Hello Dear Friends,
I wish it was like any other year at this time, where I would be sharing multiple recipes gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sadly this has been probably the worst month in my family’s and my life. To watch hopelessly the carnage on the other side of the world has been devastating. I have taken a pause from my normal content to attend to other callings in my life, which I will catch you up on if you choose to read about it below. If you are seeking recipe ideas for Thanksgiving, you can check out my Thanksgiving playlist, with recipes for side dishes, salads, desserts, and Momma Vera’s fantastic turkey tutorial here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLm5-PI4h0s4qF4WqDWPgz5Pdb8ab6BEC7
First, some positive news. Recently a professor from Indiana University, who is an avid viewer of Feast in the Middle East, invited me to lecture in her Arabic language class! Aside from speaking about the importance of food in Arabic culture and hospitality, I was also tasked with teaching the students some simple recipes that they could easily replicate at home (or even a dorm room if they had a food processor.)
In the midst of all the current sadness, it filled my heart to be a part of this brilliant program where charismatic professors are building bridges between the West and the Middle East. The students not only learn the Arabic language, but culture as well, through Arabic art, music, cuisine and much more. I was astounded at how quickly these inspiring students picked up such a difficult language like Arabic!
This group of wonderful students and teachers gave me so much hope for the future. Their enthusiasm and open mindedness will no doubt pave the way for peace and mutual understanding. For students interested in international relations, or becoming an ambassador, Indiana University is the epicenter of languages. It’s the only university of its kind in the country that teaches over 80 languages! I have taken highlights of my trip to share with you below, and hope it gives you a spark of optimism in these dark times.
Now onto another topic with a silver lining. I want to premise the following information with this: no matter where you are on the political spectrum. I hope we can all agree that there is NEVER an excuse for the wholesale slaughter of children and innocent civilians. If there was a mass shooter in an American hospital, church, or school, American law enforcement would never bomb entire buildings or city blocks to get criminals on the loose. To treat an entire population as collateral damage is dehumanizing at best, sociopathic at worst.
In reponse to the current genocide happening in Gaza (as of this writing, almost 5000 Palestinian children have been killed in one month) the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) put together an emergency fundraiser. I was the emcee of this event, and Steve Sosebee, the founder of this phenomenal charity, and Dena Takruri, an award winning journalist at Al Jazeera where the main guest speakers.
Almost 600 people showed up to this event, and we raised over $500,000! I know that economic times are so difficult for people, especially with the holidays approaching. This event showed me how many people have the biggest hearts and truly care for those that are experiencing an unprecedented amount of suffering.
Currently in Gaza, there is a midieval style starvation and siege, combined with high tech ruthless bombardment. Both food and water have run out, and over 1 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, living in tents with winter approaching. Thousands of cilivilians, 50% of them children, have horrific injuries from incessant bombs that shred body parts with illegal, flechette style ammunition. They have also been victimized by illegal chemical weapons like white phosphorous that burn the skin right to the bone.
Palestinian civilians are either dying a slow death under the rubble, or having horrific surgeries and amputations without anasthesia (if they are lucky enough with the now collapsed hospital system). Pregnant women that need caesareans have been but off from anaesthesia as well, often dying during childbirth. Over 22 hospitals have been bombed and deprived of fuel, so premature babies are cut off from incubators, and so far 3 of them have died. The collective punishment is unimaginably horrific, considered war crimes according to the Geneva conventions.
This is why I am so passionate about the PCRF. The PCRF stands resolute in its commitment to help these severely injured children during this harrowing crisis. Their devoted medical teams are working tirelessly to deliver urgent relief efforts, from crucial medical supplies to nourishment, clean water, and shelter, trying to reach those most profoundly affected.
The PCRF is the most respected and active nonprofit humanitarian medical relief organizations working in the Middle East. For 10 straight years, they’ve received Charity Navigators’ coveted 4-star rating, demonstrating a commitment to accountability and transparency. Please donate if you have even a few dollars to spare, at www.PCRF.Net
To get highlights of this fundraising event and my thoughts on this crisis, you can check out my other new video here: