Palestinian man Walid al-Hattab cooks soup for poor locals during Ramadan in Gaza City, April 29, 2020. Every afternoon since the beginning of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, Walid al-Hattab cooks the traditional Palestinian soup called "al-Jreesha" and delivers it for free to poor families in the poverty-stricken populated al-Shujaeya neighborhood in Gaza city. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)
by Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Every afternoon since the beginning of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, Walid al-Hattab cooks the traditional Palestinian soup called "al-Jreesha" and delivers it for free to poor families in the poverty-stricken populated al-Shujaeya neighborhood in Gaza city.
He prepares the soup by putting meats and wheat flour together with onions, herbs and water in a big cooker, which is heated on a firewood stove in front of his house in the neighborhood in the eastern part of the city.
After the soup is ready, the 55-year-old man then delivers it to the poor families shortly before breaking the fast in the early evening. As this year's Ramadan came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, al-Hattab took the needed precautionary measures.
Al-Hattab said he has been doing this during Ramadan for several years with an aim to help those families hit hard by the worsening economic situation in the Palestinian enclave that has been suffering from an Israeli blockade for more than 13 years.
"Due to the precautionary measures, which were taken by the authorities in Gaza, the number of poor families in my neighborhood has increased, mainly because their breadwinners who depend on daily wages lost jobs due to the coronavirus," al-Hattab told Xinhua.
"Many people here cannot secure their daily food, so I try my best to offer them this meal," said al-Hattab as he was stirring the meat and wheat in the cooker with a big scoop.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Palestine, Hamas authorities which rule the Gaza Strip have imposed a series of tight precautionary measures, which included the closure of restaurants, cafes, hotels, mosques and wedding halls to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus.
However, these measures have badly influenced the 2 million populations of the Gaza Strip as its economy further deteriorates.
Al-Hattab wears his facemask and gloves while he cooks al-Jreesha soup, and when the fresh and hot soup is ready, children and men in the neighborhood stand in a queue to get their share.
"I'm just trying to revive an old Palestinian tradition of cooking in public, and I like seeing everyone coming to eat for free as a kind of boosting our social cooperation," he said.
Members of the Hamas-run government warned him that he must abide by the precautionary measures or will be banned from cooking his traditional soup.
Al-Jreesah soup is tasty as it contains smashed wheat as well mutton or beef. It is a historical heritage in Palestinian to cook the soup, as many villagers make it as a meal at weddings and on other social occasions.
Al-Hattab covers most of the soup's costs by donating the mutton or beef, while other local donors help him cover the remaining costs. The man and the local donors believe that feeding around 30 poor families during Ramadan is a holy reward.
Mohammad al-Ghoula, 24, said that the soup is a major dish for him during the month of Ramadan. "It is healthy and provides our bodies energy after fasting the whole day," he told Xinhua after getting his share.
"I come here every day to get Al-Jressha soup because I can't afford to buy lamb meat ... it is very expensive, therefore I come here to get the soup that uncle Walid al-Hattab makes," said the unemployed young man.
"I know many very poor families here who wait for the month of Ramadan to come every year to get this meal, especially after the outbreak of coronavirus," he said.