Every day during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and throughout the year, a group of Palestinian chefs gathers in a soup kitchen to prepare food for needy families in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Hundreds of pounds of meat and poultry, as well as mountainous boxes of vegetables, fill the kitchen floor daily, feeding thousands of people.
The Hebron soup kitchen, one of the largest in the Palestinian territories, is the only place where thousands of people get their only hot meal of the day throughout the year, but its work takes on a more significant role during the holy month of Ramadan.
“We provide daily meals to about 2,000 people, but this number doubles during the month of Ramadan to 4,000 people who benefit from this place,” said Hazem Mujahid, director of Takiat Ibrahim, to The Media Line.
Home of ancient tradition
Hebron, a city in the West Bank, is home to many ancient traditions. This soup kitchen, located near the Abraham Mosque, is known as Takiat Ibrahim, or “Abraham’s Corner.” It serves as a lifeline to struggling Palestinians.
Head Chef Ataya Jibrini has been dishing food at the charity for more than two decades. He told The Media Line that he wants to preserve this tradition and be able to help the poor.
“Because of the high prices and the difficult economic conditions, this place is safe for the needy and the poor, as we provide them with a daily meal in this security,” says Ataya.
However, there’s a lot of work that goes into the preparation and serving of such large quantities of food.
A massive undertaking each day
Each morning, hundreds of hungry mouths line up to get a package of food for their families. Feeding so many every day is a massive undertaking for this charity.
“In the past, we used to cook from 300 to 400 kilos, but now we are cooking 1,200 kilos of chicken and 700 kilos of beef or lamb,” says Chef Jibrini.
That translates to about 2,600 pounds of chicken and 1,500 pounds of beef. At a daily cost of over $20,000, the charity relies on private donations from people like Mohsen Zalloum, a business owner, to survive.
Throughout the year, local businessmen, as well as foreign and Arab delegations, donate money to the soup kitchen to purchase basic ingredients for cooking food.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, about 14% of the population of the West Bank suffers from poverty, with 5.8% experiencing extreme poverty.
“There must be symbiosis and a feeling of community with others. This is a responsibility towards our city and its people, and Hebron is known for ensuring that no hungry person sleeps there as a result of this place and the generosity of its people,” says Zalloum.
As the Palestinian economy continues to struggle, places like Takiat Ibrahim are critical for the survival of thousands of people.
Umm Mahmoud, an elderly woman from Hebron who is raising five grandchildren who lost their parents four years ago, holds two containers in her hands and tells The Media Line that she is grateful for the food.
“It helps. We rely on my husband’s small pension salary, but it’s not enough for all of us. This provides us enough for tough days.”