It was a poignant time to see the preview of Breaking Bread, a feel-good Israeli documentary about Jewish and Palestinian chefs cheerfully cooking together in the Israeli port of Haifa.
Only days before, the ever-simmering hostility between Israel and Gaza had erupted again into open warfare and world tension was at its peak.
With the signing of a peace treaty we can all breathe easy again – for now — and enjoy this optimistic film as a symbol of what life could be like for the Palestinians and Jews if they could unite over their shared love of food.
This is the dream of microbiologist Dr Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, who in 2014 became the first Muslim Arab to win the Israeli MasterChef contest.
In 2015 she went on to found the A-Sham Food Festival, which has been held every December since then in Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city.
The festival has two aims: to rediscover the traditional dishes of Israel and its neighbours, and to bring Jewish and Arab chefs together.
In Breaking Bread, emerging director Beth Elise Hawk has focused on the 2017 festival, with mouth-watering vision of the exotic dishes the chefs are creating. Arab-Jewish pairs of chefs work together to recreate the traditional dishes of the Levant, the Middle East area which includes modern Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
Director Hawk follows four pairs of chefs, who create fabulous dishes as they talk about their lives, their mixed heritage and in particular the skills of their grandmothers in producing wonderful fare without ever following a recipe book.
Dr Atamna-Ismaeel says: “Ninety percent of people just want to live their lives in peace. It’s the 10 per cent who make it to the headlines.”
It’s a theme oft-repeated by the participants in the film: “We just want to be free to live our lives.”
Apart from the stunning food images, the film also has inviting glimpses of multi-cultural Haifa – open, diverse and culturally rich. A fascinating city to visit in a post-Covid world.
Breaking Bread opens on Thursday, June 3, at Luna Leederville, Luna on SX and the Windsor Cinema.
Watch the trailer…