HindustanTimes Tue,23 Dec 2014

In the shadow of war: Indian offers biryani comfort to Israeli troops

Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 06, 2014
First Published: 01:03 IST(6/8/2014) | Last Updated: 01:08 IST(6/8/2014)

An Indian woman known as the curry queen of Israel won over the hearts  —  and stomachs — of Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza with a plate of aromatic chicken biryani last week.

Reena Pushkarna, who runs a chain of tandoori restaurants in Israel, set up a make-shift kitchen and rustled up 400 kg of biryani near the Gaza border where Israel and Hamas have been fighting for almost a month.

Pushkarna, who made Tel Aviv her home 30 years ago, and her crew of four chefs served the biryani to more than 2,000 Israeli soldiers, including Indian-origin Jews.

“My team and I had to dive into trenches twice to keep from getting killed last Thursday. But the initiative surely brought smiles to the faces of our soldiers,” Pushkarna told HT from Tel Aviv.

Israel said on Tuesday it had withdrawn its troops from Gaza for a 72-hour truce, but it is uncertain if the latest ceasefire will hold or collapse like past attempts to suspend hostilities.

Pushkarna, a retired colonel’s daughter, said she would love to cook for children in Gaza, who are caught in the crossfire.

“Lives have been shattered in this war. The tragedy on both sides breaks my heart,” she said of the conflict that has left close to 2,000 people dead, most of them Palestinians.

She is the convener of the Israel chapter of the Overseas Friends of BJP and flew down for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in May.

Her restaurant in Tel Aviv, called Tandoori, was the setting for Norway-mediated talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that led to a historic peace accord in 1993.

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