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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

José Andrés Eulogizes 7 World Central Kitchen Staff Killed in Gaza

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A stone pulpit within the Nationwide Cathedral in Washington, D.C., isn’t any place the chef José Andrés anticipated to be when he created the meals charity World Central Kitchen practically 15 years in the past. However on Thursday he stood there, eulogizing seven of the group’s staff who have been killed within the Gaza Strip whereas making an attempt to hold out a singular mission: bringing meals right into a area of two.2 million individuals going through a rising humanitarian disaster.

“They risked all the things to feed individuals they didn’t know and can by no means meet,” Mr. Andrés stated. “They have been the very best of humanity.”

The seven staff have been killed on April 1 after they helped unload a barge of meals assist in northern Gaza and have been heading to the southern metropolis Rafah. Their well-marked convoy of autos was hit by armed Israeli drones. Israeli navy officers stated the assault was a critical mistake that shouldn’t have occurred. They cited a collection of failures, together with a breakdown in communication and violations of the navy’s personal guidelines of engagement.

An unusually subdued and infrequently tearful Mr. Andrés stated he was consumed with remorse, sorrow and anger over the deaths. “I do know there are additionally many questions on why World Central Kitchen was in Gaza,” he stated. “We ask ourselves the identical questions day and night time.”

However the staff took the chance, he stated, as a result of they believed that displaying up and feeding individuals of their darkest hours would allow them to know they weren’t alone.

“Meals is a common human proper,” Mr. Andrés stated. “Feeding one another, cooking and consuming collectively is what makes us human. The dishes we cook dinner and ship will not be simply components, or energy. A plate of meals is a plate of hope. “

Attendance on the service, which included prayers and readings by Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders, and a musical interlude by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, was by invitation — though the service was streamed stay on World Central Kitchen’s web site. The group and Mr. Andrés restaurant group are based mostly in Washington.

Funerals for the victims have already been held, however this was the one memorial noticed in the US. Among the many 560 individuals attending have been Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris; representatives from three of the victims’ households; and some dozen World Central Kitchen volunteers and contractors who had labored collectively in disasters and conflicts throughout the globe. They stuffed solely a small a part of the cathedral, which has been the positioning of 4 presidential state funerals and memorials for victims of the 9/11 assaults.

Whereas the World Central Kitchen deaths sparked international outrage, greater than 220 other assist staff have additionally been killed in Gaza.

However the seven have been the primary casualties the group has endured since Mr. Andrés dreamed up the group whereas doing culinary aid work in Haiti after a 2010 earthquake.

His idea was easy: Cooks dwelling within the areas hit by catastrophe might feed struggling individuals extra rapidly and infrequently with extra scrumptious and comforting meals than conventional aid organizations.

Mr. Andrés leveraged his connections, charisma and the intelligent use of social media to amass a military of culinary volunteers and construct World Central Kitchen right into a $550 million worldwide enterprise.

Final week, lots of of mourners, together with Mr. Andrés and a consultant from the workplace of the Polish president, attended a Roman Catholic Mass in Przemysl, Poland, the hometown of the slain employee Damian Sobol.

Mr. Sobol, 35, an exuberant former hospitality scholar who was engaged to be married, started serving to World Central Kitchen feed Ukrainian warfare refugees pouring right into a Polish prepare station in early 2022. He grew to become a logistical wizard for the group because it arrange operations in different places, together with Gaza.

Mr. Andrés additionally attended a service final week in St.-Georges, Quebec, for Jacob Flickinger, 33, an avid outdoorsman and former member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Mr. Flickinger started working for the group in October, serving to feed residents after a hurricane close to Acapulco, Mexico. Then he headed to Gaza.

“We mentioned the chance,” his father, John Flickinger, stated in an interview with The Related Press shortly after his son was killed. “He stated mainly, “Dad, individuals are ravenous there and I feel I might help. And I appreciated that.”

On Thursday, Mr. Andrés broke into tears as he eulogized Lalzawmi Frankcom, 43, an Australian whom everybody referred to as Zomi. She was like a sister to him, he stated — robust and humorous, and probably the most senior member of the crew in Gaza.

She first volunteered in 2018 when a volcano erupted in Guatemala, and went on to assist victims of floods in Bangladesh, earthquakes in Morocco, poverty in Venezuela and wildfires in California. She had just lately been named senior supervisor for World Central Kitchen’s Asia operations and was based mostly in Bangkok.

Saifeddin Abutaha, a 25-year-old Palestinian on the aid crew, had been translating and driving for the group for the reason that starting of the yr. He had returned from the United Arab Emirates to assist along with his household’s flour mill. He had contacts in Israel, which helped the group coordinate permissions.

The remaining three staff — John Chapman, 57, James Kirby, 47, and Jim Henderson, 33 — have been a part of a British-based safety agency referred to as Solace International. That they had been employed as a part of the group’s safety crew. All three had served in numerous arms of the British navy.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in October 2022, World Central Kitchen waded right into a warfare for the primary time. When Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, the group rapidly arrange aid kitchens in Israel, after which expanded its mission to assist Palestinians in Gaza, the place lots of of 1000’s are on the point of famine.

The seven staff had spent a protracted day serving to unload a barge with greater than 100 tons of meals that World Central Kitchen and Open Arms, a Spanish nonprofit, had shipped to the Gaza coast from Cyprus, and have been headed to Rafah to sleep. At simply previous 10 p.m. Gaza time, the primary of three vehicles carrying the employees was hit by armed drones. The vehicles — white and with distinguished World Central Kitchen logos — had been cleared by Israel for passage.

Inside minutes, the drones hit the second after which the third automotive.

“I do know all of us have many unanswered questions on what occurred and why,” Mr. Andrés stated in his eulogy. “We nonetheless demand an unbiased investigation into the actions of the IDF in opposition to our crew.”

World Central Kitchen instantly paused work in Gaza after the bombing. The group is predicted to announce its subsequent steps there quickly, stated Linda Roth, its communications officer.

Mr. Andrés indicated he’s not prone to stroll away. He learn a message from Mr. Abutaha’s brother, who wrote, “I hope that World Central Kitchen continues its humanitarian work all over the world, carrying on the spirit of the fallen and the resilience of the Palestinian individuals.”

Zach Montague contributed reporting.

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