Of great importance in Israel: if two strangers met in the desert and shared a meal, an unbreakable bond was established. Often meals were vegetarian, and meat (but only from animals prescribed in Lev. 11 as clean) could be eaten on special occasions provided that the blood was drained out (Deut. 12: 23). Meals were part of celebrations and festivals, especially at the Passover (Deut. 16: 1–8), and the laws about food were an essential part of Israelite identity. Banquets are mentioned in the gospels, and it is apparent that a host would issue a preliminary invitation which was followed up by a second when the meal was ready (Luke 14: 16–17). Much care was taken to seat guests in accordance with age and rank. Guests reclined round a table, eating by using the right hand. Jesus clearly enjoyed meals with friends and was accused by enemies of over‐indulgence (Matt. 11: 18–19) but meals with disciples symbolized the kind of fellowship and joy that would obtain in the age to come (Matt. 8: 11). The image (cf. Isa. 25: 6) of the Messianic banquet (Matt. 22: 2; 26: 29; Luke 22: 30) made every Eucharist a foretaste of it (Acts 2: 46).