Saturday rearview: Gastro-touring, Gambia’s lawsuit, Greta disappointed

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 21, 2019

All change? In June 2018, Gunnar Garfors posted this photo of a beach, just outside the town of Mitsamiouli, Comoros with a caption that said “rumour has it a luxury hotel will be built” here. Creative Commons licenced photo by Gunnar Garfors.

It’s been a busy week for me personally because I’ve been in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, talking to lots of people who’re engaged in the difficult business of peace. I’ll be writing about it in the days ahead, but in the meantime, here’s what I looked at in the past few days. Some of it has a foodie theme, in tune perhaps with the season of festivity and feasting.

** Jerusalem, in food, in pictures. This is a visual guide, for all that there’s a bit of a riff off food prices in the city.

“Resign yourself to it: unless you eat a falafel pitta sandwich (very good from the shop at Damascus Gate, opposite the bakery) or a couple of kibeh or a 15-shekel arayes, food is expensive in Jerusalem.

“We were shocked. The baker opposite the falafel shop at Damascus Gate sells four pitta for 5 shekel, which works out to 1.20 apiece or 35 US cents. That’s roughly 20 pence. In the UK, one can buy six pitta for 90 pence (albeit not fresh from the baker).”

A hill of zaataar, sumac and sesame, which is meant to depict the elevation to Haram Sharif or Temple Mount. (Notice the replica atop.) Mohammed stands proudly by. The ‘hill’ was built by his brother. Photo: Rashmee Roshan Lall

** Behold the arayes – immensely popular and intensely contested in Israel

To be made correctly, the arayes has to be crispy outside and juicy inside. The meat stuffing has to be perfectly cooked – not dry – and adhering to the inner wall of the pita with the fat that has dripped off the meat.

** And then it felt like Mark Twain in ‘Innocents Abroad’, when we went to the Holy Sepulchre.

“Like Twain we entered the Church of the Sepulchre and found before us “a marble slab, which covers the Stone of Unction, whereon the Saviour’s body was laid to prepare it for burial”. Unlike in Twain’s day, there was not “the usual assemblage of beggars”, nor any Turkish guards – in fact, what’s startling about Jersualem in 2019 is that Twain would probably not have recognised it for its well-ordered cleanliness and the fact that “rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt…lepers, cripples, the blind, and the idiotic” are not to be found on every corner. But the rest of Twain’s experience in the Holy Sepulchre is pretty much spot on.”

** Then there was Gambia’s lawsuit against Myanmar.

“It was an unlikely coincidence that Gambia’s foreign minister pulled out of the OIC annual conference in Bangladesh last year and sent Justice Minister Aboubacar Tambadou instead. It was a further coincidence that the OIC conference included a tour of Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. The third coincidence was that Tambadou spent more than a decade prosecuting cases from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. When he heard the Rohingya refugees’ stories in Cox’s Bazar, he said he “saw genocide written all over” them.

“Another coincidence of a sort was that Tambadou was from a country that suffered from both the violence of the Jammeh years and international indifference to its misery. As Tambadou explained: “Part of the reason we were motivated to be involved in this case was because of our own experiences. Had the international community took up this responsibility at the time and condemned the former president, I don’t think we would have gone through two decades of terrible atrocities.”

** And finally, I looked at something that seemed to be one of the saddest commentaries on the state of the climate change debate. It came from Greta Thunberg the weekend before the Madrid climate conference started. Ms Thunberg, writing with other climate change activists – Luisa Neubauer, Angela Valenzuela – pointed to the grimmest truth of them all. Activism has grown in the past year and climate change has acquired its own fervent vocabulary, but nothing concrete has actually been done about it.

I think she’s absolutely right, but I’m sure she had the right reasons. It’s true, I haven’t actually heard or seen anything I can hold on to in the context of reducing consumption and countries’ carbon footprint. But I wonder if it’s because we don’t really want to change our way of life and so we neither vote in a way, nor push our elected representatives in a way that advances climate change goals.

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