More to Restobar closure than meets the eye

There is an eerie symbolism about closure of Restobar coffee shop in J'lem, formerly known as Café Moment.

Cafe Moment mourners, J'lem bombing 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Cafe Moment mourners, J'lem bombing 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
There is an eerie symbolism about the closure of the Restobar coffee shop in Jerusalem, specifically at this time of the year. Restobar in its previous incarnation was known as Café Moment. In the late evening of Saturday, March 9, 2002, a Palestinian suicide/homicide bomber who had been sent by Hamas, entered the premises approximately 100 meters distance from the Prime Minister's official residence and detonated an explosive device hidden under his clothing. The force of the blast was so powerful that it destroyed a large section of the restaurant. When the dust cleared, eleven people lay dead, and 54 were injured, ten of them, severely.
The physical damage to the building was quickly repaired and a memorial plaque was set into the stone fence with the names of the eleven victims: Limor Ben-Shoham, 27, of Jerusalem, Nir Rahamim Borochov, 22, of Givat Ze'e, Danit Dagan, 25, of Tel-Aviv, Livnat Dvash, 28, of Jerusalem Tali Eliyahu, 26, of Jerusalem, Uri Felix, 25, of Givat Ze'ev, Dan Imani, 23, of Jerusalem, Natanel Kochavi, 31, of Kiryat Ata, Baruch Lerner-Naor, 28, of Eli rit Ozarov, 28, of Jerusalem, and Avraham Haim Rahamim, 29, of Jerusalem.
A garden was planted at the top of the fence facing Gaza Road on one side and Ben Maimon on the other.
It was and still is a living memorial to eleven innocent Israelis who wanted nothing more at the time of their deaths than to sit with friends over coffee and good food. Café Moment was a dairy café without rabbinic supervision. It did not advertise itself as kosher, but there was nothing on the menu to offend religious sensibilities.
Restobar decided to cater specifically to a secular clientele, and its patrons of diverse age groups and backgrounds were content to sit in the patio area or inside and to converse with each other in tones that rarely penetrated into the street. If there was a disturbance at all, it was in the number of vehicles that occasionally blocked the path of pedestrians in Gaza Road or Ben Maimon.
Rehavia was never considered to be a religious enclave, though over the years increasing numbers of religiously observant people have moved into the neighborhood and more synagogues have been built, though the ritual baths closed for repairs a few years ago have never been reopened.. Most of the religiously observant residents of Rehavia are of the live and let live variety, and if they were bothered by Restobar being open on Shabbat, they seldom said so. On the other hand there were others who were very vocal in their disapproval. I do not know the identity of the owner of the building in which Restobar is located but I somehow suspect that his motive on insisting that the enterprise be closed on Shabbat and that it becomes kosher is not the real reason that he wants to change the status quo.
There's a tremendous amount of construction going on in Rehavia as old buildings either come down to be replaced by modern high rises or additional floors are added to existing buildings. Restobar is a single story structure in a prime position. Any real estate developer would lick his chops at the opportunity to tear down the building and construct a huge residential tower in its place, with perhaps a kosher restaurant on the ground floor. Restobar is not the first secular oriented eatery to be sacrificed on the altar of religious intolerance. Café Yehoshua, down the road apiece on Gaza, was previously a non-kosher establishment, a factor that irked several of its neighbors. It is now kosher.
Yes it's true that secular people can eat anywhere and it makes no real difference whether it's kosher or not unless they have a fetish for certain foods forbidden under Jewish dietary laws. But it's morally wrong to deny them a place where they can congregate on weekends. These are people who are part of society. They serve in the army; they pay taxes and they are entitled to sit in restaurants and coffee bars on Friday nights and Saturdays.
I do not have a personal axe to grind here, as I do observe the Sabbath and I eat only kosher. But just as I would feel a sense of discrimination if I was denied the right to publicly observe the Sabbath or to eat in accordance with the dictates of my conscience, I would not want to deny others whose lifestyle is different, the right to pursue it as they see fit, so long as it does not harm anyone else.
After all the restaurants are closed on Shabbat and made kosher, the next target will be the football field, and Saturday games will cease. Who knows where it could go from there.
Will our democracy become a theocracy? But more important than considerations across the secular/religious divide is preserving the memories of those people who lost their lives in a terrorist attack eleven years ago Every new broom sweeps clean, and whether Restobar is transformed into a kosher establishment that is closed on Shabbat or whether the building is torn down to make way for another, the memorial plaque with the names of the victims must be preserved, because it is yet another sign that whatever its enemies do to the Jewish People, the spirit of survival remains strong. The plaque is also important to the families of the victims, some of whom come on the anniversary of the tragedy to light a memorial candle or to leave a floral tribute. Their feelings and their pain should not be ignored.