The Holy City’s hostesses

Three Jerusalem women specialize in hosting overseas groups for Shabbat and holiday meals.

‘Memulaim’ (stuffed vegetables) at Shuk and Cook. (photo credit: RUTH YUDEKOVITZ)
‘Memulaim’ (stuffed vegetables) at Shuk and Cook.
(photo credit: RUTH YUDEKOVITZ)
As a leading global tourist and pilgrimage destination, Jerusalem has its fair share of restaurants.
But on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, there is nothing like a home-cooked meal in a private residence.
And thanks to several enterprising hostesses, visitors from overseas – or locals wanting to be pampered privately – can enjoy that special friends-and-family atmosphere.
Perhaps the home-based restaurant of the longest standing in Jerusalem is Spoons, conceived and executed by Australian-born Hila Solomon. She started operating in Yemin Moshe – the quaint upscale neighborhood with stunning views of the Old City’s walls – then relocated for a number of years to a home with a spacious garden in Ein Kerem. Now she is back in Yemin Moshe.
Solomon actually does most of her business during the week, catering cocktail receptions and dinner parties for a wide range of clients, including diplomats and VIP guests of universities, hospitals, businesses and the public sector. Visiting delegations of politicians, clergy and Jewish leaders are regular guests in her elegant salon. But she is certainly in her element preparing Shabbat and holiday seudot (festive meals) as well, and has gone to the trouble and expense of obtaining kashrut certification.
Solomon is the only one of our three hostesses whose establishment is rated on, in the “Restaurants” category. Alongside the overwhelmingly favorable customer reviews is some owner- supplied information alerting readers that a visit to Spoons might best be saved for a special occasion: The average price is listed as $100 to $250 per person.
Spoons: 054-654-9716 or
Shuk and Cook
A professional hostess with a different specialty is Ruth Yudekovitz, proprietor of Shuk and Cook – a company that takes clients shopping in Mahaneh Yehuda, then brings them back to her kitchen to prepare meals with the fresh ingredients. She encourages people to be informal, to kick off their shoes and relax on her sofas, if that’s what makes them comfortable.
She branched out into hosting when customers asked if there was an option to continue sightseeing rather than cook. She even had a group where the kids cooked while the parents took a Segway tour.
The American-born Yudekovitz hosts quite a few groups from her native country, referred to her by travel agencies and Jewish Federations. On those occasions, she often recruits a colleague with impressive credentials: Kobi Meltzer, formerly of the Village Green eatery. Her kitchen is kosher, but not certified.
On the Friday night I visit, she prepares a Shabbat dinner highlighting foods of the Jewish state’s various ethnic communities.
“Invariably,” she says, “my meals include salads made with seasonal produce, fish dishes, and memulaim [stuffed food, usually vegetables].”
Her home is also in a distinctive neighborhood: Abu Tor.
“Often,” she adds, “between the main course and dessert, I will take the group out to enjoy the beautiful view of the Old City.”
Shuk and Cook: (02) 672-6634 or
Jerusalem EatNMeet
The newcomer in this group is Danby Meital, long renowned in her synagogue and neighborhood – Congregation Moreshet Avraham in East Talpiot – for her hospitality on Shabbat and holidays. Together with her husband, Marvin, she has begun hosting groups of tourists in their home, which boasts an added attraction: a spacious terrace offering a panoramic view of the Judean Desert.
“In the summer months,” she says, “it is especially pleasant in the evening to sit and eat outside.”
As veteran immigrants from the US, they are comfortable hosting both Jewish and non-Jewish groups from North America. Another particular niche on which they are capitalizing is the Portuguese-speaking market, since the Meitals were also emissaries for a number of years in Brazil.
They recently hosted a large group of visiting Chinese MBA students, introducing them to the customs and rituals of Shabbat. The Meitals also made sure that each of the four tables included an English-speaking Israeli capable of answering questions about religion, economics and politics.
The food – cooked in a kosher kitchen that is not certified – is classic Ashkenazi Shabbat fare: gefilte fish, chicken soup with kneidlach, brisket, kugel, and compote and rugelach for dessert. The convivial atmosphere inspires the singing of zemirot (Shabbat- table songs): On the aforementioned occasion, guests and hosts serenaded one another with songs in Hebrew and Chinese.
Danby Meital: 052-263-6345