Jerusalem, Between a Fork and Knife

Two chefs embark on a journey and uncover the nuances of their own land.

Time And Space

In Jerusalem, time and space have no meaning. While many will cross oceans to embrace each either and meet in Jerusalem, it is possible for residents to go years living as neighbors, a wall standing between them, and never meet. Historians cannot tell its story and geography books cannot describe Jerusalem because each source paints a diffferent picture. Every language tells a varying story and under each brushstroke lies a different view.

Here, for example, 3,876 meters separate the childhood homes of chefs Assaf Granit and Kamel Hashlamon in Jerusalem. Both were born in the late 1970s and grew up in the same city, under the same sky; and both of them let their taste buds and special aptidute for fire and frying pans write their destinies. Assaf was born to a European Jewish family and grew up in a modest apartment building in an established West Jerusalem neighborhood while Kamel grew up in an ancient stone house on the Mount of Olives, in a Muslim Palestinian family from East Jerusalem, whose forebearers came from across the Jordan Valley and the Galilee.

The distance between the city’s two families is almost unnoticeable on a map, by address, or by area code. However, the languages of the two neighborhoods, the sounds coming out of the radios in their homes, and the smells wafting from the kitchens into the streets, turn this short distance into either an abyss or a bridge; dividing continents or uniting families.

Assaf and Kamel grew up as neighbors in one city without ever meeting, and still, they were both drawn to the sounds of silverware on plates, the smell of lemon blossoms, and the fire leaping from the Tabun oven in the kitchen. Assaf learned the secrets of cooking on his own, from his grandmother and from the trips he took around the world. He opened restaurants in the western part of Jerusalem that shined like jewels on the neck of the city. He even opened restaurants in London and Paris, where his name became well known. Kamel learned the kitchen sorcery in culinary school and paid his dues at acclaimed restaurants in Tel Aviv and Jordan, until coming back to our city and conquering it with his restaurant “Turkiz”, the diamond in the crown of the eastern part of Jerusalem. After that, he brought honor to other restaurants until he acquired a millstone from Syria and started to make tahini by hand that attracted pilgrims from all around the country and beyond.

If not for Jerusalem’s Season of Culture, a creative organization in Jerusalem and for Jerusalem, that uses the power of art to break down barriers, Assaf and Kamel would probably have never met. The people of Season of Culture busy themselves with spearheading meetings, connections, and interviews that would otherwise be impossible, and that’s how they created the Auto-Ochel (Food Truck) with Chef Granit in 2013. It was a 24-day journey during a summer where they cooked up a storm for Jerusalem in the food truck created for that very purpose, each day in a different place and with a different person, weaving a Jerusalemite fabric of tastes and fragrances through pots and pans. On one of the nights of Ramadan, Chef Granit met Chef Hashlamon when he came to make smoked freekeh and lemon chicken in Teddy Park, below the walls of the Old City. Both of them cast their shared dishes onto plates and together served them to the city’s residents, Jewish and Arab, men and women, natives of the city and tourists. We, for our part, stood with and observed them both and immediately realized that this single meeting, as is always the case in Jerusalem, was an act of coincidence that could determine destiny.

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