Can you imagine a dinner at the home of a married Palestinian-Jewish couple?
I can. It happens at my house every evening.
“Can you pass the Israeli salad?” Alison asks with a sly grin, looking elsewhere but directing her question to me at the other end of the table.
“Oh honey. We don’t have Israeli salad tonight. We have Jerusalem salad. Palestinian East Jerusalem salad. I can give you a little of that,” I offer in response, pretending to be focused on feeding our young son.
“Never mind, honey. It’s on my side of the table. I’ll just take what I want,” she says.
“Habibi?” I query.
“Diced cucumbers, diced tomatoes and diced green onions mixed with spices and olive oil is Jerusalem salad. Always has been always will be,” I tell Alison who is spoon feeding our young son.
The spoon stops and hovers inches from our son’s mouth. He jabs his mouth forward trying unsuccessfully to bite the spoon as Alison and I find ourselves in the middle of another Arab-Israeli “tabouli war.”
“I guess it all depends on how you dice the cucumbers, tomatoes and green onions,” she says.
There is an awkward pause.
Axis of Evil bread
“Honey, can you pass the Syrian bread?” I ask.
“We don’t buy bread from countries that are a part of the Axis of Evil,” Alison replies. “But I have Greek pita bread.”
“And I suppose we can go order gyros instead of shawarma tomorrow, too,” I reply a little perturbed.
“Sweetie,” my wife instructs our son. “Could you tell daddy to be careful or I might call the FBI and report a suspected terrorist. It’ll be 18 months before they realize you’re not a terrorist, honey. So watch your step.”
“Baby,” I interject. “Don’t listen to mommy. She’s not really an American. She has an Israeli passport.”
“Goat herder,” she snaps.
“Curly whirly,” I reply, demonstrating I know something about Israeli society.
During the awkward pause, our son snaps his mouth quickly over the spoon of food Alison has been waving before his face as we argue.
“Seriously, Ali, I want to use the, ah, bread to dip in the hummus,” I offer adjusting my rhetoric in a gesture of compromise.
“You don’t use bread to eat kosher hummus. Use the matzah,” she replies.
“Matzah to dip in the hummus? I have never heard of such a thing. No civilized society scoops hummus with matzah,” I reply.
By now, we are both tugging on the plate filled with hummus. The olive oil is sloshing back and forth and parsley leaves drop to the table.
As hunger overcomes reason, I finally offer to compromise. “Okay. Let’s share,” I suggest.
God of hummus
“Great. I think compromise is very becoming on you. You should try it more often,” she retorts as she takes a large spoon and scrapes 22 percent of the hummus on to my plate and then pulls the rest of the plate back with a swift tug and a sly smile.
“Don’t say I didn’t give you the most generous offer of hummus ever,” she insists.
“Generous? That’s not generous. You took three times as much as I did,” I protest.
“I made it,” she says.
“I paid for it,” I reply.
“Well, hummus is Israeli. It was promised to my people by the God of Middle East cooking, Israeli Chef Amit Barnoon of east Tel Aviv,” she replies referring to one of Israel’s top chefs.
“Barnoon who?” I mock. “He couldn’t cook his way out of a falafel factory.”
“Ah. Another Israeli delicacy,” she replies.
Both of us take out our Arabic to Hebrew dictionaries and start throwing words at each other.
“Chatzilim,” she says.
“Mashy,” I reply.
Alison and I both turn to our son, but Alison speaks first.
“Aaron. Reach over to daddy’s little Gaza Strip of a corner of the table and grab the salt.”
“Abdullah. Tell mommy if she’s not polite, I might throw it at her.”