Hummus in Jerusalem
West Jerusalem is shuttered on Saturdays, the Jewish day of rest. Finding a meal on Shabbat would be difficult; getting around would be, too. The city had been locked down the day before, when world leaders and dignitaries from 70 countries had descended on Jerusalem for the funeral of Shimon Peres. The following day, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, would start, shutting the city down for another 48 hours.
To eat was to scramble among limited options, but the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City was waking up from its day of rest, prayer, and reflection just as the Jewish Quarter was going to sleep.
I walked east for 20 minutes, past Hasidic Jews going to synagogue, underneath the Damascus Gate and into the Muslim Quarter. Men hawked knick-knacks and women wearing abayas presented bushels of grapes on the smoothed-out pedestrian walkway, their efforts wasted on uninterested passersby.
I moved quickly, hungry for the famous hummus at Abu Shukri. Twenty yards from the Via Dolorosa and the fifth Station of the Cross—where Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross—sits this hole-in-the-stone hummus joint, run by three generations of the same branch of one magnificent hummus-making family.
Ordering was simple. I spoke neither Hebrew nor Arabic, and knew of nothing to order besides hummus. So it was one hummus and a Coke. They’d been cooking for hours before opening at 9 a.m., so within a minute of ordering, I had two plates and two soft, warm, pieces of pita in front of me.
The first plate is for toppings: slices of onion, tomato, and pickle and two falafel balls straight out of the fryer, the grease leaving residue on the plate. I had come for the second plate: a ceramic dish of Arab-style hummus.
Into a base of ground chickpeas, at Abu Shukri’s they ladle in tahini and add bits of parsley that marble the color. Resting on top are whole chickpeas and olive oil pooling in odd shapes. A basil garnish and some spices finish the dish. Over and over, I dunked pita into the bowl with ever-changing combinations of toppings.
With a bottle of water added to the bill I was out 30 shekels, less than eight dollars, and within 20 minutes I walked out, leaving the detritus of a meal behind me to venture back into the Old City.