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‘Food is the way we can help’: World Feast chefs cook Palestinian cuisine to aid civilians in Gaza

Chef Edith Vieira makes Palestinian Maqluba, a traditional rice dish consisting of chicken, fried eggplant and potatoes, and topped with almonds on Friday in Feast World kitchen.  (COLIN MULVANY)

A group of Middle Eastern chefs prepared regional cuisine Friday as a fundraiser for humanitarian aid to civilians injured in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.

Feast World Kitchen is a nonprofit restaurant that partners with chefs who are immigrants or former refugees. Many of the chefs and volunteers fled persecution or have family members affected by violence.

“Especially for our Middle Eastern chefs from that part of the world, seeing so many people killed and injured is really heartbreaking,” said Ross Carper, co-executive director of Feast. “So they want to do something.”

One of the chefs is Maisa Abudayha, a Jordanian immigrant whose mother is Palestinian. Although she has never been to Palestine, as a mother of four children, Abudayha felt sad to see so many children harmed there.

Feast will donate proceeds from Friday’s lunch and dinner to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, which is part of the International Red Cross Movement. With Gaza’s health care infrastructure damaged by the war, they believe the Red Crescent Society is best positioned to supply neutral medical aid.

The response was overwhelming. Carper said Feast raised $3,500 from lunch alone and had to stop taking orders for dinner.

But they also received some angry messages misinterpreting the fundraiser as sympathy for the violence against Israel.

“Our hearts go out to the Israeli and Jewish communities around the world and in Spokane,” Carper said. “Whenever innocent people are caught in the crossfire, it is terrible news.”

Feast has worked with Spokane’s Jewish community as well, including a celebration of the Jewish holiday Sukkot last year.

“We are a bunch of cooks at the end of the day,” Carper said. “We’re not trying to make political statements.”

In the kitchen, Abudayha poured rice into a large simmering pot with eggplant, potato and chicken. The Palestinian dish is called maqluba, which is Arabic for “upside-down.”

When it is done, the pot is flipped upside down onto one tray for a family to gather around.

“That’s how we make it over here as immigrants, we make it through food,” Abudayha said. “Food is a very basic bridge for us to reach the community. We thought, food is the way we can help.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.