Saturday, 29 July 2006

Us and Them

One of life's not so secretive secret pleasures is eating. And despite Jo's opinion that I'm eating bird food, roasted sunflower seeds are one of my favorite foods ever. They go really well with watching football, and if it's an Arsenal game and Bergkamp just happened to score it's the equivalent of an orgasm.
The entire concept of eating sunflower seeds is funny because it's one of the most favorite snacks people eat in Israel, and shops selling it can be found on most street, corners running 24 hours a day, whereas in Australia it's almost completely unknown (replaced by alcohol consumption instead). Those Australian that see me eating sunflower seeds live are always shocked and awed by my performance - that art of cracking the seed and consuming the shell ever so quickly using just one hand to deliver the seed from the plate to the mouth, an art most Israelis have mastered at childhood. Jo keeps on saying how she wants me to demo sunflower seeding to her family when we see them, because this act would be so foreign to them and because by their book sunflower seeds are strictly parrot food.
After coming to Australia I gave up on sunflower seeds. They were one of those things that I just thought you cannot truly get in here, together with other gems such as good pita bread (Australian pitas are thin and lack the meatiness of their Israeli counterparts), good humus (the shit they call humus in here is, well, quite shitty), and good thina (commonly referred to as tahini paste).
From time to time I did stumble upon a shop that sold the precious seeds, but they always turned out to be less than satisfactory. The seeds were either way too small or they were obviously cooked by infidels not fluent with the art of proper roasting and smoking (it's the smoking that gives the shell the taste that takes control over the mouth when you eat sunflower seeds; the seeds themselves are pretty neutral in taste).
Then, about a year and a half ago, we discovered the Lebanese shop next to the Aldi shop by Morabbin Airport we started visiting because of their (Aldi's) very attractive pricing for day to day food shopping. And that Lebanese shop had roasted sunflower seeds for sale! They weren't particularly good by Israeli standards: they were on the smaller side of things, and instead of being properly smoked they relied of heavy salting. But beggars can't be choosers, and they were good enough for me; so we got them whenever we visited the area (to Jo's great displeasure, because she can't stand the sound of the cracking seed).
But last week things have changed: that Lebanese shop has replaced their sunflower seeds with some other type. I got my usual share and gave them a try at home. And since then I haven't stopped smiling!
The new sunflower seeds are pure excellence. They don't fall short of the best Israel has to offer: big, well smoked, and only lightly salted - pure culinary pleasure (it's a pity Bergkamp has just retired). One less reason to visit Israel.
Since we got the new type at home a week ago I've been eating them like there's no tomorrow. The effect on my stomach has been all too obvious: I've been slowly yet steadily gaining weight for a few years now, but over the last week I could see as my stomach got larger and larger. And now with stocks of quality sunflower seeds at easy reach, I will need to find a way to eat them and stay [relatively] slim without reverting too exercise [that I can't be bothered to do].

So, what am I trying to say here?
I'm trying to say that it's a bit ironic that while Hezbollah is targeting missiles at the Israeli town of Affula, the center of Israeli sunflower seeds production, I am getting my sunflower seeds from a Lebanese shop ran by people of obvious Lebanese origins (and by the way, they have always been extremely nice and helpful). This shows, in quite a loud and a clear fashion, how stupid the war taking place at the moment between Israel and Lebanon is.
As someone who is still an Israeli citizen (even though I would gladly give up on that if it weren't for the obvious grief it would cause my family and the trouble I'd face each time I try to enter or depart from Israel for a family visit), I have always maintained that before Israel blames certain Arab factions for doing bad things, it should look upon itself first and apply the principle of universality on what it is doing. Or, to put it in other words, it should apply old Rabbi Hillel's summary of the Bible in one sentence upon itself: "do not do unto others what you wouldn't want them to do to you".
And what is Israel doing? In the name of protecting its innocent civilians, which is by all accounts a good justification, it fucks up the lives of thousands of Lebanese civilians, most of whom are also innocent. Yes, there is no love lost to Israelis amongst the Lebanese, and some of them do harbor and help Hezbollah, but there is also a huge number of totally innocent people out there who are not exactly having a ball since the hostilities have begun. And if we look at the bible again for reference, even Sdom and Amora (aka Sodom and Gomorrah) would have been spared if 10 innocent people were to reside there; and I'm quite sure there are more then 10 innocent people in every town in Lebanon (some of them would be commonly referred to as "children" or "babies"). By the way, in my book one innocent guy would be enough.
Am I saying that Israel should just sit back and relax while it is being attacked? No; I think, however, that Israel is retaliating against the wrong target, and while doing so it is committing horrendous crimes that don't really contribute to the way it is perceived in this world and definitely don't break new paths of understanding with its neighbors.
If Israel does seek out to solve the problem at its source, then it should attack military targets in Iran and Syria; they are responsible for Hezbollah, and they're the only places where effective pressure can really mean the end of Hezbollah for good. But that is probably too hard and too risky for Israel, so instead it tries to bomb the hell out of the Lebanese people in an attempt to get them to cast Hezbollah away. But the Lebanese are too weak for that and if anything, Israel is showing them why a strong Hezbollah would be a good asset for Lebanon - in the same way that the strength of Syria and Iran is making Israel think twice before attacking them.

As I said before, most of my sympathy towards Israel comes from the fact I have friends and family there. At this stage, it looks as if the chances of Jo & I visiting Israel as we planned at the end of September are pretty slim. We're still waiting on it, but it looks as if we'll try to change the destination to Paris or Barcelona instead. As the song says, I love Paris in the spring time, even if it would be Parisian autumn time, and even if there won't be sunflower seeds for me to eat there.


ek said...

Non-political comment: Chinese eat something similar...roasted pumpkin and watermelon seeds! I enjoy eating them too.

Moshe Reuveni said...

In Israel people eat those, too.
I found out the hard way that I'm allergic to pumpkin seeds. It caused me to faint once (I remember standing up, and then I remember finding myself on the floor with a very hurting chin).
Watermelon seeds are my brother's favorites, and I like them too. They test better than sunflower seeds, but they're really hard to crack; you don't get the same mechanic-rhythmic effect you get with sunflowers.