The origins of Hummus Day


Today, as you no doubt have already discovered from your Facebook or Twitter feed, is International Hummus Day.

You might think establishing an international holiday would involve the United Nations or some other global body. But the recipe for Hummus Day (the day’s official website and Facebook page don’t include the word “international,” although many media references do) was decidedly simpler and less bureaucratic: take an 18-year-old American Israeli guy with an idea, add in thousands of chickpea-spread lovers and vendors, churn through social media and voila!

According to online magazine Israel 21C, Ben Lang, cofounder of MapMe, an online mapping program, and his friend Miriam Young came up with the idea at an Innovation Israel Hackathon in 2012. The two thought celebrating the Middle East spread could somehow help forge peace in the region, but the plan backfired at first, since Lang accidentally had the holiday coincide with Nakba Day, when Palestinians and other Arabs mourn Israel’s victory in the War of Independence. (A day when they are, of course, in the mood to celebrate an Israeli-invented holiday revolving around a food Arabs think the Israelis stole from them.)

After receiving dozens of angry tweets and emails from Palestinians, Lang (who is also behind Falafel Day, which is next month) rescheduled the quasi-official Hummus Day for May 13, but then forgot about it until the following year, when, according to Israel 21C, “people were writing about it in the press, celebrities were mentioning it on social media.”

The Hummus Day Facebook page Lang set up a few days ago has 3,303 likes, and the website features a Hummus Map (powered by Mapme of course), where users can post their favorite hummus locales. So far it features 154 hummus “joints,” 82 places that serve hummus and 24 hummus manufacturers. While Israel and the United States have the greatest representation on the map, in addition to the countries you’d expect like the Netherlands and Canada, those featuring at least one hummus spot include United Arab Emirates, Ivory Coast, India and Cambodia.

While the holiday has certainly snagged its share of media attention, Lang and Young’s dream of cementing Middle East peace with the popular dip has yet to be realized. While the crowd-sourced Hummus Map features one hummus joint in Jordan and one in Lebanon, it features none in the West Bank or Israel’s other Arab neighbors.

Perhaps they need an International Pita Day — there’s already a National Pita Day.


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