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Dining Out For Gaza This Valentine’s Day


Will You Free My Palestine? Wednesday 14th February
(Valentine’s Day)

At cafes, shops and restaurants
around Aotearoa – see @Tamakilovespalestine (Instagram
or Facebook)
or here for
the full list.

Crowd favourites Coco’s Cantina, Ima
Cuisine and vintage store Crushes are among the many
restaurants, cafes and shops celebrating Valentine’s Day
by raising funds for Gaza in the inaugural “Will You Free
My Palestine?” event (a take on ‘Will you be my
Valentine?’).

The fundraiser will see businesses
supporting Palestine with their own unique Valentine’s Day
offering, and raising money to support ReliefAid’s
humanitarian efforts in Gaza.

Lovebirds, spouses and
very dear friends will have the opportunity to grab a pal
and support Gaza by: feasting on a multi-course Palestinian
meal at Ima Cuisine, having 20 percent of Valentine’s day
spending donated by Cocos Cantina, purchasing a limited
edition custom tee from K-road vintage store Crushes or
simply enjoying a great coffee or bite out, knowing that a
portion of sales will go towards supporting besieged
Gazans.

Coco’s Cantina owner Renee Coulter says when
she heard about the idea she had to get involved.
“Coco’s has always been about more than just polenta
chips and prosecco. When we laid out our values 14 years
ago, we said we want to use our wider voice to highlight
issues that are important to us. The ‘Will You Free My
Palestine’ kaupapa is something that we are passionate
about. We really want to get behind positive actions, where
people can actually be a part of something – not just
watching horrible videos of Gaza on our phones, feeling
powerless and disconnected.”

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For the WYFMP event on
Valentine’s Day, Coco’s Cantina will be donating 20
percent of their total turnover to the cause. “Not
everyone can afford to come and have a full meal and we
wanted it to be really accessible to everyone – and light
and fun. You don’t have to be coming out with your
Valentine, you can be with a group of mates after work or
your friends or flatmates – and even if you just share a
bowl of polenta chips and get a happy hour drink you can
still feel like you are part of the event, and part of the
positive action.”

Coulter says she and the staff at
Coco’s are fully supporting the call for the government to
demand a ceasefire. “The Palestinian people are no
different from us. They want to hang out with their friends,
go out for a meal, raise their children, celebrate life’s
celebrations and eat with friends – just like us in
Aotearoa. But they can’t because that place is hell on
earth right now. No good can come from this continued
conflict.”

Israeli-born restauranteur Yael Shochat
will also be supporting the cause at her restaurant Ima
Cuisine on Fort Street. Shochat has been a vocal advocate
for a ceasefire, and has even met with the MP for Epsom,
David Seymour, to discuss it.

Hailing from the
portside city of Haifa, Shochat says that her friendship
with a Palestinian woman, and a trip back to Israel
together, irrevocably changed her views on Palestine-Israel
relations. “I feel like I was asleep and now I’ve woken
up. I’ve learned that everything I was taught about the
occupation and Palestine was an outright lie.” She says
her work to try and bridge conversations between the Jewish
and Palestinian communities has caused a lot of controversy,
and a boycott of her restaurant from many members of the
Jewish community. “My goal is to create a safe future for
both Israelis and Palestinians, and I’m proud to be
working for that peaceful future.”

Ima Cuisine will
be supporting the event by presenting a sumptuous
five-course meal showcasing traditional Palestinian food
including vegan and meat arayis–a popular Palestinian,
stuffed-pita dish–and maklubah; the quintessential,
well-loved Palestinian rice dish. There’s also food
inspired by Palestinian cuisine and a special
appetiser reflecting the colours of the Palestinian
flag.

Aside from supporting the event, Shochat
says that even small acts can be a way for people to show
their support for a ceasefire. “Imagine if everyone came
to the rallies. Imagine if there were 10,000 people walking
down Queen Street demanding a ceasefire. People have the
power, we just need to get up and take
action.”

Organised by Tāmaki Loves Palestine,
Palestinian Youth Aotearoa and Dayenu: New Zealand Jews
against the Occupation, the event aims not just to raise
funds to send much-needed aid to Gaza, but also to provide a
unique, and tasty, way for Kiwis to help alleviate the
suffering in Gaza.

“It can feel really hopeless to
see the devastating images and videos coming through from
Gaza, so we wanted to provide people with a way to not only
give practical help in the form of donations, but also to
encourage conversation about what’s happening, and how we
can take small actions like getting together on Valentine’s
Day and using our money for good,” says Robin
Wilson-Whiting from Tāmaki Loves Palestine. “We hope this
event will cause people to think about what other small
actions they can take in their lives, from finding which
products to support or boycott by downloading the Halal Kiwi
or No Thanks app, joining the weekly rallies all over
Aotearoa, or meeting with their local MP to demand a
ceasefire.”

Money raised will be sent to ReliefAid,
a New Zealand humanitarian aid organisation operating on the
ground in Gaza through impartial and independent
humanitarian action. The organisation was founded in 2014 by
Mike Seawright and has supported people living in war zones
in Afghanistan, Syria and the Ukraine. “ReliefAid was set
up out of the frustration that not enough was being done to
help families affected by war and conflict,” says founder
Mike Seawright. “Our vision is simple – helping families
who have no one else to turn to.”

In Gaza, ReliefAid
works day and night to deliver 8000 litres of water to
families in displacement camps, and distributes food
supplies and ready meals to people who have been forced to
leave their homes.

Seawright says things in Gaza are
at a critical point. “Over 26,000 people have been killed,
60,000 people injured and 1.7 million people displaced.
Clean, potable water is vital for survival and is not
accessible in Gaza due to the damage to central water
systems during bombing and conflict. The healthcare system
is also in crisis with only 14 of 36 hospitals in Gaza being
functional.” Compounding the distress, Gaza’s closed
borders have made humanitarian access all but impossible,
leaving families traumatised, abandoned and without the
basics needed to survive.

Sadly, ReliefAid’s team in
Gaza has not been immune to the conflict; three members of
staff have been killed in their homes in Gaza, and all of
their team have been displaced. “They fled with nothing
but the clothes on their back. They, along with countless
other displaced families, found themselves homeless, living
in tents, without access to safe water and food. They see
families standing in queues for drinking water, and often
waiting for hours to get bread. When not queuing, families
are out searching for wood for fuel to cook food. The
situation is dire for these people, and aid is required
immediately.”

By supporting Will You Free My
Palestine, and donating to ReliefAid, Kiwis can make a
difference. “Help is needed urgently and this is one way
to show our humanity,” says
Seawright.

© Scoop Media

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