While in Israel, our Ezra Adventures expeditions eat at local places so as to fully experience the land and the culture. I am always looking for the best “mom and pop shops” that only the locals go to. Like many places around the world, some of the best food comes from local recipes that were refined at family tables. When in Tiberias, by the Sea of Galilee, one of our required stops is to partake of Jesus’ Hummus. Trust me- it’s from heaven.
A few side streets from the sea is an Arabic restaurant called “Hummus Isa” or “Jesus’ Hummus” in English. Now ponder that for a minute- In the Jewish state, there is an Arab owned and operated restaurant called Jesus’ Hummus in an area that draws 1000s of Christians annually to see where Jesus walked. Like other treasures, it’s a little hard to find. "Isa" is Arabic for Jesus and the signs on these streets are all in Hebrew, causing many a foreigner to walk right by and completely miss the glory within. Recently, a Jewish friend asked the owner, Muhammad, about the name. He said he believes that Jesus was a Muslim prophet but will one day return as Jesus promised in the New Testament. Such is the dichotomy found in Israel- a Jew asking a Muslim about a Christian name. We just chuckle at the irony and enjoy the food.
You may have tried the chickpea paste that passes for hummus in the US from popular store brands. If you gave an unenthusiastic shoulder shrug, curled your lip and thought “Ehh, not too bad," I would agree. In the US, hummus is viewed as a dip or a spread for a sandwich. In the Middle East, it’s what’s for lunch. Hummus in Israel is like having oranges in Florida or cheese steaks in Philly or Guinness in Dublin. Once you go to the source, you realize your taste buds have been lied to and all the impostors pale in comparison.
Once inside, the restaurant is small; maybe ten tables with paper place mats. We are usually the only western faces in the place and are trying to contain ourselves as the amazing Mediterranean smells give greeting at the door. There are no menus, just hummus. There is plain, mushroom/onion, meat or chickpea, each topping its own hummus plate. The extras are a must: pickles, olives, pickled cabbage, some Moroccan spicy stuff, tahina (a pourable sesame sauce), Arabic salad (diced tomatoes and cucumbers) and fresh pita. Done. You want something to drink? The “waiter” points to where you get it yourself- it’s in the glass fridge along the wall. It’s so casual here that I smile when it often confuses some our travelers’ western sensibilities.
About five minutes after ordering, one of the guys appears with 6-9 small plates piled up his arm with the order. I’m not sure if he enjoys showing how many plates he can humanly pile on himself in one trip or if it’s because the place is usually busy. Either way, it’s an impressive feat that makes lunch’s arrival that much better.
Within a couple bites, the sounds begin. The savory unintelligible comments could be confused as either sheer happiness or praise and thanks to Jesus for when His hummus hits the spot. It’s that good. The pita is often warm, the smooth texture and mouth-watering hummus flavors are a family secret and the olives and pickles are always local and delicious. The table conversation tends to minimal as several arms are reaching with pita to dip, smear or scoop the multiple choices on the table. By the end, most plates are bare, stomachs are full, and smiles abound as our guy returns with an unrequested pot of Arabic coffee. This robust dessert is served in shot glass sized cups and is strong. So strong it could start an engine. So strong it destroys the thought of an afternoon nap. So strong that your tongue gets muscles. I love that stuff. It’s a great way to end lunch and put the rest of the day in gear. When we are ready to go, I’ll wave my hand to get the server’s attention but we rarely see a bill. The price is whatever the guy tells us it is, which is never more than the equivalent of $5/person. This is one of my favorite places. Join us on a 2016 expedition and you’ll be a believer too.
Israel is Real,
Doug Hershey is an author, conference speaker and founder of Ezra Adventures. Ezra Adventures specializes in customized and personalized small group travel to Israel, West Bank and Jordan consisting of service projects, adventure day trips and unique biblical sites. Doug has been involved in Israel-related projects and has cultivated unique relationships in Israel for almost 20 years. In 2008, Doug wrote a book called 'The Christian's Biblical Guide to Understanding Israel.' In 2013, he co-authored a joint resolution in support of Israel that passed the Maine State Legislature, making it the 7th state in the US to do so. His ground breaking photo book project “Israel Rising: Ancient Prophecy/Modern Lens” is currently being reviewed by several international publishers which combines historical first hand accounts of the land with exact side by side comparison photos from the 1880s-1940s to today, showing how much the land has blossomed under Israeli sovereignty, just as Scriptures foretold. When he is not in Israel, he has been speaking in churches and synagogues around the United States about the importance of Israel in the Bible, understanding current events from a biblical worldview and how biblical prophecy is coming to pass today in accurate, literal and tangible ways.