The Galilee is the home of many cultures, interacting and even living together. These cultures include Jewish of all types, including Ashkenazi, oriental, Yemenite and Ethiopian, as well as Moslem and Christian Arabs, not to mention Circassians and Druze. The terms “Jewish” and “Arab” almost lose their meanings given the constant mixing of value that occurs here. For example, Israeli “Arabs” can barely speak pure Arabic, interspacing their mother tongue with Hebrew on a regular basis, while Eastern Jews are proud of their food and music traditions that are very similar to the ones of the Arab countries from where they families came from. Appearances can be very deceiving.
In term of culture clash, a trip to Acco is most educational. Jews, Muslims and Christians have lived together in Acco for generations, thus providing a great view of this cultural mix. One of the interesting cultural aspects involves the manner of dining and celebrating. When dining in a Jewish owned restaurant, everything is more restrained. The music may be “Arab” but the volume is kept low. The people enter and greet each other quietly, without great ceremony. Men and women generally sit together and talk quietly. Also, the ban on smoking in public spaces is enforced. The atmosphere is quiet.
By contrast, going to an Arab restaurant is a public celebration, even if the actual table is private. The music tends to be louder; the greetings noisier, and signs of affections, real or otherwise, more dramatic. When large groups or families gather, you can often see seating by gender and/or status. A meal is intended to be a happy ceremony and is so performed. It is an occasion to express warmness and affection. Smoking hookahs is often tolerated, making such restaurants a bit challenging for those used to a smoke-free environment. Diners enjoy their food, essential the same food as in the Jewish-owned restaurants, but are much less restrained in their expression of the social pleasure.
Given that all human beings, regardless of their faith and culture, view eating as a central part of their social life, a dinner in Acco is a wonderful opportunity to view the different styles of public dining. Which is better? Chacun à son gout.