Chef Jose Andres mourns World Central Kitchen workers killed in Gaza at Washington Cathedral

By Thomson Reuters Apr 25, 2024 | 12:27 PM

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Celebrity Chef Jose Andres called seven aid workers killed by Israeli forces in Gaza “the best of humanity” on Thursday during a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral that was attended by hundreds, and punctuated by grief and ongoing questions about the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel mistakenly killed the seven people working for Andres’ charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) in an airstrike earlier this month, prompting worldwide condemnation and a demand by President Joe Biden to make it easier to get aid in to Gaza or risk a shift in U.S. support.

Andres told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that the Israeli attack targeted them “systematically, car by car.”

At Thursday’s service he praised each of the workers — Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, John Chapman, Jacob Flickinger, Lalzawmi Frankcom, James Henderson, James Kirby, and Damian Sobol — during an emotional eulogy, his voice cracking repeatedly.

“The seven souls we mourn today were there so that hungry people could eat,” he said, referring to residents of Gaza. “They risked everything to feed people they did not know.”

“They were the best of humanity. Their examples should inspire us to do better, to be better,” he said.

Andres said WCK continues to demand an investigation into the actions of the Israeli forces against its workers, and that the official explanation was not good enough.

“There is no excuse for these killings. None,” he said.

The service included readings and prayers from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian traditions and a musical tribute by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

More than 500 people attended, including families of the victims, WCK staff, U.S. officials and diplomats from more than 30 countries, according to a WCK representative.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff represented the White House, while Biden was traveling in New York.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Heather Timmons and Bill Berkrot)