The Ancient Wheat of Mount Hermon Served at Modern Tables

June 16 2022

Hagai Ben Yehuda comes from a long line of bread-makers, and has been engaged in the family business for most of his adult life. After attending a workshop for agricultural bakers in Brittany, he was inspired to learn about practices from the Fertile Crescent, where wheat was first cultivated. This led him to research the story of Israel’s wheat and develop a unique line of old-new products in his family’s kibbutz bakery. Bethan McKernan reports:

On his return home [from France], the baker began researching emmer, the “mother of wheat,” which was used for bread in biblical times and rediscovered growing wild near Mount Hermon, on the borders with Syria and Lebanon, in the 1940s. Other strains of intriguing colors, shapes and sizes included jaljuli, hourani, abu fashi, and dubiya samra—all grown locally for millennia, but by the 1960s replaced by imported common wheat, which has a much higher monetary yield.

Ben Yehuda got in touch with the Volcani Center, Israel’s agricultural research institute, to see if he could obtain some of these heirloom variety seeds, plant them, and find out what the bread would taste like.

“I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I didn’t know anything about agriculture,” he said. “I decided I should approach it like a winemaker. They know everything about the soil, the sun, the elevation. Being guided by the character of the wheat would make me a better baker.”

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Read more at Guardian

More about: Ancient Near East, Food, Israeli agriculture

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy