Monday, May 7, 2012

Palestinian Food Under Occupation

One aspect of the Israeli Occupation that Palestinians feel strongly about is the co-opting of many of their national foods by the Israelis. Every time Palestinians hear falafel described as “Israeli veggie-burgers,” they cringe. 
Every time they hear hummus described as a national dish of Israel, they shudder.  These things are aggravating, but not life threatening, or even life altering.

Other aspects of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, however, have a great impact on the food Palestinians eat, and on their nutrition.  Extended curfews, for example, force people to eat what they have stored in their own homes—no fresh fruits or vegetables.  Since many of the refugee families do not have refrigerators, no meat, poultry, milk, or other food that requires refrigeration.  Canned foods are usually imported and too expensive for most refugee families.  The curfews are a prominent feature of daily life in my novel Born a Refugee.

Poverty in Palestine, like poverty anywhere  in the world, often leads to poor and insufficient diets.  Malnutrition, especially in the area of micro-nutrients is especially rampant among the children of Gaza.  A study by the Palestinian Medical Relief Society found that 52% of the children in Gaza suffer from anemia and severe deficiency in many vital nutrients.

Checkpoints and road closures make travel within Palestine difficult.  People and vehicles face long delays moving from town to town as Israeli soldiers search them.  This aspect of the occupation plays a critical role in my novel, Refugee Without Refuge.

Now there is an additional impediment to the transportation of food supplies within the country—The Apartheid Wall.  The Wall winds its way through over 750 kilometers of Palestine at a cost of approximately $2 million per kilometer.  The Wall separates friends; it separates families; it separates farmers from their land.

It also separates the land that produces one of the signature dishes of Palestinian cuisine from the Palestinian consumers. 
Mloukhieh (or molokhia or molokheya) is considered an acquired taste by some, but Palestinians often refer to it as their national dish.  Mloukhieh is typically cooked in chicken broth and served with chicken.  In my house, the chicken is removed from the broth and browned in the oven, but that is a personal preference.  We also mince the mloukhieh, while the dish in the video below uses whole leaves.  This is a regional difference.  The blog posted the video below and includes recipes as well. 
Another blogger uses a different spelling in her blog Food, Nostalgia, and Adventure and gives a good recipe.  She says Palestinians use the whole leaf rather than minced.  Regions differ--even within Palestine. 
Minced or whole leaf, fresh or dried, the Wall makes it is more difficult for the Palestinians to enjoy one of the few pleasures left to them.

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