J'lem Protest: 'Eatery shut because not kosher'

According to NGO, Restobar given an ultimatum by property’s owner to either make menu kosher or vacate.

meretz370 (photo credit: Daniel K. Eisenbud)
(photo credit: Daniel K. Eisenbud)
Nearly 100 demonstrators gathered at the Restobar restaurant in Jerusalem Monday night, located down the road from the Prime Minister’s Residence, to protest what they said is the popular eatery/bar’s forced-closing due to its non-kosher menu.
According to Rabbi Uri Ayalon, CEO of Jerusalem based civil rights organization Hatnuah Hayerushalmit, the owners of the popular upscale restaurant were given an ultimatum by the property’s owner to either make their menu kosher or vacate.
Restobar co-owner Shahar Levy and the property’s owner could not be reached for comment.
“The building’s owner can say whatever he wants because it’s a private place,” said Ayalon. “But for us, as a civil-rights organization in Jerusalem, this is a red flag because the outcome of such a decision will not only affect Restobar, but every other nonkosher restaurant in the city.”
Ayalon, who said he personally keeps kosher, added that such an ultimatum sets a dangerous precedent for civil rights and diversity within the city.
“We want everyone to live in a pluralistic society to show that Jerusalem is a free city – it has kosher and non-kosher restaurants and people should be free to choose.”
Tzaphira Stern, an activist and member of the Meretz Party, said she arranged the protest via social media.
“I invited all these people to come here via Facebook, and a lot of people came, which is great,” she said. “There are obviously a lot of conflicting feelings among secular Jews, but Meretz is 100 percent for secular freedom. It’s our civil right to go there and eat on Shabbat, or whenever else we want.”
Meanwhile, Ofer Berkovitch, chairman of Hitorerut Yerushalayim, an organization dedicated to Zionism and pluralism, said he felt the closing will further mitigate secular Jews within the city.
“We think that culture and fun is important for secular people, which is a big part of Jerusalem,” he said. “And it’s important to keep places like Restobar open for these people.
We are trying to get the owner of the property to understand how deep the hurt is for the [secular] population when they close down a place like this.”
Newly-elected MK Dr. Adi Kol of Yesh Atid mirrored Berkovitch’s concerns in a prepared statement.
“We are witnessing another attempt to marginalize the secular Jerusalem community,” said Kol, a former social-rights activist. “Closing [Restobar] is another step in the war on the pluralistic character of the capital city.”
In response to the closing, Ayalon said he is proposing opening five non-kosher restaurants in Restobar’s place to ensure Jerusalem remains diverse.
“Tonight we want to encourage the owners of Restobar to open another restaurant,” he said. “And we want to encourage other restaurant owners to open more [non-kosher] restaurants that will answer the needs of a society that should be free to choose where and what it eats. We are fighting for that right.”
This is not the first time Restobar has been embroiled in controversy over its non-kosher menu.
In 2007, it was one of several Jerusalem non-kosher eateries protested by ultra-orthodox groups for selling hametz during Passover.
Despite winning a lawsuit filed against it that year for selling non-kosher fare, Restobar remained blacklisted by segments of the religious