Beginning May 8, the North Texas Jewish community will begin the celebration of “Israel Week.” As part of the celebration, the Jewish Agency’s through Partnership2Gether will send a delegation of chefs from Western Galilee to North Texas, where Israel will be delivered to the plate of the local residents. Partnership2Gether links global Jewish communities directly with communities in Israel; for Dallas, that area is the Western Galilee.
Among the three-person chef delegation will be Paul Nirens, founder of GalilEat, a company that provides culinary tours and cooking workshops in the homes of Western Galilee residents from different cultures. The Western Galilee consists of different populations — Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, Druze, Bahai and Jews — all of whom have their own cultural richness, and all of whom live within harmony with one another.
Born and raised in Australia, Nirens made aliyah to Israel at the age of 25, and spent years doing what he did best: cooking. He spent years managing kitchens in restaurants and major hotels in the north part of the country. Then, during one Passover Seder, something occurred to him: “I was running a hotel kitchen and, during the service, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I was, in the middle of the traditional Passover Seder, and I wasn’t sitting at a table with my own family.”
Nirens, in pondering the population of Western Galilee, and incorporating his love of the land, created GalilEat. Groups involved with the organization take part in cooking workshops, and learn about the unique culinary culture of the family host. But GalilEat is more than eating great, and different types, of food. The goal is to generate connections between people of different communities, and to ultimately strengthen the relationships between those communities. According to Nirens, the most important stage of the workshops involves the first 20 minutes, which are devoted to getting acquainted with the family and its story. The purpose, Nirens indicated, is to strengthen connections through food.
This is the focus of the Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether’s delegation in early May. Nirens, especially, wants to bring the culture and cuisine of Western Galilee to residents of the Dallas community. “I hope that this mission won’t be a one-time initiative,” he said. “I look forward to a similar mission arriving to visit us in Western Galilee, so that we can enjoy the fruits of this special connection between Dallas and Western Galilee.”