Many Israelis, and many people around the world, believe hummus to be an Israeli food. On the other hand, when they seek to eat good hummus, most Israelis will go to an Arab hummus place. So who invented it? Who “owns” hummus? That’s not what’s important.
If you’d tell a Syrian, a Palestinian or an Israeli Arab, that hummus is an Israeli dish, they will probably laugh at your face. After all, hummus is eaten all over the middle-east, and is a part of most traditional Arab cuisines. Also, hummus is considered an ancient food, and Israel only exists since 1948.
One can argue that chickpeas are known to man for over 10,000 years, long before there where Israeli’s and Arabs. The Greeks loved it and the Romans made various dishes with it. Staple food or not, hummus was not mentioned in any ancient documents we know of.
Technically, the first documented use of chickpeas to make something that roughly resembles modern hummus, was in cooking books from the first centuries of the second millennium, none of which attributes it to a specific cuisine (and they may all picked the recipe up in the holy land, which was obviously a highly popular place during the time of the crusaders and Salah ad-Din).
The use of chickpeas to make a traditional dish called “Hamitz” was mentioned in the Talmud, some 1000 years earlier. But nobody said anything about tahini there – and there are many dishes that has chickpeas in them and aren’t hummus. We only call it “hummus” when it’s Hummus bi’Tahina (which is also pronounced very similarly in Arab and in Hebrew) – hummus with tahini.
And then there’s the theory dating hummus invention around 1000BC, claiming it was mentioned in the bible. That’s a great story, of course, but you can hardly call it a proof. In my experience, most Israelis who hear about it, say it’s a funny story and that they still think hummus is Arab.
Who owns hummus? Who cares.
Anecdotes aside. The simple fact is that hummus has been an authentic member of several Arab cuisines, for the past few generations at least, and maybe much longer than that. We don’t know.
It’s also pretty clear that hummus first became popular in Israel in cities where there’s a large Arab population, such as Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem and Acre (Akko). Unsurprisingly, the oldest and most popular hummus places in Israel (such as Jaffa’s Abu Hassan, Said and Issa in Acre, Lina in Jerusalem etc.) are Palestinian.
So even if there where a real doubt about who invented it, there’s hardly an argue about who makes the better hummus. Actually, it is rare to find Israeli’s, Jewish, Muslim or Christians alike, arguing about the question “who invented hummus”. This was always a much less important question than “who’s hummus is best”.
Hummus is only one of numerous dishes in the traditional Palestinian cuisine. Yet, this is the most important dish that Israelis and Palestinians share, and even eat together, maybe because the two peoples love it equally. So it is accurate to say that hummus is in the heart of a shared food culture, which is beyond nationality and politics, and this is how it should be kept IMHO.
I say: may the hummus flourish regardless of who makes it and who eats it – and who the hell cares who made it first. Lets not argue about it’s origin. Better to make it one of the things we do agree upon.