The victims of October 7 live on through a beautiful food-related project

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The victims of October 7 live on through a beautiful food-related project

Tel Aviv's ASIF founder launched A Place at the Table to honour victims' memories

Makbouba was Stav Geta's favourite dish
Makbouba was Stav Geta's favourite dish

The food we prepare for our loved ones is not just fuel; it represents the life that we share together and, for so many of us, it is the universal love language.

On 8 October 2023, ASIF – The Culinary Institute of Israel – sprang into action and set about supporting the country in the best way it knows how, through food. In a matter of days ASIF was enabling restaurants who had had to close their doors to the public, to still provide food and much-needed morale to the front line. In addition to this, they arranged for meals to be sent to displaced families to give them a taste of home.

As the weeks passed we learned about the people and lives behind the names and faces of those taken hostage and murdered on that fateful day. Naama Shefi, founder of ASIF and The Jewish Food Society, wanted to find a way of keeping the memory of those victims alive. The natural way for her to tell their stories was through food and so a new project, A Place at The Table, was born.

The dedicated staff at ASIF invited families of victims to recreate special dishes that they shared with their loved ones. The aim of the project is to create a unique and powerful inventory of the victims and hostages through their much-loved recipes, which will live on.

Due to the scope of work that was taking place at ASIF to support the ongoing war effort, it took nearly six months to get the project off the ground, but there was no shortage of people wanting to take part. They put together a team of videographers, interviewers and editors to work with families to recreate the dishes that had meant so much to them.

David Katchko’s cream puffs

The staff were sensitive and spent time getting to know the families before cooking with them in their homes. The films were then edited beautifully and with the help of the expert kitchen team at ASIF, the recipes were fine-tuned and posted along with the video on their website and social media channels. The idea is that the public can recreate the dish at home and share in the memory of that person when cooking.

So far, 12 stories have been filmed with another 15 in the pipeline, with people across the globe wanting to participate. Families from Ethiopia, Morrocco, Tripoli and even Thailand are looking forward to sharing precious dishes that were much loved by their family members and friends.

Chico Menashe, CEO of ASIF explains that most families were keen to share their stories and extremely welcoming to the ASIF team. For ASIF, it was imperative to find the most respectful way to showcase these extremely personal and often painful memories and convey the true essence of their loved one through their food.

One of the most powerful stories Chico recalls is that of David Kachko Katzir, or Doov as he was known, as told by his wife Ayelet. The tale is not just of the cream puffs that he so dearly loved but is a beautiful love story between man and wife. Whilst making them for the camera, she laughs and cries, recalling memories of eating them together and him telling her how much he loves her. She tells the camera that he was restricted to eating only four but he would sneak another few whilst she wasn’t looking. It is these personal details that truly bring the recipe to life, and we get to know who David was.

Shani Gabay’s favourite spicy fish dish

Another moving story is of Shani Gabay who was murdered at the Nova Festival on October 7. Her mother had made her favourite dish of spicy fish on the Friday night before Shani went to the festival and here, she makes it to the camera for the first time since that day.

Chico reveals that many of the families found it very therapeutic to connect with their loved ones through the process of talking about them whilst making their favourite dish and keeping the love alive.

As powerful as it was for the families to share in this way, it was an intimate process between the families and the ASIF staff who are involved in making the films to share this experience. In many of the videos you can hear the tone of the conversation and as many sniffles coming from behind the camera as in front.

In addition to sharing the videos on social media, some of the beautiful recipes, such as Makbouba (Tunisian cooked tomato and pepper salad) which was lovingly prepared by Etty Geta, mother of Stav Geta, who was killed as she tried to flee the Nova Festival, have also been added to the menu in the ASIF café for everyone to enjoy.

Sadly, this is an open-ended project with so many stories to tell and will take much time and resources to ensure every narrative gets told. There may be an exhibition in the future but for now all the videos and recipes can be accessed via the ASIF website or social media channels.


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