Anastasia Michaeli, born 1975, is a Member of the Israeli Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu political party and has had successful careers in television journalism, business and modeling. Anastasia lives in Rishon LeZion with her husband Joseph Samuelson and their eight children. Although Michaeli was born in Leningrad, in the former Soviet Union, an ethnic Russian family, she converted to Judaism when she met and married her Israeli husband.
The political party she represents, Yisrael Beiteinu, was formed by current Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to create a platform for Russian immigrants who support a hard line in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. It takes a hard line towards the peace process and Israeli Arabs, characterized by its 2009 election slogan "No loyalty, no citizenship". Its main platform involves the creation of a Palestinian state that would include the exchange of largely Arab-inhabited parts of Israel for largely Jewish-inhabited parts of the West Bank. Yisrael Beiteinu is currently the third largest party in the Israeli parliament.
Anastasia loves to eat hummus with cabbage.
Jerusalem, May 2011
I'm making a film about hummus and the various claims about its origins...is hummus Israeli?
It's a very political issue I can say. I like to eat hummus. And I am from St Petersburg and now I am a member of the Parliament. So historically the moment I first ate humus was 11 years ago. And I didn't ask such kind of question when I came here. But now it is a very interesting issue. I think hummus is an Israeli food. And I am very patriotic.
It's a very good idea of Minister of Foreign Affairs in Lebanon to find a way to negotiate together with us. I think a good idea for next dinner together. For Israeli leaders, Palestinian leaders, particularly after September (2011) the declaration of Palestinian government, Palestinian country. And i hope that we will finally find who is the person who eats hummus for the first time. It's very tasty history.
What makes you believe it's Israeli?
It's a good marketing system of business and companies selling this product all over the world. They have done it for a few good years. And this market it works. Israeli companies. WE have apples we have cucumbers and they are all over the world. And unlike hummus, it's not a political issue at all.
What about questions of Israeli identity and heritage? How important in that context is hummus for Israelis?
I am a person who likes to eat it. But I don't think about it in those terms.
But you just said you see it as Israeli. Can you talk about why you see it that way? The Israelis say it is Israeli, the Lebanese say it is Lebanese and the Palestinians say it is Palestinian?
The conflict for this land is the conflict for many years. And I think Israel is part of the world and it has its own right to exist. And Jewish people have their own right to be here in Israel. And the conflict of land, the conflict of religion, it's the conflict that is somehow the place, where will we live, where we will eat. The same with hummus. I hope we have enough leaders to decide in the right way, in the right table of negotiation, with the same hummus, that we have a right to live in a peaceful country, with our rights, with our laws that will be respectful of people living here as human beings.
And do you also include 'our food' in that?
It can be food from all over the world. But Jews they eat Kosher. It is very important that it will be Kosher food.
When I was with the Minister for Tourism in Lebanon he said, "the Israelis have stolen our land, they have stolen our food and our music". Exact quote.
I can say that for many years, as a Russian person, that I was not Jewish, for 21 years. I was born in St Petersburg, I came here as a Russian, not as a religious person, I built everything from the beginning as a Jewish person, in my Jewish family with my 8 children. By the experience and just by historical information, many lives of Jewish people were stolen by inhumanity and racism reasons, Jews don't have a right to exist they should be killed. People who think this way are sick people of all understanding of humanity and human rights to exist. And when people use such political sentences I think they don't have the simple understanding of rights of human people around the world.
OK do you like to eat hummus?
I like to eat hummus together with cabbage. On a small level because I need to be skin...skinny? I like to eat hummus but not so much because we are ladies and we need to take care of ourselves and looking good. But our children like it and hummus is a very important part of food in our family.
Do you eat it each day? Every week? Is there a place you like to go?
We in our family we eat hummus each day. But I don't forget that in May in 2010, we were in Abu Gosh and there was a big event for the Guinness Book, that it was the biggest plate of hummus that was cooked, about 10,000 kilograms something enormous. And since this moment I can say that I was proud that in Israel that they were organising such an event. It made the same PR action all over the world about Israel and about hummus. It was very unusual.
Your PM mentioned in a speech in the US the importance of hummus and hummus companies.
I think our Israeli companies are doing the best work all over the world not only by buying or selling hummus. But at the same time they are doing good co-operation between other countries. It's very good for the economy not only for our country but all over the world. At the same time we are proud that our PM made this speech it's a very responsible and good speech.
Are you also aware that in the US hummus has become quite political?
No I didn't know about it.
Unfortunately boycotts all over the world are the same in my opinion, actions like before the 2nd World War. According to the old Jewish community it is the same parallel in my opinion. We are here, we are humans, we have our rights, we have our Knesset, laws and I think people all over the world should respect it. We are not trying to be involved in their economy or their cultural life. We are leading our own simple life, like all citizens all over the world.
They want to see a Palestinian state, that's what the boycott is all about?
A Palestinian state was not historically...they are trying just to build a new brand. Israel....it's our life it's our land and it's our right to be here and I think all such campaigns should be done not from the blood of our children, of our soldiers that are trying to keep us in a peaceful country without wars. It takes time to understand. It takes time to explain to the whole world our position. We are less....6 million people were killed in the 2nd World War. If it wasn't like this I am sure we could stand more strongly around the world to speak and to understand our position.
There are these protests happening in America and in Australia too, and hummus has become incredibly politicised?
The boycott is not just about hummus, cultural life, academic life, students. Unfortunately it is not only about hummus.