Jamil Kadoura, owner of Mediterranean Deli on Franklin Street, is a Palestinian immigrant from Jerusalem. He opened his deli – now a Franklin Street staple – in 1992, after working in a series of hotels everywhere from Minneapolis to Durham.
“Owning a restaurant here is like myself spreading my culture with the people of Chapel Hill,” said Kadoura. “The most important things of our diet is dried food. The desert has influenced our diet, which I try to spread here. I use my food and I love to spread my culture.”
The Mediterranean food that Kadoura cooks at his deli is his connection to Middle Eastern culture, its history and location. According to Kadoura, the close-knit nature of his homeland is essential to understanding the Palestinian people.
“I come from the cradle of civilization,” said Kadoura. “I love my culture because we have so much closeness and love and respect for each other. In my community, the only people with cars were the town doctor and the mayor. Everyone else made up our town and community, and everyone knew each other.”
Difficult times in the Middle East have colored opinions of the people that Kadoura represents so proudly in the United States, but scenes on the nightly news don’t provide the whole picture.
“There are so many rich traditions which date so far back,” said Kadoura. “I’m so proud to be Middle Eastern, even though there are so many difficult times. Superpowers caused the problems in the Middle East. The people and the culture are not the problem.”
Living in Chapel Hill has certainly had an impact on Kadoura as he makes efforts to spread goodwill through his actions as well as through good food.
“I speak at a lot at different locations. I try to carry my culture and spread my culture with others in Chapel Hill,” said Kadoura. “I speak a lot about how peace can be spread. I know how I was raised and influence people here. I also influence people through my food and my dishes.”
If you ask Jamil Kadoura how living in this community has affected him, how it has changed him, he has a simple answer that effectively sums up his efforts as local chef, cultural ambassador and community member across cultural divides:
“It makes me so proud to know who I am,” said Kadoura.