Wendy Wolfe Fine
“Salatim,” the Hebrew word for salads, are commonly served at almost every meal in Israel, including breakfast. Preparing, serving and eating “salatim” is a cultural phenomenon that crosses all of Israel’s divides. Each ingredient of the salad has its own unique flavor and characteristics—smooth, crunchy, red, orange, green, dry, juicy, sweet, bland, sharp. When they are mixed together they make a colorful, flavorful, textured whole. Israeli society is a tossed salad with a mix of diverse ingredients: religious and secular; Muslim, Jewish and Christian; Ashkenazi and Sephardic; Eastern European, Moroccan, Yemenite, American. I ask Israelis if I can film them making a salad, and I engage them about the process. What type of salad are they making? Where did they learn the recipe? Where did they buy their ingredients? I explore aspects of Israeli society: the Jewish immigrant who escaped Germany in 1931, the Arab Israeli who has lived in Israel since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948; the American immigrant who is fascinated with the Bedouin custom of foraging the land for edible wild plants. What discoveries do I make by engaging in this process? Can it help me understand the complexity of Israeli society? Does it help me overcome my own prejudices and preconceptions? I have strong connection to Israel and have many friends there, but I have never ventured beyond my comfort zone.
Another way of looking at the salad or the diversity of Israeli society is to compare it to a collage. Each piece of a collage has significance: it came from somewhere and represents something unique unto itself, yet when it is pasted together with other morsels it creates something all-of-a-piece.