Gaza restaurant gives deaf a chance to shine


Published — Thursday 10 January 2013

Last update 10 January 2013 2:59 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

At first glance, the Atfaluna restaurant in Gaza City looks like any other — a space for locals to enjoy a simple meal. But there’s a difference: Nearly all its staff are deaf.
Inside, customers chat to each other and scan the menu, but when it comes to ordering, their requests are taken down by waiters who communicate in sign language, and their meals are all cooked by deaf chefs.
It’s a one-of-a-kind concept in Gaza and the brainchild of a local organization called Atfaluna — Arabic for ‘Our Children’ — which works to improve the lives of the territory’s deaf.
The project has the twin goals of raising awareness about the needs and capabilities of the deaf, while giving the community a way to earn a living in a place where unemployment stands at 45 percent.
Ahmed Dahman, expressing himself shyly through a sign language translator, described how working at the restaurant has changed his life.
“It gave me a sense of security regarding my future and self-dependency because job opportunities were virtually non-existent before this,” he said.
“We’ve seen a lot of support and cooperation from people,” he told AFP. “A lot of them expressed their interest in learning sign language.”
For Dahman and others employed at the restaurant, where sign language letters decorate the walls, Atfaluna is a rare opportunity for work.
Until a few months ago, education opportunities for the deaf in Gaza only ran to ninth grade, with no secondary or university level education available.
A new secondary school has just opened, and Atfaluna is working with universities to make courses available for the deaf, but most working-age members of the community find themselves with few marketable skills.
“There is a real shortage of jobs for deaf people in Gaza. Of course they are at a big disadvantage because of the educational shortages,” Dalia Abu Amr of the Atfaluna organization told AFP.
Diners enter through an elaborate arabesque doorway above which hangs the restaurant’s name written in white on a black background — in English, Arabic and sign language.
Inside, a hostess in a traditionally-embroidered Palestinian gown guides people to their table. Handicrafts made in Atfaluna’s job creation programmes are also available for sale.
The fare on offer ranges from from Middle Eastern staples like hummus and baba ghanouj to fried fish, chicken or curry dishes.
“We came here to see the place,” said Shahd Al-Iyla, a 21-year-old student dining with a friend. “It was nice, we would love to come here to offer moral support, so we will come again.”
Abu Amr said 12 of the restaurant’s 14 staff are deaf. The only exceptions are the chef and the accountant, who answers the phone to take reservations and delivery orders.
“The team of 12 deaf workers received culinary and hospitality training,” Abu Amr told AFP. The project hopes “to assimilate the deaf in Gaza into society and provide them with work opportunities.”
Around 1.5 percent of Gazans over the age of five have some form of hearing disability, according to Atfaluna, but the disability still carries a stigma.
“No one welcomes the idea of a deaf person working in Gaza,” said 35-year-old Niveen Al-Quqa, as she garnished a dish about to leave the kitchen.
She took art classes and sewing lessons in a bid to find work, but until the restaurant opened, she had had no success.
Now she is one of five women employed at Atfaluna — four in the kitchen and one working as a waitress.
“I am looking forward to improving my culinary skills so my colleagues and I can prove ourselves, despite our disability. I am very happy now,” she added with a smile.
The restaurant’s chef, 30-year-old Hassan Addabus, hovered nearby as his charges worked, giving them pointers on their technique in sign language.
“I have been doing this for 10 years and it was always about doing a job I love, but today it means much more than that,” he told AFP.
“It has a moral and human significance because of the support it offers to people with disabilities in our society who deserve all of our help.”
Amina Al-Omari, 22, also hard at work in the kitchen, said the job had given her a new sense of self.
“Society has no idea about our needs,” she explained.
“I felt subject to injustice and oppression because of this, but those feelings started to fade away after I started working here and becoming independent.
“We are capable of proving our skills and excellence. We might be deaf, but we have a lot of potential.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Security forces have arrested a Syrian man accused of plotting attacks and his Filipino accomplice in a raid on an illegal explosives factory in Riyadh, the Interior Ministry said, according to SPA.The Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday tha...
JEDDAH: Cyber security experts and researchers have confirmed that they have received many requests for help in dealing with extortion and blackmail.The cases were so serious that some of the young men had tried to commit suicide.Mohammed Al-Sariei,...
JEDDAH: For many sanitary workers, the Islamic greeting has become a way to tug at people’s hearts. The greeting is made in hopes of receiving a couple of riyals in exchange for cleaning the streets.Standing at traffic lights with their brooms, their...
JEDDAH: The streets of Mina are still unclean and littered with trash despite the fact that it has been seven days since the pilgrims departed.The Makkah municipality has warned pilgrim establishments not to dump their waste and has threatened them w...
JEDDAH: Camel owners are accusing “hidden hands” behind the campaign against camels, which has led to the deterioration of the animal market and deeply impacted their prices, alleging that government agencies are mainly supporting these parties.Owner...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Labor created 1.5 million jobs for young Saudi men and women in 2014, a six percent rise from the previous year.This is according to Labor Minister Mofarrej Al-Haqbani, who said the ministry has been working on several measure...
DAMMAM: The Dammam chapter of the Indian Engineers Forum (IEF) recently celebrated 48th Annual Engineers Day.“The say is celebrated every year in India as Engineer’s Day to commemorate the birthday of the legendary engineer, Sir Mokshagundam Visvesva...
DAMMAM: Rumors are nearly as old as human history, but with the rise of the Internet, they have become ubiquitous. False rumors are especially troublesome; they impose real damage on individuals and institutions, and they are often used by enemies to...
RIYADH: The Education Ministry organized the National Unity Forum under the sponsorship of Jazan Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Nasser.“The forum engendered loyalty to the Kingdom and the Saudi leadership among the employees of the ministry,” Education Min...
JEDDAH: The bodies of the Mina stampede are being buried in separate graves after giving a bath and offering funeral prayers, the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) of Makkah has said.“The bodies are not being buried in mass graves. They are be...
RIYADH: King Saud Medical City (KSMC) launched a campaign recently to thank the country’s security officers for keeping the country safe. “The campaign was launched as a way to express our gratitude to all the security officers who are serving the na...
RIYADH: The traffic department in the capital launched a campaign against badly maintained automobiles as part of its drive to limit accidents and control pollution, and seized 1,915 vehicles.The department said that 1,015 vehicles were seized for no...
AL-AHSA: The beautiful terrain and historical caves at the Al-Qara Mountain in Al-Ahsa beckoned citizens as well as expatriates during the Eid Al-Adha holidays.The mountain and its surroundings, including the oasis of palms, turned into a beehive of...
JEDDAH: The Foreign Ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states recently condemned Israeli violations in Palestinian territories, calling the actions a violation of international law.The ministers passed a resolution confirmi...
RIYADH: Several subscribers of Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) in the northern part of the Saudi capital have complained that the company’s services went down for more than 11 hours earlier this week.An online publication reported that the services w...

Stay Connected