Held under the auspices of the Ministries of Tourism and Antiquities and organized by The Rozana Association, the Maftoul Festival is both a celebration of one of Palestine’s most widely known foods – maftoul or couscous – and a competition among the villages of the West Bank. The competitive entries are judged on the basis of several criteria including taste, dish presentation, and preparation. The judges are chefs from the Palestinian Chefs Association and, unlike many such groups in other parts of the world, include at least one woman chef. Indeed, the focus of this Festival is on women as it allows women of rural villages, for the first time, to exhibit their culinary skills, based on centuries-old recipes, for professional scrutiny and approval.
The Rozana Association organizes these contests as part of a larger process which seeks to reconcile Palestinians with their broken history, to foster sustainable rural development and to provide a platform for Palestinians, especially women, to express their unique Palestinian cultural identities. Rather than setting one village against another, the competitions strengthen the bonds which all Palestinians feel to their village and thence to an identifiable Palestinian culture as they attempt to counter the Israeli policy of dispersing their peoples.