Israeli rockets are raining down on Gaza. The death toll has risen above 100 and a distressing number of the casualties are children. My social media feeds are filled with images, stories, and names that bear witness to the assault – collective punishment meted out on the inhabitants of the world’s largest open-air prison.
But then what? Very often these social media “feeds” become echo chambers where like-minded individuals exchange anguish, indignation, and catharsis. This can be important, but it can also be exhausting. Frustrated at what Facebook and Twitter were feeding me, I decided to feed myself with something different last night – starting with a few recipes from The Gaza Kitchen, a cookbook I’ve blogged about before (see here and here) and which is a gorgeous celebration of the vibrant and living food culture of Gazans.
I made a stew with dumplings (which I chose because it was comfort food, but also, perhaps, because the cookbook authors note it is often prepared to commemorate the dead) and a fresh salad, and over dinner instead of only talking about death, we also spoke about life, a small reminder that the Gaza of the mainstream media is not the only Gaza; that it is a place by the sea with people who work, dream, write, cook, and love.
Cooking a Gazan dinner, with its characteristic use of hot peppers and spicy shatta, I was reminded of a theory I’m developing about the connection between Alexandrian food here in Egypt and Gazan food. Of course it makes sense that the cuisines are linked, given their geographical proximity and the fact that inhabitants of both fish from similar waters – but lately, what I’ve been reading has suggested just how far back that connection may go. A thirteenth century cookbook (probably from Egypt) describes Alexandrian sauce (distinct from similar sauces emerging from either the shores of Italy or the kitchens of Cairo) containing olive oil, lemon juice, hot spices, and garlic. If you’re even a little familiar with Gazan cuisine, that might sound familiar..
(some like it hot)
If nothing else, this observation is a small opportunity to remind ourselves that the national borders and identities (and cuisines) we’ve all fiercely marked out are not as permanent as we’d like to imagine sometimes.
With that, I present a very short list of things you can actually do in the face of current events:
Cook a recipe from Gaza or from elsewhere in Palestine. Eat it with family, friends, neighbors. Talk about where it came from.
There’s a lot of vitriol and pushback surrounding the BDS movement, but the fact is that choosing to boycott is an individual and peaceful step you can take without even leaving your Trader Joe’s. Here is a quick list of brands whose policies benefit from Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, as a start. Write a list. Put it on your fridge. Use it as a reminder and conversation starter.
There are many organizations providing emergency aid to Gaza, and even a small donation (say, the money you save by making your own hummus for a year instead of buying Sabra hummus) can have an impact. Some suggested organizations (please leave other suggestions in the comments):
UNRWA, which allows you to earmark what your donation is for (Gazan emergency funds, food security, etc.)
The Egyptian Red Crescent will be sending aid to Gaza. Contributions can be sent to The Egyptian Red Crescent, Banque du Caire. 19 Adly St. EGP: Accnt #: 8384 / 501 / 30 in US$: Accnt #: 1181 / 601 / 30
Gazasiege.org has an additional list of organizations providing humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Note that many organizations allow you to specify a monthly gift – this is a good way to split out a donation into small amounts over time, if you’re on a budget, and it also helps aid organizations plan so that they aren’t relying on emergency funds that come in only in times of crisis.
Unpacking Israel’s oft-touted “right to defense” in the frameworks of international law, via Jadaliyya
Some context (this didn’t start with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month and it’s not just about Gaza or Hamas), via the LRB
Segment re: Gaza on Democracy Now
The Gaza Kitchen, by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt
Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A Concise History with 174 Recipes, Lilia Zaouali
A Saveur feature on Palestinian food from the West Bank