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Bait al Karama

Bait al Karama, the first women’s center in the Palestinian city of Nablus, combines a culinary social enterprise with art and cultural activities run entirely by women. Translated as “House of Dignity,” Bait al Karama is located in the city’s Old Center, an area devastated by conflict. During the most recent fighting alone, more than 1500 houses and buildings were damaged or destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces. Currently, 65% of the city’s residents live in poverty. As a result of the economic decline, women have had to step into the public sphere in unprecedented ways—yet lack adequate spaces to earn, socialize and congregate.

Bait al Karama has two main goals. First, it supports the women’s social and economic needs through a food-based social enterprise. The second is to draw international attention to the Old City as a place of Art and Culture via cultural and artistic initiatives and sustainable tourism.

Bait al Karama partners with Slow Food International, is the first women’s center at the heart of the Old City of Nablus, hosts cooking classes, lunches and culinary tours to explore the culinary traditions of the Old City, as well as social and educational activities for the community. In addition to generating income through tuition and fees for cooking classes, this creates a cross cultural conversation that allows the women to tell their stories, disseminate Nablusian cuisine and promote peace and understanding.

The center has multifunctional rooms to host gatherings and workshops, but the focus is the cooking school and its attendant workshops and classes. The women of the Old City teach visiting aficionados how to make traditional favorites, and the center offers supplemental educational programs for the women themselves, including regular workshops on basic nutrition, as many of the women in the area are struggling with food disorders brought on by posttraumatic stress.

We chose to honor Bait al Karama as sometimes peace needs to be designed. For many communities around the world who are dealing with conflict, statelessness, occupation and violence, design offers a meaningful and achievable step towards a more peaceful tomorrow. What we choose to design, and how we choose to design can act as a bulwark against the hopelessness and desperation created by war.