A restaurant owner's smooth, creamy plan to help end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Let's talk about hummus for a second.

Yes, hummus. The smooth garlicky, lemony spread and dip that's a staple of both Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine.


Mmmmmmmmm. Photo by Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images.

Whether a Sabra fan or a Tribe enthusiast or a make-your-own purist, it's hard to find someone who doesn't like the delicious creamy taste of hummus.

Hummus also has a deep cultural significance. It's been bringing people together for centuries.

A group of people sitting around a bowl of hummus is a familiar sight basically anywhere in the world. There's just something about those blended chickpeas that brings people to the table — pita bread and baby carrots in hand — ready to smile and eat.

Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

Kobi Tzafrir, a restaurant proprietor in Israel, knows all about the power of hummus, and he decided to put it to the ultimate test.

He's offering a 50% discount at his restaurant, the Hummus Bar, in Tel Aviv, on any meal shared between a Jew and an Arab. Why?

Here's a bit of background:

For hundreds of years, Arab Muslims and Israeli Jews have been at odds in a tense political and religious conflict. It's so complex and deeply entrenched in both cultures that explaining it would probably take all week. You can actually get a master's degree in it.

The biggest thing you need to know, though, is that this conflict isn't just a quibble. It's a cultural war that has claimed thousands of lives. In fact, recent outbursts of violence are part of what sparked Kobi Tzafrir's idea.

Kobi Tzafrir at the Hummus Bar. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

He thought that if he could get people together for a meal, they might realize they're not so different.

After all, pretty much everyone likes hummus.

"If you eat a good hummus, you will feel love from the person who made it," Tzafrir said in an NPR interview. "You don't want to stab him."

Can a dip solve a historic and bloody conflict? Maybe. Maybe not.

Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

The idea is an experiment that has, so far, granted at least 10 pairs of people a discount during the last month. It's a small start, but for Tzafrir, the important thing is demonstrating to his country and the world that things can change.

"We hear a lot of extremists on the news, on Facebook, on TV, and it seems like everything here is very bad," Tzafrir told NPR. "But I wanted to show that everything here is not so bad. Things get out of proportion."

Tzafrir has been getting praise for the idea from people as far as Japan, and he says that business is up by at least 20%.

But does "food diplomacy" even work?

Well, that depends. Have you ever sat down for a meal with someone you disagreed with? Even if you didn't come to an agreement, you probably both shut up for a second to eat, right?

Believe it or not, even that little piece of common ground can be a key factor in changing people's minds.

Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

In 2011, Psychology professor David Desteno wrote about the power of common ground in The Boston Globe:

"One key factor that shapes our judgment is a surprisingly simple one: how much we see the person we’re judging as similar to us. New findings are suggesting that this similarity doesn’t have to involve anything as obvious as being part of the same group or family. It can be something as subtle as wearing similar colored shirts or wristbands. In fact, in a new experiment, my colleague Piercarlo Valdesolo and I have shown that morality can be influenced even by simply tapping your hands in time with someone else’s."

We've already seen food's ability to peacefully cross cultural barriers.

When Thailand and South Korea wanted to improve their standing with other countries around the world, they started with food. Bringing their cuisine to a wider global audience helped people around the world get to know a little bit of their culture and, in turn, improved global relationships.

And remember President Obama's Beer Summit? Or the Wichita Police Department's recent BBQ with Black Lives Matter activists? Sure, these things obviously didn't solve every race problem in America, but bringing people together peacefully is a lot better than yelling, cursing, and killing.

Police Sergeant James Crowley and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. with President Obama and Vice President Biden in 2009. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

The Arabs and Jews who sit together at Hummus Bar will probably experience more than just a discounted meal — and that's the point.

At that table in that restaurant ... there will be peace. And there will be hummus.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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