Trip to the Holy Land: Food for thought
It's no secret that the best fellowship occurs when people break bread together.
The meals spent together were filled with conversation and laughter as members of the Oklahoma Religions United group enjoyed learning about each other and their different perspectives about Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
It was one such dinner that I received my foodie comeuppance on the very first day we arrived in the Holy Land. I had made a mental note not to eat the falafel in Israel because I had eaten it once back in Oklahoma and didn't really like it.
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Well, I ended up sitting next to one of our Mejdi tour guides Eldad Brin at the restaurant where we dined near our hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem. I had eaten quite a bit of laffa bread and dips and sauces by the time the wait staff brought filling fare like kebobs and falafel.
I didn't wrinkle my nose but I'm certain my face indicated my hesitation to eat the falafel. Brin didn't buy it. "Try it," he said.
Not wanting to seem as provincial as I was I grabbed a piece of falafel and tentatively bit into it.
It was delicious!
Falafel is mashed chickpeas and spices fried until brown and crisp. By the time I ate the first one and reached for a second (imagine that?!), the falafel on my side of the table was all gone.
I did get to enjoy falafel one other time, on the group's last day in Israel. Tour guide Adam Nerk took us to an eatery where we were treated to falafel sandwiches. I'll never forget eating my sandwich and drinking an orange soda on the street outside the restaurant.
Another unforgettable meal was one that took place at a house in Bethany owned by a Palestinian family.
After we all sat down, one of the hosts came out with a large pot and some members of our group got their phones out to capture what came next. The host ceremonially dumped the pot upside down on a plate in the center of the table. Out popped a dish called Maklouba -- chicken, vegetables, rice and cauliflower. Delicious! I had two helpings.
That was the night that we all listened to a live band made up of Israelis and Palestinians who decided they would share their combined talents to show some of the wonder, beauty and sweet music that comes when people are at peace with one another.
As the band played, a young member of the family came out of the kitchen area and invited several members to dance. He first chose Kathy Dodd of Tulsa as his dance partner before moving on to other members of the group.
A few days later, the group made sure I had a wonderful birthday. I'd known that my birthday would fall during the trip, but I didn't know what to expect since birthdays at home are always spent with members of my own loving family.
The interfaith group became my extended "family" that day, beginning with treats that some members placed next to my breakfast that day at the hotel. They sang happy birthday to me more than once and the clincher was a walk to Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar in Tel Aviv that night.
Many of us had come to the Holy Land as strangers, but we didn't leave the same.
On the long plane ride back, the fellowship we enjoyed over all of those lunches and dinners provided me with much food for thought.
And now I can say I do like falafel!