This film was the official submission of Palestine to the Oscars 2014 best foreign language film category. It also was the second film from Palestine to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film after Paradise Now (2005). The director,  Hany Abu-Assad, who was born in Nazareth, Israel directed both films. What he achieves in this film is outstanding. The story revolves around the protagonist, Omar, a Palestinian baker who we learn has everything to lose. Our lead is everything you need in a hero protagonist; tall, handsome, young and accessible. The story revolves around him and his group of childhood friends who are young and idealistic, and even do pretty good Marlon Brando impressions, which is fresh against the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The actors are unknown and brilliant in this film and draw you into their intimate circle. Immediately we are drawn into their plot to kill an Israeli soldier, a  reckless thing to do. Their frustration and daily humiliations have taken their toll and you can feel their anger as they discuss having to do something to make a difference. They long for a real life and a family but their wish for a free Palestine trumps any personal relationships they can pursue.

An Israeli solider is ultimately killed and the hunt is on for who did it. Omar is captured and tortured and then told he must be an Informant. The rest of the film we see his double-life unfold and complicate an already messy situation. His relationship with his friend’s sister brings them each hope but it’s hard to get too optimistic for their young love. Omar is torn in both directions, the stress and hardness a freedom fighter needs and the soft openness of a young man in love; qualities that make this an excellent film and worth the watch.

On a much lighter note, I’ve wanted to make this dish for awhile now as it tastes like Spring and that is something I crave during this bitter winter. It is bright, fresh, colorful and really very delicious. The recipe is modified slightly from David Lebovitz’s recipe.

ISRAELI SALAD 3

He says, “It’s inspired by a tiny little cafe in the Mahne Yehuda food market in Jerusalem, called “May 5th”. The owners will buy the fresh vegetables every morning from the next door produce stand, and keep them in a pretty basket, unrefrigerated, ready to be chopped to order. They also add in some raw beets (very finely chopped – delicious!), kohlrabi, a handful of toasted nuts and seeds, and, finally, balance it off with crumbled Tulum, a Turkish-style salty cheese they get at the Basher cheese stand.”

ISRAELI SALAD 2

With a story like that, how can you not love it? I modified it a bit, I didn’t add as many (hardly any actually) chopped carrots and my vegetables are not perfect hexahedrons, but I believe no matter the shape, they are still very tasty. Although, like David suggests, the tomato, onion and cucumber are kind of non-negotiable’s, as they are the staple to the cuisine of this region and also happen to be my favorites. I didn’t have beets or kohlrabi on hand, but I did add cucumber, a bit of radish, feta and parsley. Measuring almost isn’t necessary. Add a whole cucumber or a half of one, mix in a whole onion or don’t-it depends on how much of all the ingredients you like. You can add in other vegetables too if you would like. This dish is also great because it is so simple, versatile and very difficult to mess up!

Ingredients 

  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes
  • Half of a red onion
  • 1-2 radishes
  • A cup of arugula
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2/3 cup walnuts (or a mix of various nuts and seeds)
  • Half Cup of Feta cheese

3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more)
3-4 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil (or more)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Chop the vegetables small, like in hexahedrons like Mr.Lebovitz or just in tiny pieces like me
Next, slice your lettuce or arugula into thin pieces. You can toast your walnuts in a skillet over medium heat or in the oven for a few minutes at 350. If using other various seeds, keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

Mix your chopped vegetables and arugula together along with the walnuts. In a small ramekin or separate bowl, mix your lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper together (though taste as you season). Mix the dressing into the vegetables and top with Feta.

As a side note, this can be eaten with a piece of toast as a tapa. You could also do a summer version using watermelon, mint, strawberry, apple, arugula, feta and walnuts! I hope you enjoy this salad and this movie, it really is worth the watch!