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Local Lebanese Eateries Supporting Relief Efforts After Beirut Explosion

Local restaurants want diners to donate to the relief efforts helping the thousands of people suffering from the aftermath of a deadly explosion in Beirut.

The massive explosion in Lebanon’s capital last Tuesday (Aug. 4) killed approximately 150 people and left thousands injured and homeless.

Mediterranean restaurant Zenola took to Facebook on Wednesday to ask diners to donate to the Lebanese Red Cross and Impact Lebanon. “The city and its people are near and dear to our hearts,” the Facebook post said. “We’re heartbroken over the loss of life and the destruction of vital infrastructure. The road ahead to recovery and rebuilding will be a long one.”

“Being Lebanese-American, most of us in the [D.C. area], we felt like we had to do something,” Noha Zeitoun, who is one of the restaurant’s owners, told Tysons Reporter. “Being so far away, one of the easiest things we can do is fundraise for the organizations doing the work on the ground.”

The restaurant, which opened last September in Vienna, is donating the proceeds from two menu items — a cocktail and comfort dish — through this Wednesday (Aug. 12) to the two organizations, Zeitoun said. “The Lebanese Red Cross is incredibly well respected and well regarded with giving money directly to the people,” Zeitoun said. “Impact Lebanon — they are known for highly vetting the organizations they give money to.”

The cocktail is called “Toot Toot to Beirut” — a play on words of a song by the Lebanese artist Marcel Khalife — and is made from blackberry juice and gin. The comfort dish “Ablama” is baby zucchini stuffed with beef, pine nuts and onions with tomato and truffle béchamel sauce. The dish comes with rice and vermicelli.

“We grew up eating it at home and in Lebanon,” Zeitoun said about Ablama. “It’s a warm dish that brings you fuzzies.”

Zenola joined D.C.-area restaurants taking part in a fundraising effort called Beitna, which means “our house” in Arabic and was started by Chef Roro Asmar and Chef Marcelle Afram of Compass Rose and Maydan, Zeitoun said. Additionally, the restaurant is encouraging diners this month to make donations when they get their checks.

Zeitoun said that Zenola has raised about $300 since last Wednesday and hopes to double the amount by next Wednesday (Aug. 19).

“There are some really, really hard videos to watch, given everything worldwide with the pandemic,” Zeitoun said about the explosion, noting a recent map shows what the impact would have looked like in the D.C. area. “It’s another extra thing making 2020 just a little bit more unbearable.”

“It will take a lot of time, but Beirut has recovered through a lot of things, and the people are very resilient,” Zeitoun said, noting that the country is facing hyperinflation and economic turmoil.

Because of inflation, Zeitoun said that every dollar counts: “USD goes a really long way right now.”

Other restaurants in the Tysons area are also looking to support Beirut.

Phoenicia Resto and Lounge in the Dunn Loring area took to Facebook to share relief efforts people can donate to.

“[No] words can heal the wounded or bring back the souls killed by this horrific tragedy… Beirut always in our heart,” the restaurant posted.

Lebanese Taverna, a regional chain that was started in Arlington and has a location in Tysons Galleria, started a GoFundMe for the Lebanese Red Cross. The fundraiser netted more than $62,000 in five days — surpassing the initial goal of $50,000.

“We are now shifting any additional donations to Jose Andres’ organization, World Central Kitchen as our brother, Dany Abi-Najm is traveling to Lebanon with #CHEFSFORBEIRUT,” the restaurant posted on Facebook yesterday. “Any further money collected will go directly to assist their efforts on the front line as they help to feed the more than 300,000 people displayed.”

Additionally, the restaurant’s website says that a portion of the proceeds from the Hommos sold through the end of the month will benefit World Central Kitchen, which is giving prepared meals to seniors, first responders and people in need in Beirut.

Photo via Zenola/Facebook

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