Jaffa Port's Caf? Kappish

The menu is brimming with tasty choices. Ordering in sign language is where the challenge kicks in.

Nalaga'at Center, Jaffa Port Sun., Tues., and Thurs. 7 p.m. - midnight Tel. (03) 633-0808 Kosher Invited to the Nalaga'at Center to see the 100th production of the play Not by Bread Alone, I was surprised upon my arrival to find that the theater house also had a café and restaurant on its premises. Café Kappish ('kappish' translates to 'understand') is a stylishly designed café with a mix of high and low tables set up in a spacious room. The café is a socially-conscious one. First, the waiters are all deaf. Second, the staff is a mix of Jews and Arabs. Everyone talks with their hands. Whereas the ongoing educational exhibit "Invitation to Silence" at the Holon Children's Museum gives visitors an introduction to the difficulties facing the deaf, the seven-month-old Café Kappish challenges the hearing to make themselves understood by members of the deaf community. On each table there is a sheet of sign language instructions, and patrons are encouraged to order their meals by using the symbols. Those who cannot master sign language can also just point to an item on the menu. At first glance, the bill of fare seems pretty standard to cafes elsewhere in the country with sandwiches, quiches, pastas and desserts. A closer look shows that Café Kappish takes its food seriously and offers exciting combinations, including blue cheese and antipasti sandwich (NIS 35), smoked salmon and black lentil salad (NIS 36) and green bean and tomato linguini (NIS 42). I tried the antipasti (NIS 42) and found myself waving my fingers about trying to explain that I didn't want the eggplant with the dish. I succeeded, and I enjoyed a yummy mix of lightly oiled, roasted vegetables. The set of choices changes with the season, and Café Kappish's summer menu is set to go into effect in the next two weeks. Whereas at some cafes, finding a waiter can be a nightmare, at Kappish waiters seem to be everywhere and they're all eager to help. In fact, the waiters here are super patient and courteous. Café Kappish is as much about giving the hearing world a unique experience as it is about helping the waiters and putting them in charge. The whole Nalaga'at concept is to empower people based on their abilities and not focus on their disabilities. And while Kappish tries to break down barriers between those of us who can hear and those of us who cannot, it also serves as a meeting spot for members of the deaf community. My colleague and I were in awe by the flurry of hand movements coming from the table in the corner during our visit. That table hosted eight friends (who were all hard of hearing). No voices could be heard, but there was most definitely an animated conversation taking place. For the hearing patrons, Café Kappish plays soft jazz tunes in the background. At the moment, the café is open just three evenings a week, which coincide with the three performances by the Nalaga'at deaf-blind theater troupe. Whether seeing the play or not, Café Kappish is definitely worth a visit. Not only is the food good, but communicating beyond the spoken word is certainly an out-of-the-ordinary and exciting experience. Rating: 9