Women, Food, and the Occupation
"At first the idea of a cooking class seemed crazy. We dropped our interest in our cooking and our food in order to survive under the Occupation. But we said 'It will be a way for us to remember our stories. It will be a way for the world to come to Nablus and see who we are. '"
(Fatimah Kadumy, Director of Bait al Karama, Nablus, Palestine)
What Your Donation Will Help Support
· Participation in Terra Madre Day in Mid-December. This is a Slow Food activity that Bait al Karama organizes every .every year It is an important moment to spread the Center’s philosophy and gather women around food making.
· Transportation to bring approximately 25 women from the village of Till for Terra Madre Day. Women from Till will share their expertise in cooking with approximately 25 women from the Old City of Nablus . Given the lack of mobility for women in the villages outside of Nablus, it is a valuable chance to generate exchange and build a bridge.
· Supplies for cooking maftoul for a shared meal on Terra Madre Day. Maftoul is a special kind of Palestinian couscous.
· New equipment for Bait al Karama’s kitchen; mainly professional pots of various sizes. These will be used for cooking classes for women from the Old City of Nablus, women from local villages, and visitors who participate in the Center’s international cooking programs and tours.
· Vests with the Bait al Karama logo for center volunteers (around 30 youths). Volunteers wear the vests at social action projects in the city (summer camps, Ramadam food distribution, school clean-ups, etc.).
I had the opportunity to visit Bait al Karama in September 2018. I was impressed by the warmth, the generosity, and the creativity of the women and young people I met. I have been planning to launch this campaign after US mid-term elections. As an American Jew, I am more committed than ever to building cross-cultural bridges following the recent the anti-Semitic, nationalist, racist shootings at Dor Haddash Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and near the First Baptist Church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
Mission and Activities of Bait al Karama
Bait al Karama is a Women’s Center in the Palestinian city of Nablus. Located in the Old City, the center is a space for women to connect and support each other, as well being a place for education, income generation, and cultural activities. Bait al Karama also offers cooking courses and tours facilitated by the women chefs of the center. The courses, which focus on traditional foods and dishes, help international audiences learn about the richness of Palestinian and Nablusi culture.
In addition to the courses for visitors, the Center has a training room, a restaurant, a kitchen, and a beauty salon. Women work in all of those places, and the center also provides other activities for women and children. Over 2,700 people have visited Bait al Karama over the course of its existence.
History of Bait al Karama
Fatimah Kadumy, one of the founders of Bair al Karama, generously talked with me for several hours during my visit to Nablus. When I asked how Bait al Karama started and why it focused on food, Fatimah told me how the creation of the women's center arose from the Palestinian uprisings against the Israeli Occupation.
Women were part of the First Intifada. During the Second Intifada we decided that women
needed a time for ourselves meet by ourselves.There was so much that was happening in
The Israeli siege of Nablus continued even after the ending of the Second Intifada, but Fatimah began the project of creating a physical home for the women of the Old City and their activities. Much of historic Ottoman architecture had been bulldozed by Israeli tanks.
Fatimah continued the history,
The Old City appeared largely closed, the economy was destroyed, and foreigners no
longer visited. I raised funds to restore an old Ottoman building as a meeting place for
women. In 2009, an Italian artist [Beatrice Catanzaro], came for a cup of coffee. We talked
and talked. Then she left. Foreigners never come back. But a year later she returned, and
she stayed for five years…We decided to do a cooking class. We also joined with the
Slow Food Movement. The Slow Food people used to go to Israel. Now they can come to
Nablus and hear from us. Then we discovered that we are missing information about our own
food. We realized we were buying settlement products. We opened our eyes to see our own
agriculture. We started to do research about our food. We visited women in the refugee
camps and in the villages.
The New Generation
Fatimah also explained to me Bait al Karama’s approach to working with young people.
We also have a summer camp every year. We help the volunteers develop a plan for their own
activities. They continue with these activities through the year. The young people bring food
to 100 people in the Old City every day. We need them to continue with their plan and to
know that violence is not the only option. We don’t want more blood. Through our work we
can create a clean and safe community. It’s time to rebuild. Whenever the situation is very
dark, we still have hope. We keep going for all the people who died. The new generation has
new ways of looking. They want to be more and more, but they need a hand.
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