Celebrating Culture and Faith
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Celebrating Culture and Faith

Church holds 25th annual Middle Eastern Food Festival.

Attendees were able to take tours of the church.

Attendees were able to take tours of the church. Photo by Carlyn Kranking/The Connection

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Dimitrios Komninos sold olive oil at the festival.

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Neena Malhotra sold scarves from India.

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Dabke dancers at the Middle Eastern Food Festival.

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Jackie Maalouf, Ph.D., spread information about DiaLeb, the National Diabetes Organization of Lebanon, which she founded with her daughter.

Lebanese Nonprofit Spreads Awareness About Diabetes

Jackie Maalouf, Ph.D., traveled to the United States from Beirut, Lebanon to attend the Middle Eastern Food Festival and talk about the nonprofit she founded, which is in the process of being registered in the United States. Dr. Maalouf founded the organization DiaLeb with her daughter, Sylvie, after she was diagnosed with diabetes.

“Sylvie got diagnosed at an unconventional age. She was 24 when she got diagnosed,” Dr. Maalouf said. “It was definitely a shock.”

DiaLeb spreads awareness of diabetes and helps support people who have been recently diagnosed through summer camps, support groups and educational sessions.

At the food festival, Dr. Maalouf sought to spread information to attendees about diabetes and DiaLeb, whether or not they were of Lebanese background.

“Diabetes does not recognize a nationality or a religion or anything,” Dr. Maalouf said. “I think overall it was very productive and positive for us, being here, and I think I would definitely do it another time.”

When Falls Church resident Donna Haseley’s son was young, they used to go to a Greek festival at a local Greek Orthodox church. So when she heard about last weekend’s Middle Eastern Food Festival, she thought it was a good idea.

“My son just went to college a couple days ago, and I was a little sad,” said Haseley, who attended the festival with her friend. “My friend said she was coming, so I said, ‘What a wonderful way to spend a day.’”

Cars filled the parking lot at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church and spread up and down nearby neighborhood streets as thousands of people gathered to enjoy the church’s 25th annual Middle Eastern Food Festival. The festival offered authentic Middle Eastern food including kibbeh, falafel, fattoush, hummus and roasted lamb, and had kids activities, church tours and dabke dancing.

Church volunteers worked tirelessly throughout the summer to make the food sold at the festival, including about 25,000 sweets like baklawa, maamoul, namoura, ghraybeh and more.

“It is really about showing hospitality to our neighbors, to our friends and to people who just want to learn a little bit about who we are,” Protodeacon David Baroody said. “We pride ourselves on this love of Christ and love of one another that we then want to share with everyone that comes in.”

Attendees of the festival feel this hospitality from members of the church. Baroody said that guests will often comment on how welcoming the parish is, and festival attendee Hindy Mokhiber of Great Falls noticed it as well.

“We just love to come, because there’s a lot of love in this church and at this festival,” Mokhiber said. “The food is fantastic, and the people are wonderful.”

The festival is a yearly tradition that members of the parish take great pride in.

“To me, it is just so heartwarming to see it all come together and to see the pride of all the parishioners who are here to welcome our guests,” said Sonia McCormick, festival publicity chair. “It’s a sense of accomplishment that we’ve all done something really amazing together that’s going to benefit the church, but that’s also going to introduce our parish to the greater Washington community.”