Exploring Jerusalem's old city

Jerusalem's old city is divided into 4 independently functioning quarters: Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian.

Posted: Jun 9, 2018 11:26 PM
Updated: Jun 9, 2018 11:28 PM

Anthony Bourdain brought cuisines from around the world to viewers who might never otherwise have contemplated them. But his shows were always about so much more than that.

After his death was announced on Friday, many commentators have noted Bourdain's ability to tell broader stories about a country's history and culture through the lens of its food. More often than not, people of the countries that were the subject of his films would remark on the insight he conveyed to the rest of the world.

Bourdain made a particular impact in the Middle East -- he made memorable films in Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories. People in the Middle East noted on Friday how he was able to tell stories that went beyond the superficial picture painted by the daily news cycle.

Over the course of his TV career -- for CNN's "Parts Unknown" and earlier for the Travel Channel -- Bourdain returned to the Middle East many times. But it was the Lebanese capital of Beirut that appeared to make a particular mark, writing once that he considered naming his newborn daughter after the city.

Beirut

Bourdain fell in love with Beirut after returning from shooting an episode of one his previous shows, "No Reservations," in 2006. He and his crew had been in the city for 24 hours when they became trapped in the beginnings of the Lebanese-Israeli conflict. They were rescued and taken to Cyprus, before flying home.

In "Parts Unknown," Bourdain revisited Beirut in 2015, and in his field notes, he looked back at his first trip and how it inspired him to do television differently.

"One day I was making television about eating and drinking. The next I was watching the airport I'd landed in a few days earlier being blown up across the water from my hotel window.

"I came away from the experience deeply embittered, confused -- and determined to make television differently than I had before. I didn't know how I was going to do it or whether my network at the time was going to allow me, but the days of happy horseshit -- the uplifting sum-up at the end of every show, the reflex inclusion of a food scene in every act -- that ended right there."

He added: "Our Beirut experience did not give me delusions of being a journalist. I just saw that there were realities beyond what was on my plate, and those realities almost inevitably informed what was -- or was not -- for dinner. To ignore them had come to seem monstrous."

"And yet I'd already fallen in love with Beirut. We all had -- everyone on my crew. As soon as we'd landed, headed into town, there was a reaction I can only describe as pheromonic: The place just smelled good. Like a place we were going to love."

Ramsay Short, who worked as a fixer for Bourdain and appeared in the three of his Beirut shows, described Bourdain as cool-headed when news broke that Israel had bombed the Beirut airport runway. It wasn't the start of the war but it marked the first major escalation that turned it from a skirmish to a full-on confrontation.

"He amazingly wasn't too freaked out. He could handle the situation. The rest of the program was about waiting for the US marines to get him out of there," Short told CNN.

Short also talked about the affection Bourdain felt for the Lebanese, and how that was reciprocated.

"He was embraced by the Lebanese and they embraced him back, and that was something that really got to him at that time. When he saw what happened during the Israeli bombardment, he was flabbergasted and found it extremely painful and it was enough to make him want to come back -- not just once but twice more."

Part of what Short admired most about Bourdain was his ability to show places that everyone could relate to.

"He came and saw this thriving country as an example of what it could be if it wasn't for all the chaos, war and uncertainty. He was just so fascinated."

He said he thought people connected with Bourdain because he was honest and genuine, and always said what he meant.

"No arguments about that. That is something that really appeals to people," Short said.

"You feel like you have a relationship with this person, like he's your best friend. His wit and humor and his ability to suddenly, in an awkward situation, say one thing that can relax the room. Everyone loves someone who can make you laugh."

Iran

When Bourdain visited Iran in 2014, he said he came back with a confusing picture of the country, as what he experienced was so at odds with what he understood of the country from the vision portrayed by the US government.

He wrote: "What we saw, what we came back with, is a deeply confusing story. Because the Iran you see from the inside, once you walk the streets of Tehran, once you meet Iranians, is a very different place than the Iran you know from the news. Nowhere else I've been has the disconnect been so extreme between what one sees and feels from the people and what one sees and hears from the government."

He went on: "I have said that Iran is the most outgoingly warm, pro-American place we've ever shot, and that's true: In Tehran, in spite of the fact that you are standing in front of a giant, snarling mural that reads 'DEATH TO AMERICA!,' we found that you will usually be treated better by strangers — meaning smiles, offers of assistance, curious attempts to engage in limited English, greetings and expressions of general good will — than anywhere in Western Europe."

He added: "This is not a black-and-white world — as much as people would like to portray it as such. That's not an apology for anything. I'm just saying that the brief, narrow slice of Iran we give you in this episode of Parts Unknown is only one part of a much deeper, multihued, very old, and very complicated story. Like anything as ancient and as beautiful as the Persian Empire, it's worth, I think, looking further. But it's also a place that can warm your heart one day and break it the next."

