In March, the World Mission Council coordinated a ‘Behind the Wall Study Tour to Israel and Palestine’. Led by the Very Rev Andrew McLellan with Maureen Jack, the tour offered opportunities for participants to meet Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, groups and individuals. The tour did not include visits to the holy sites but was designed to engage with grassroots projects and people, listening to their stories and seeking to understand the conflict. As part of their reflections on returning home some members of the group have written blog pieces that we will be sharing over the next few weeks.
During the recent WM Study tour we had two memorable meals. The first was at the Noor Centre in Aida refugee camp, the second in Ramallah at the Episcopal Technological and Vocational Training Centre (ETVTC).
Our visit to the Noor Centre was to take part in a traditional Palestinian cookery class. These cookery classes grew out of a project providing support for mothers with disabled children or mothers who had to support their family alone. The classes, which are available twice a month to visiting groups, bring in the financial support to help families in need and fund leisure activities for the children.
Islam (the project coordinator) and Rania were our hosts and teachers for our visit. We were taught how to make maqluba, mujaddara and harissa.
Maqluba is a rice and vegetable dish. To serve, the pot is flipped upside down. The delicious colourful vegetables were then on top. Maqluba in Arabic translates literally as “upside down”. Chicken or meat is often served alongside.
Mujaddara is a rice and green lentil pilaf garnished with sautéed onions.
Harissa is a coconut cake made with semolina, ground almonds, yoghurt and coconut. It is very moist.
There was a lot of laughter and fun as we shared the preparation of food and listened to Islam and Rania, learning about life in the refugee camp and that continued when we sat down together to eat our lunch.
In Ramallah we spent time at the ETVTC. On this occasion our hosts were the hospitality students. The college provides vocational training to enable young folk to enter the employment market. 95% of the hospitality students find employment at the end of their course. The training reputation is so high that hotels, restaurants and eating places contact the college when they are looking for staff.
We learned from the students about different aspects of the training, designed to equip them for different jobs within the hospitality industry.
Our lunch was prepared, the dining room tables set up with precision and the tables served by different groups of students. We had the traditional lunch of maqluba with chicken, majaddara and harissa. Before we were served the trainee chefs came to the dining room. There was a celebration of the turning upside down of the huge pot of maqluba. All of the youngsters were a credit to themselves and their college, whatever their task during our visit
On both visits food played an important part in us learning about the lives of the people we met. At Aida refugee camp, visitors, by taking part in cookery classes, can learn about life in a refugee camp as well as bring in much needed financial support for the work with mothers and their disabled children. At ETVTC it was good to hear how the young people learn a variety of skills which almost guarantee their entry into the world of work in a country of high unemployment.
By Irene Mclellan