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Israel-Palestine war: The popular knafeh maker known for his generosity, killed in Gaza

Masoud al-Qutati, known as Abu Shadi, also earned the nickname ‘Father of the Poor’ for handing out the Palestinian dessert to those who could not afford it
Abu Shadi has earned a reputation for looking after Gaza's poorer residents (Hani Abu Rezek)
Abu Shadi has earned a reputation for looking after Gaza's poorer residents (Hani Abu Rezek)

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed thousands of Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of them civilians.

Entire families have been wiped out and the likelihood of the death toll being an underestimate is high given the number of bodies buried under rubble.

So far those victims have included playwrights, novelists and aspiring journalists, amongst many others.

One recent Palestinian death was that of Abu Shadi, born Masoud al-Qutati, a 64-year-old pastry chef, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on 3 November 

Abu Shadi was the vendor at a popular knafeh restaurant, which produced the popular Palestinian sweet, made of spun pastry bathed in syrup and cheese.

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Over the course of his decade-long career in sweet-making, Qutati earned a reputation for his generosity, as well as for the taste of his pastries.

Amongst Palestinians in Gaza, he had the nickname "Father of the Poor", for offering cut-price plates of knafeh to local residents and for free to those who could not afford to pay.

“Let the poor eat,” was the slogan used by Abu Shadi’s shop, located in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood in the east of Gaza.

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The veteran pastry cook had worked there for 50 years and his products would draw long lines of patrons on weekends and evenings.

Qutati’s death in an Israeli attack was not his first brush with the violence that occupation and war has visited on Gaza's residents.

During the First Intifada - the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation - between 1987 and 1993, the small truck that the pastry maker sold from was set alight and destroyed by Israeli forces.

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He nevertheless continued to establish himself as one of Gaza’s most notable knafeh makers, earning coverage from media outlets and the admiration of locals.

Remembering Abu Shadi, the Palestinian researcher Abdalhadi Alijla wrote about his relative on X, formerly known as Twitter:

“My cousin's husband, Abu Shadi, was renowned as one of the most famous kunafa sellers in Gaza. Last year, the queue at night in front of his shop on Salah al-Din Street would stretch very long. His kunafa was not only delicious and authentic but also affordable.”

Abu Shadi had more than 20 children and grandchildren, most of whom had completed their university education but who still helped in the family trade of making and selling sweets.

“My children are educated; Shadi is an English teacher, Muhammad is an architect, Ahmed is a pharmacist, but I also teach them how to make sweets and they help in my work,” Qutati once said in an interview. 

“Why am I called 'father of the poor'? Because everyone from the north to south, east to the west knows me, even if you go to Rafah and ask about Abu Shadi, they will know my location,” he said, explaining his popularity in Gaza.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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