Iranians, including some living in other parts of the world, praised Bourdain on Twitter for capturing their country in a different light to the usual Western media reports and government rhetoric.

Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza

Bourdain's trip to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 2013 was perhaps his most contentious. And he knew it would be.

He opened that episode with a disclaimer: "By the end of this hour, I'll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse."

In his description of the area, he said: "It's easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world, and there's no hope -- none -- of ever talking about it without pissing somebody, if not everybody, off."

Nonetheless, Bourdain set out to discover the questions of where felafel comes from and who makes the best hummus. While that was his culinary mission, the episode unraveled as a thoughtful exploration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We all bring stuff along when we travel -- your preconceptions, your personal belief system, the full weight of your life experience," he said. "It's going to come to bear on the way you experience a place. But whatever you may think, and whatever baggage you may bring to this place, you should see this."

Much praise for Bourdain came over his attention to Palestinians in that episode, as well as his words of support for the Palestinain people.

Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian human rights lawyer who has worked on the peace process, tweeted a quote by Bourdain Friday after news of his death: "The world has visited many terrible things on the Palestinian people, none more shameful than robbing them of their basic humanity." It was part of an acceptance speech Bourdain gave for a Muslim Public Affairs Council award in 2014.

Buttu told CNN that she appreciated the way Bourdain saw the Palestinians as people, rather than mere numbers in a conflict.

"It was very refreshing when Bourdain came here. It was very revealing that after the segment aired and when he talked about Palestinians that he made sure to mention the issue of dehumanization, that Palestinians had been deprived of their humanity," Buttu told CNN.

"He saw Palestinians as human beings -- it's sad we have to say this in this day and age, that someone saw us as human beings, but he did and that for me was very powerful."

"He not only loved food but all of the things that surround food -- love, humanity culture, tradition. It was powerful because he was bringing his love and passion for food and coupled it with the story about Palestinian deprivation."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 996341

Reported Deaths: 16245
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1343262101
Lake658231151
Allen57160791
Hamilton45963460
St. Joseph43954607
Elkhart35546503
Vanderburgh31975473
Tippecanoe27694256
Johnson24821440
Hendricks23647353
Porter22735362
Madison18538404
Clark18383248
Vigo17274300
Monroe15117197
LaPorte14987249
Delaware14931256
Howard14574286
Kosciusko12166147
Hancock11597175
Bartholomew11447179
Warrick11225188
Floyd10983214
Wayne10840248
Grant9898217
Morgan9361176
Boone8819115
Dubois8210129
Dearborn815492
Henry8107150
Noble7944106
Marshall7786134
Cass7462119
Lawrence7379168
Shelby7115114
Jackson691788
Gibson6480113
Harrison641591
Huntington630299
Knox6269105
DeKalb623796
Montgomery6184109
Miami586595
Putnam573477
Clinton567171
Whitley558055
Steuben550473
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Jasper520475
Jefferson504695
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Daviess4596112
Scott433968
Greene421196
Wells419787
Clay418460
White414261
Decatur4118101
Fayette402186
Jennings383260
Posey374243
LaGrange352078
Washington352049
Randolph339999
Spencer336442
Fountain331858
Sullivan326652
Starke310868
Owen310169
Fulton304566
Orange290562
Jay278445
Perry264452
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Ohio84012
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1490451

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1620041662
Cuyahoga1439412412
Hamilton1040301409
Montgomery727961240
Summit606541094
Lucas55296904
Butler50803707
Stark456401053
Lorain34875568
Warren32293369
Mahoning30057672
Clermont27811321
Lake26457434
Delaware23872162
Licking23361283
Trumbull22357552
Fairfield22081241
Greene21967311
Medina21624305
Clark19513349
Richland18225280
Portage17579247
Wood17122220
Allen15627269
Miami15259296
Muskingum14417174
Columbiana13587263
Wayne13494263
Tuscarawas12372298
Marion11742175
Scioto11313154
Pickaway11246141
Erie10586180
Ross10397196
Lawrence9630137
Hancock9476149
Ashtabula9370197
Belmont9059197
Geauga8766157
Jefferson8439191
Huron8172139
Union806256
Washington7995137
Sandusky7654145
Athens765372
Knox7539138
Darke7525151
Seneca7166144
Ashland6761125
Auglaize663396
Shelby6374111
Brown626282
Crawford6147130
Mercer605793
Defiance6043102
Fulton588596
Highland585899
Madison584976
Clinton573890
Logan566292
Guernsey564867
Preble5623121
Putnam5227108
Williams515384
Perry510661
Champaign500871
Jackson493470
Ottawa476686
Coshocton466382
Morrow448256
Pike428462
Fayette419960
Adams409287
Gallia408165
Hardin407176
Van Wert361578
Henry356671
Holmes3539122
Hocking349078
Wyandot315761
Carroll294559
Paulding274345
Meigs256849
Monroe210553
Noble195146
Morgan188132
Harrison177042
Vinton161124
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