The strange case of a monstrous kanafeh in Nablus


090722-kanafeh-nablusIt was announced a month or so ago that in Nablus, Palestine, bakers would go for the Guinness record for the largest kanafeh pastry ever made. (The treat, soaked in honey and cheese, is not local to Palestine, though Nablus is known for its kanafeh. In Syria, Hama is known for its sweets, and I still remember a huge and delicious slice of kanafeh in Deir az-Zur on the Euphrates). Now, the pastry has been made in ridiculous dimensions, but it’s not the World Record that is getting attention. Instead, the train-sized dessert underlined the living gaps between Gaza and the West Bank, and the false hopes and increasingly strong hand of the Palestinian Authority alongside Israel. The PA cannot ease the siege on Gaza, it can only crack down on Palestinian towns and cities, and create a media buzz around a huge piece of sticky cheese.

It was a portentous day in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. Over 100,000 Palestinians from Haifa, Jerusalem, Jenin and more gathered in the city on Saturday to celebrate the making of a Guinness World Record: the largest plate of kanafeh, a popular red-haired pastry made with lots of sugar and goat cheese…

…¬†Palestinians traditionally serve kanafeh at celebrations. The festive frenzy in Nablus provided a marked contrast with the situation in Gaza. There, 80 percent of the 1.5 million population have been reduced to dependency on UN food handouts as a result of an internationally-backed Israeli blockade imposed ever since Hamas won legislative elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in January 2006. In recent months, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have warned of an alarming rise in indicators of malnutrition in Gaza, including stunting, wasting and underweight children and high rates of anemia among children and pregnant women.

Read the rest of Sousan Hammad in Nablus at the electronic intifada.

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