Halawa (Arabic), or maybe you know it as Halva (Hebrew). A velvety sesame-based sweet paste, like the peanut butter of the Middle East. I love it. We used it in one of our items today at the Kitchen. You know what the funny thing is though. I can virtually guarantee that almost every Muslim Arab, Christian Arab and Israeli Jew grew up with a tub of Halawa in their household. Three groups of people, each enduring horror right now all grew up with a tub of this sweet paste in their home (I could say the same about Hummus by the way if you wanted a savoury example). 

We always had a tub of Halawa at home, but my circumstances were such that my parents worked hard to build a safer future for us elsewhere. So I know I need to use my voice to speak out — this is why I have a lot to say, or rather to write.

So how is it that once upon a time these three groups, currently at war with one another, all ate from the same tub of Halawa? Or dipped into the same bowl of Hummus? 

Clearly, somewhere along the line, someone lost track of the plot. We were lied to by evil selfish powers with extremist ideologies that do not benefit anyone except themselves and a small handful of people, while causing suffering to hundreds more. 

What is happening in Palestine now is HORRIFIC. But horrific things on a differential scale are also happening in many places in the world. When all we hear about are stories of human lives being lost in so many ways, and for reasons we often cannot fully understand, our morale feels low and we wonder what kind of world we are living in. I am not only referring to Palestine here, I am referring to many other things. This is the wake-up call for our generation. The pandemic and everything else is our wake-up call.

I’ve been telling myself that we need to be bigger than this. I’ve been telling myself this life is going to need tough people. If someone provokes you, don’t hit back. Just walk away. And sometimes, being tough will also mean being kind.

This life is going to need tough people, and tough people need to know who they are, what they are about and figure out who it is they want to be in this lifetime. We need to be tough, kind and incredibly FOCUSED. Focused in the sense that we need to figure out what the real problem is, not what we are being told to believe. 

After a few days of grief over the state of humanity, I dug deep down inside to find some light in all this darkness. And then it hit me. I don’t think we should lose hope at all. I think we need to be stronger than we ever thought we could be.

We say we aren’t responsible for each other’s happiness, but I am wondering if recent events are proving that idea wrong. Maybe in some way, we are responsible for each other’s happiness. And if the current crisis isn’t teaching us that, then I don’t know what is.

This idea in recent years that we are not responsible for each other’s happiness is, in my humble opinion, rooted in some form of shallowness. An excuse to not be accountable for any problems in this world: to live a carefree life where it is just about me me me me. Not about me AND you. 

Perhaps, what the last year and a half is teaching us is that we ARE in fact responsible for each other’s happiness. Graphic images of a war on one side of the world reaches our smartphones in a matter of minutes on the other side of the world so it does affect us in one way or another, especially our morale and our faith in humanity.

When a shooting happens in the middle of daylight in a busy part of Kingston, it affects the people stuck in the middle of the shootout. When a protest takes place on behalf of one disadvantaged racial group in the most powerful country in the world, it shakes and moves millions of other people across the globe.

So tell me again, am I still solely responsible for my happiness, or might you have a role to play in securing it as well? 

Marianna Farag is passionate about food. According to her, it’s a larger than life multi-faceted topic that just never gets boring and each ingredient tells countless stories. Born from an Egyptian father, Syrian mother, in Greece and of French citizenship, she started travelling to Jamaica as of 2013 and eventually decided to move and make it home. In 2019, she took the bold step of following her dream: to open a food curious vegan restaurant in Kingston, Jamaica. She believes food has this tremendous power to connect people. Prior to opening the Kitchen, Marianna did global marketing for 15 years and blogged her way around food world. She also loves all things art, music, travel, swimming and running. Recently she’s also picked up meditation and tries to find balance in her life amidst the uncertain times we currently face.