‘Palestine will win’: Sri Lanka businesses raise funds for war-ravaged Gaza

On most days, the Dolci Falasteen restaurant in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo is quiet.

Located on a main road in a busy neighbourhood, the eatery is an escape from the busy mood of the city. Traditional Arabic lanterns cast a warm glow over its cosy dining area.

But on a Sunday afternoon, seven weeks after Israel launched its ruthless assault on Gaza, the restaurant that specialises in Palestinian cuisine is bustling with young entrepreneurs. They have united for a common cause: to raise funds for Palestine.

Aisha Altaf, a 24-year-old entrepreneur who runs a cosmetics business, is behind the fundraiser. The LURE Foundation, which she established recently, had offered other businesses a chance to put up stalls at the fundraiser and donate at least 10 percent of their proceeds to Gaza. Most vendors donated their whole income.

“After constantly seeing graphic content of what’s happening to the people in Gaza, I felt immense guilt for having the most basic things like sleeping on a bed, having water, and hot meals,” Altaf told Al Jazeera.

“This is most definitely a genocide, and whoever cannot see it is simply choosing to ignore all the facts.”

‘We feel helpless’

LURE Foundation has partnered with the Africa Muslims Agency, a humanitarian organisation set up in 1987, that will use the money to supply aid to Gaza. So far, they have received more than 2.1 million Sri Lankan rupees ($6,400) in donations and from the fundraiser.

“We plan to provide hot meals for the helpless victims. As winter is approaching, we are also providing winter jackets for children, especially those that are displaced and sleeping on the street,” Altaf said.

At the event, 14-year-old Mumina Hilmy, clad in a black cloak with red and green stripes, is running her own stall with her mother’s help. She is selling bracelets and key tags that she crocheted with the colours of the Palestinian flag.

Miquelaa Fernando, 25, who bought a bracelet, said she is happy to support a bigger cause.

“We feel helpless when so many bigger organisations and governments haven’t done anything to help other than the ceasefire [in Gaza]. By coming here, I felt this is something I could do to show some form of support,” she said.

For entrepreneurs and visitors, the fundraiser — cosmetics, food, perfumes, toys and stationery were on sale — was a symbol of solidarity with Palestine.

Sajida Shabir, a 26-year-old restaurateur, sold home-made food like chicken rolls, cookies, chilli paste and mayonnaise under her brand Hungryislander’s Kitchen. Her mother and sister were there to support her.

“I’ve donated through other platforms earlier. But rather than just donating money, I’m putting in my effort here through sales. So it makes me feel good about it,” she said.

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