This is a week of dinners for a family in Gaza – Mondoweiss

This is a week of dinners for a family in Gaza – Mondoweiss

Every night after sunset, Noura Atta, 45, and her daughter Maryam, 15, gather in the family’s modest kitchen in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City and start cooking dinner. Noura’s husband, Ibrahim 47, sits on a mattress on the floor of their living room and calls their sons Majd 18 and Tareq 14 from their bedrooms.

Maryam carefully fills a large tray with a variety of small plates, filled with a variety of foods that she took from the family refrigerator. Ibrahim gets up to help his daughter place the tray on a small plastic table in the middle of the living room and makes one last call for his children to sit at the table.

As her family waits around the table, Noura puts the finishing touches on what is perhaps the most important part of the dinner: her freshly brewed black tea. Without it, it doesn’t really feel like dinner, the family says.

Noura Atta prepares tea for her family in her modest kitchen in neighboring Shuja’iyya in Gaza City. Gaza City, Gaza, 2021. (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

Once Noura brings the kettle and cups on a small tray and sets it on the table, the spread is complete: local spice mixes from Za’atar and Dukkah, sliced ​​tomatoes, chicken mortadella, mild white cheese, olives. fresh this season. harvest and some olive oil from the family supply: a gallon that they must make last all year.

Everything that was available in the fridge is now on the table for dinner.

Ibrahim breaks a piece of warm homemade bread, passes the bread to the person next to him, and the family begins to eat dinner.

The Atta family share some pieces of bread to dip in olive oil, Za’atar, a mixture of thyme and sesame seeds, Dukkah, a mixture of local spices, yogurt and cheese. (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The Atta family dinner table spread can be found commonly on dinner tables throughout the Gaza Strip, where many families live below the poverty line. In 2021, the unemployment rate in Gaza exceeded 50 percent.

Ibrahim Atta is one of the millions of Gazans facing unemployment. After being injured during the Second Intifada in 2000, Ibrahim was unable to work. Atta’s family of five lives on their monthly pension from the Palestinian Authority of 900 shekels (~ $ 290).

“Dinners are mostly simple, as we have to balance affordable and expensive meals”, Noura Tolda. Mondoweiss, while sipping his tea. “Tomorrow is Friday and traditionally families eat meat or chicken, but I cannot offer it. It’s so expensive that I can only afford it once or twice a month, at most, ”he said.

After dinner, the family sits around the table to finish their tea, laughing and chatting about their days. Noura, who does all the shopping for the family, expresses her dissatisfaction with the economic situation in Gaza and how “everything was much more affordable and easily accessible before the siege.”

“Large meals consisting of fresh vegetables and meat are now too expensive for us to eat regularly during the week. Things are much more difficult these days, ”he said, adding that the family often relies on leftovers from lunch for dinner.

“Fifteen years ago we used to get more food at a lower cost. Now the amount of food is less and the cost is higher, “he continued, adding that their growing teenagers are not usually satisfied after dinner, but the family” manages “with what they can find in the refrigerator. .

For most dinners, Noura Atta takes what she can find out of the fridge, whether it’s packaged yogurt or cheese or leftovers from lunch. (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

According to Noura, before the Israeli siege of Gaza was imposed in 2007, she used to be able to buy food for 100 shekels ($ 32) that would last her family for the entire week.

“Now, for 100 shekels, I can only get simple things that last a few days,” he said.

The Atta family’s budget for dinner is no more than 15 shekels ($ 4.87) a day, sometimes even less when dinner consists of leftovers from lunch, plus a new side or two. This week, the family had leftovers two nights a week.

Day 1: Dinner today is Za’atar, a blend of dried thyme and sesame seeds, a local spice blend called Dukkah, olive oil for dipping, chicken mortadella slices, tomatoes, red hot peppers, yogurt, and a little white cheese to cool down. the hot spices in these dishes and, of course, the fresh seasonal olives.

Day 2: Today’s dinner is leftovers from lunch. Noura made baked cakes filled with spinach. Next to the cakes were cheese, tomatoes, and olives.

Day 3: Dinner today was a traditional dish called Ful (pronounced fūl), a stew of cooked broad beans served with olive oil, cumin, garlic, and other herbs and spices. On one side were boiled eggs, mortadella, tomato, and olives.

Day 4: Dinner today is a lentil soup served with its special side of lemon and garlic, along with yogurt, some olives, and homemade bread.

Day 5: Dinner consists of lunch leftovers of cooked spinach, poached potato, olives, tomatoes, and red pepper.

Day 6: Today’s dinner is pasta cooked in tomato sauce, olives and yogurt.

Day 7: The final dinner of the week consists of cheese, beans, tomatoes, chicken mortadella and red peppers.

At the end of the week, Noura starts planning her shopping list for the next week. You will evaluate what you already have at home and will go out to buy only what you need. If you have enough money left in your budget, you will try to buy meat or chicken to give your family a special gift.

“I wish I could go to the market and buy the best food for my family every day, but if I did, our monthly income would disappear in two days,” Noura said. “I have a family to feed throughout the month, so we chose to have these simple meals instead.”

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