The news back home are dominated by conflicts and stabbings in Jerusalem, bombs and shootings in Tel Aviv. In reality, I am find myself walking through cities that are filled with warmth and love and the atmosphere is very different to what media proclaims. Then, we leave the streets and enter yet a totally different world. This world is called Machneyuda, which is a restaurant in Jerusalem and has gotten its name from the nearby Mahane Yehuda Market.
It is loud. Waiters are screaming, crockery is clinking and music is blasting. It is chaotic. Candles light the restaurant. Every now and then you hear glasses or plates shattering on the floor. Before you realise where you are and what is going on around you, you are holding a shot of Arac in our hands, of which more will follow throughout the evening. Arac is an anis-based traditional alcoholic beverage. The best way to enjoy the culinary richness of this magical place is by ordering the tasting menu. They will serve each course on big chopping boards, which are filled with delights ranging from polenta with truffle, risotto plus eggplant, tahini mixed with lamb, spicy bone marrow and liver. Those ingredients may not sound super wild to you, but wait and see for yourself when you are there. This will not be your regular polenta, or lamb. I remember sliced entrecôte that was placed on a strawberry cake, which almost threw me of my chair, because it was so incredibly tasty. Each dish was a piece of art in itself.
After we finished the last piece of our desert and took the last sip of Arac, we found ourselves dancing on the tables. Kitchen towels were swung through the air and apples, watermelons and bananas were tossed through the restaurant. Machneyuda has accomplished something that the leaders of Israel have been struggling to accomplish for decades. When Elad, Granit and Navon opened Machneyuda in 2009, people predicted that it would close its doors soon again. No way would a place succeed that neither serves koscher nor halal food, but the trio proved them wrong. A couple of years later Machneyuda is still going strong and has become microcosm, where Israeli, Palestinian and the World meet and come together. This is more than just a restaurant, this is a culture institution, this is a place of joy and freedom, a place that makes one forget that only a couple of kilometres down the road missiles and gun fire are ruling the daily routine.
When I woke up the next day, remembering the textures and tastes, and images and sounds from the night before, I scroll through the news on my phone, this time I do not read a headline that features Israel in its title. I place my phone back on my bedside table and think to myself, why the spirit of Machneyuda cannot rule throughout Israel?