New Grade for Rye Deli
I heard Rye Deli was better than the last time I had checked it out, and sure enough, Rye is getting it right. Or "righterer" . . . I enjoy eating my words when I am proved wrong. Something is going on at Rye that’s moving the matzoh ball down the field. They are in the red zone, not quite putting points on the board but getting close.
Lunch the other day included a much improved matzoh ball soup, broth still a little greasy tasting (pretty annoying considering how easy it is to prevent), but otherwise it was good. The whitefish salad was too loose, but its being made the right way. Tip to Rye: The salad should be runny. The noodle kugel is nearly perfect, bravo. The smoked meat melted in my mouth, it lacked the flavor of beef and smokey depth that Mile End or Schwartz's has, but it’s a good start. The chopped liver was sour and inedible, I couldn’t believe it was served.
Overall, I give it a strong C+, up from an F of gigantic proportions. That’s pretty darn good work in a few months. Cant wait to see if they keep the pedal to the medal.
Standing Up for What You Believe
Sometimes ya gotta standup for what you believe. Last week, a few friends sent me a screen grab from Saffron’s owner/chef Sameh Wadi’s Facebook page. It featured a map of the Middle East with Israel shockingly absent—as in taken off the map absent.
Last I checked, Israel is a internationally recognized, sovereign nation. Accompanying the picture was a comment from Wadi that read, “We need more maps that are correct, such as this one.”
I was shocked. The issue at hand is one that has been argued and fought over for thousands of years. Who’s land is it? Who gets to call Jerusalem their own?
Here are the barest of facts, from as neutral a source as there is on this issue, the BBC News encyclopedia: “A densely-populated country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Israel is the only state in the world with a majority Jewish population. It has been locked in conflict with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours over ownership of land considered holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims since its creation in 1948. The division of the former British mandate of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel in the years after the end of World War II was the culmination of the Zionist movement, whose aim was a homeland for Jews scattered all over the world. After the Nazi Holocaust pressure grew for the international recognition of a Jewish state, and in 1948 Israel declared its independence following a UN vote to partition Palestine. ... Much of the history of the area since that time has been one of conflict between Israel on one side and Palestinians - represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation - and Israel's Arab neighbours, on the other. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced in the fighting in 1948, during which Israel's Arab neighbours came to the aid of the Palestinian Higher Council. Israel lost one percent of its population in the fighting, which ended in a series of uneasy armistices. ... In 1979 Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement, but it wasn't until the early 1990s, after years of an uprising known as the intifada, that a peace process began with the Palestinians. Despite the handover of Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control, a final agreement has yet to be reached. The main stumbling blocks include the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements.”
I believe in a multi-state solution—I am a peace-nik, a left wing Lindsay liberal from way back, and I am also a Jew. The printing of a map, and the dissemination of that map on the Facebook account of a man who I know and respect was shocking. So I tweeted out to Sameh, asking for clarification. I asked several times for him to simply state his view point. I heard nothing back. Well, technically he did respond, but wouldn't answer my question, which almost says more than simply ignoring me. I dropped it after a day. The Twitterverse erupted. Local Jewish blogs and newsletters chimed in, KARE 11 called me asking questions and wondering if there was a bigger story to pursue, I told them "No." I was waiting for Sameh, a man I have known for years— and a nice guy by the way—to define his position.
Now, the anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian position is one I am very familiar with. It’s a legitimate argument. The creation of the Israeli state and the subsequent homeland issues created for Palestinians has been ripe with discord since day one. I have many friends and colleagues who vigorously oppose my views, and much of Israeli government policy in recent years leaves me scratching my head, but my Syrian friends, who culturally and politically disagree with me in every fiber of their being and my activist Lebanese and Palestinian friends here and abroad, none of them have published a map and commented with such incendiary force in a community with such a large Jewish population—a population that frequents Wadi’s restaurants and food trucks! There had to be a reason for his post.
I have received hundreds of tweets and messages asking me for clarification of Sameh’s position, and so I spoke with him over the weekend and asked him to send me his thoughts. His statement is reprinted below. He told me he has been besieged with e-mails and phone calls as well, many have called him anti-semitic, and worse. I have received countless messages calling me out as a ‘hater’ as well, of Arabs and of those wanting to see a Palestinian homeland where Israel now stands.
I laughed at that one. I am the poster child for global hegemony. I have spent years in the Middle East and elsewhere, demonstrating that literally, the breaking of bread together is the way of peace, tolerance and understanding. I have shared meals in Syria with Hezbollah in an attempt to promote understanding. The hate mail ticked me off, and it caused Sameh a few sleepless nights.
Voting With Your Fork
Does it matter whether or not Chik-Fil-A spends large portions of their dollars fighting against equal rights for those men and women whom I am fighting for? It does to me. They have every right to do so and I will fight for their right every day of the week and twice on Sundays. That’s what our Constitution says and it’s what makes our country great. However, I will never spend a dime at a Chik-Fil-A, and I would encourage others to do same.
We all get to vote with our wallets and our feet….or with our forks. I have heard from a few folks (including Wadi himself) that his Facebook page was personal and doesn’t involve his truck business or his restaurant, Saffron, an award-winning eatery in Downtown Minneapolis. Well, you can't try to play that card in today's world . . . chefs, Wadi included, have made no secret that restaurants are personal expressions of themselves, and while businesses don’t have opinions, and while I completely understand the tough place this puts someone, you can't separate the two.
If someone doesn’t want to buy my books, or watch my show, or read my blogs because of my personal views, so be it. It all evens out in the end, which is why I invited Wadi to explain his comments and his distribution of the map in the first place, and I promised him I would leave his comments sit, unedited in this column, so what you see is his unexpurgated response to my offer. Here is the note I got back from Sameh, it shows you how tough an issue this is for so many. Beautiful sentiment young man:
"I personally believe that there is room for people from all religious faiths in the Holy Land. It is people rather than states that ought to have the right to live in dignity as equals, regardless of faith or color. As an Arab-American, I embrace diversity and celebrate cultural awareness. My mother was born in Yafa and my father in El-Ludd. Both of their families were exiled from their homes in 1948. From a young age, I heard stories of the homeland, Palestine—the olive and orange groves, the beautiful land and its history—but was never able to visit. I also was never able to meet my grandparents who remained there, because we were not allowed to cross the border back into the old country. I didn't have a place to call home until I became a U.S. citizen a few years back. As a person without a homeland that is recognized on the world's map, I was ecstatic to see Palestine on a picture of a globe, and I wanted to share that joy with my friends and family. It was not until later that someone mentioned to me that what I said may sound negative to someone reading it.
I posted a picture of a map that I believed had been made prior to 1948 (when the state of Israel was created). A map like that once existed, and for Palestinians and all people who care about peace and justice, its absence is a source of deep sadness. My comments were not directed hatefully towards the current state. I apologize for having posted something that might be perceived that way. I have family members that carry Israeli citizenship and who speak more Hebrew than Arabic. I wouldn't want them to be wiped off the map, or anyone else.
I advocate for all Palestinians, of all religious faiths, to have a homeland, where they can live in peace and prosperity, and that was the sentiment behind the post and comments, not hatred. If you know me personally, you know that I'm not a hateful person. Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting people of all faiths and backgrounds, who have taught me invaluable lessons. I've also had the pleasure of sharing my story and educating people about a different perspective. I believe diversity and justice is what makes this world stronger. There should always be open channels of communication between all of us so we can continue to learn from each other and make this world a better place."