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'A message of hope': Vancouver Palestinian restaurant raises thousands for Gaza

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A Palestinian restaurant in East Vancouver is raising money for medical supplies and food for the people of Gaza one plate of mujadara at a time.

Mujadara is a traditional Palestinian comfort food comprised of lentils, rice and caramelized onions—and the by-donation sale of the dish at Tamam Fine Palestinian Cuisine has raised around $37,000 in the first two fundraisers at the restaurant in October and November.

A third fundraiser took place Sunday.

“Every time we did this it exceeded our expectations,” co-owner Sobhi Zobaidi told CTV News.

“I think what we’re doing as a small restaurant, first of all we feel like we have to do something as Palestinians, but also we realize we are now giving opportunity to the community to come here and feel like they can do something about what’s happening,” he continued.

He said customers have read poems at the fundraisers and have the opportunity to converse about the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. “It’s kind of a protest, really,” Zobaidi said.

The message the restaurant owner wants to send is a call for “equal rights, equal justice and peace for all the people.”

“It’s a message of unity, a message of hope,” he said, adding it’s one inclusive of Palestinian people, Jewish people and those who are neither.

Zobaidi said he is in contact with people in Gaza who help him identify organizations that are giving aid to people in the war-torn enclave, and he only sends money once he confirms they’re providing medical supplies or food.

Since Oct. 7, more than 15,500 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, with more than 41,000 wounded. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but said 70 per cent of the dead were women and children. The ministry says thousands more people are feared dead under the rubble.

The United Nations estimates that 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced.

About 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, have been killed, mostly during the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

“It’s really difficult to watch what’s happening and to stay silent,” Zobaidi said. “Everybody should stand against oppression, against violence, against genocide. Our message is that we are non-violent. We call for peace.”

With files from The Associated Press

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