Valentine's Day in Salzburg
Head and heart were filled with worries. We flew at night in thunderstorms from snowy Vienna to Salzburg. The goal of our flight was a conference on energy issues, with representatives of the Mediterranean countries . The conference had been conducted under the auspices of the European Union.
It was the 14th of February, 2005, Valentine's Day. For the first time in my life I came face to face with representatives of Arab countries, some of which do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
The Austrian hosts were excellent. The delegates - from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Turkey, Cyprus and the Arab countries – were housed in a grand Baroque hotel in the beautiful city of Salzburg.
The hosts did everything possible to provide us with the best of the European cuisine and Austrian cuisine. Everything was on the tables - Pastries, stews, meats, desserts and of course - wine bottles containing alcohol on each table.
The European hosts, it seems, did not have the slightest idea about the particular needs people from these countries might have. Delegates from Turkey or from Arab countries were probably mostly Muslims, therefore most of them could not touch those dishes that might have contained pork - and could not drink wine placed on the table. Even some Israelis had a similar problem, since many foods were forbidden according to Judaism, for example pastries with meat and cheese together, making it difficult even for non-religious Jews to find anything suitable to eat. I'm not religious myself but I avoid dairy products for health reasons, and I avoid mixing meat and milk or eating pork.
There, in frozen Salzburg in mid-February 2005, I could imagine what the representatives from Syria or Lebanon, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority or the North African countries were thinking of. Most of them probably thought the same thing - how to find some food that suits their traditional, religious, or health needs , longing for some Mediterranean cuisine. Without a word between us - I know that both I and the representatives of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority for instance were eager to get home, eat a good hummus dish with tahini and olives, without unidentified components.
At the same conference in 2005, I began to realize that whether we are Israelis, Palestinians or Syrians, whether we are Turks or Greeks Cypriots - eventually everyone needs to have food that is compatible with his own health, religious or traditional needs. We all need clear and accurate information as much as possible on food ingredients. That need increases while visiting foreign countries and attending hotels, restaurants or conferences.
This phenomenon which I've witnessed in Salzburg was repeated in other conferences I attended. Again, the hosts, pleasant and well-intentioned as they may be, had zero awareness to the particular needs of people from various countries, religions, traditions – or medical dietary needs.
The Vieweat project I founded with my friends, is designed to increase a worldwide awareness for clear marking of food ingredients in any type of food service, whether in restaurants, conference halls, hotels or other types of food service.
Alongside its importance for individual consumers, we hope that the Vieweat project would promote and encourage inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between nations and peoples around the world....