] are like a soccer team," Ibrahim told The Jerusalem Post in front of the six-meter wide satellite dish. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."
Despite that bit of competitive jeering, Ibrahim stressed a festive mood with an eye toward a collaborative future.
"This is a humous festival," he said, as blue and white balloons were released, along with several white doves.
"Abu Ghosh is a small, 7,000-person town, and this is very special for us and all of Israel. I'd be happy to welcome Chef Ramzi and Lebanon to celebrate with us. Next time, we'll do 10,000 kg. together."
Just after midday, an adjudicator sent from London by Guinness World Records, Jack Brockbank, confirmed that the Israeli chefs now held the record.
"I made sure that they used only the traditional ingredients, which are chickpeas, lemon, tahini, garlic, salt and olive oil," Brockbank said. "It was really good humous at the end."
While Lebanese officials have complained that Israel has stolen the food and the name "humous" from Lebanon, Abu Gosh Restaurant manager Ibrahim Hamis claimed otherwise.
"Humous is an international food, and it's a special and healthy food as well," said Hamis. "If only this were the only thing we fought over with Lebanon."
More than 50 Arab and Jewish chefs from restaurants within Abu Gosh put their own competitive spirits aside to make the humous at a nearby factory early on Friday morning, before bringing it to the restaurant.
Baracke CEO Ibrahim Bashir said that 500 million sesame seeds were used to make the tahini in the humous, in addition to the four tons of chickpeas.
One restaurant representative estimated the cost of the entire event at NIS 500,000-600,000.
Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was in Abu Ghosh for the celebration.
"It's good for this to happen in Abu Ghosh," Hanegbi told the Post. "Abu Gosh is a place where coexistence really permeates. You have Jews, Arabs, Christians, everyone together here. And with an event like this, when we're focusing on this sort of competition, we're adding to life. We're not taking away from life."
Abu Ghosh residents echoed Hanegbi's sentiments.
"It's true that an event like this brings everyone together," said Issam Abu Ghosh, who has lived his entire life in the town. "But there has always been coexistence here. Simply because of the nature of this town, there was always peacefulness all throughout."
Three months ago, when the Lebanese chefs prepared their record-breaking dish, they called it a move to reaffirm ownership of a Lebanese food that had been appropriated by Israelis.
"Lebanon is trying to win a battle against Israel by registering this new Guinness World Record and telling the whole world that humous is a Lebanese product, it's part of our traditions," Fady Jreissati, the Lebanese organizer, said at the time.
In 2008, a group of Lebanese businessmen announced plans to sue Israel to stop it from marketing humous and other regional dishes as Israeli.
Lebanese Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud told The Associated Press on Friday that his country plans to beat the new record in the spring with an even bigger plate of humous, to be prepared on the border with Israel.
"This way they can learn how to do humous," he said.
On Friday, a newscaster on Army Radio referred to the humous clash as "The Third Lebanon War."
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