Bread, soup and water: Dutch community iftar shows solidarity with Gaza through simplicity

Rotterdam iftar
5 min read
04 April, 2024

Amid the cold and rain, Muslims in the city of Rotterdam gathered on the streets of Marconiplein to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan with a simple menu of dates, soup, water, and bread. 

The iftar served as a poignant reminder of the harsh conditions faced by Palestinians amid Israel's genocidal war, where 1.1 million people, half of Gaza, are experiencing catastrophic food insecurity.

"As Muslims, we don't believe that evil will reign supreme. One day, goodness will prevail"

The modest iftar 

Organised by The Palestinian Community in the Netherlands, the iftar aimed to address the urgent needs of those facing hardships, especially in Palestine.

The team has been organising all Palestine-related events and demonstrations for years with volunteers from various nationalities, including Dutch nationals, Abu Naser, the director of The Palestinian Community in the Netherlands told The New Arab.

Emphasising the stark realities endured by many, particularly in Palestine, Abu Naser said this sacred month served as an important reminder of the inequalities present in our world.

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In response to these challenges, the Palestinian Community in the Netherlands decided to host iftar dinners in the streets of Rotterdam with humility and simplicity.

Instead of lavish feasts, they opted for essentials: dates, soup, water, and bread. This modest initiative wasn't just a means of sustenance but a profound expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people, highlighting the importance of community empathy and support during times of crisis.

The organisation hoped that through experiencing the limitations faced by those oppressed in the camps and under bombardment in Gaza, participants would gain a deeper understanding of the conflicts they endure.

The 'modest iftar' helping Dutch Muslims empathise with Gaza
Volunteers from all walks of life have helped organise the iftar [photo credit: Mouneb Taim]

Abu Naser believes the iftar stands as a testament to the strength of collective action and unwavering support within the community, especially in light of the Dutch government's overt support for Israel following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the Netherlands last month, attended by the King and former Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the opening of the Holocaust Museum.

Abu Naser recounted how they protested vehemently behind the Holocaust Museum during its inauguration, with significant Dutch public attendance expressing their anger at the Netherlands' reception of Netanyahu during these times while Gaza suffered.

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'This is the least I can do for our people in Gaza'

As the Ramadan spirit permeates, the group hopes that this initiative will inspire more empathy, understanding, and support for the needy, not only during this holy month but throughout the year.

"This is the least I can do for our people in Gaza," said Khadijah Daioub, a volunteer preparing the soup and distributing dates and water on the tables, adding that she wanted her Dutch friends to empathise with the people of Gaza.

 Khadijah invited her non-Muslim friend, Karlijn, who has also previously volunteered with the group, to the iftar asking to come "on an empty stomach." Khadijah and Karlijn have actively taken part in protests and sit-ins in the Netherlands, standing in solidarity with Gaza.

Bread, water make up the meal
Dates, soup, bread, and water make up the iftar meal [photo credit: Mouneb Taim]

Why Ramadan this year is different

Mohammed Kajabai, a volunteer with the Palestinian Community in the Netherlands, expressed apologetically, "This iftar is different from previous years. Usually, we celebrate iftars in the Netherlands with joy and jubilation, but today we break our fast with our hearts and minds with our people in Gaza.

"We all know that Ramadan is a time of closeness, family gatherings, and drawing nearer to Allah. However, if there is one group deprived of this joy, it makes the experience different, and this is what the people of Gaza are living through, robbed of their food, families, and even their land," Mohammed added. 

"Before the war, despite Israeli occupation, there was a sense of Ramadan in Gaza. They ate together and laughed. This time, they have nothing; they have been fasting for almost six months."

Mohammed said it didn't seem appropriate to offer a wide-ranging meal during iftar, as was done last year in the same place, adding that no decorative embellishments were added nor were there long tables filled with delicious food.

A volunteer distributes soup in the cold [photo credit: Mouneb Taim]
A volunteer distributes soup in the cold [photo credit: Mouneb Taim]

After the Maghrib call to prayer, supplications, and drinking water, the volunteers laid down prayer rugs on the street, designated spaces for both women and men.

They performed the Maghrib prayer and supplicated fervently, praying for Gaza and beseeching Allah to alleviate its afflictions, the volunteers revealed. 

Then, they proceeded to the tables, each taking a small bowl of soup amidst the biting cold, with temperatures plummeting and the wind blowing fiercely. One of the volunteers recited Quranic verses and spoke about the situation in Gaza, shedding light on the hardships faced by its people.

"As Muslims, we don't believe that evil will reign supreme. One day, goodness will prevail," one of the speakers told the attendees. 

"And if not, there is always the afterlife. Then Allah, the absolute just, will vindicate. This belief keeps Palestinians resilient. They are strong in their faith, and thus they continue to inspire."

This gathering, amid adversity and challenges, exemplified the resilience and solidarity of people coming together to support and uplift one another, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Mouneb Taim is a producer and journalist based in the Middle East from Damascus, Syria. He was awarded TPOTY's Photographer of the Year and ICFJ's Best Young Male Journalist in 2020