Let's Eat

Israel's top restaurants are rallying to help IDF soldiers

Eyal Shani, Ariel Rosenthal and Uri Buri are all fuelling Israel's heroes


An army marches on its stomach, and the IDF is no exception. It didn’t take long for Israel’s chefs and balaboostas to get into the kitchen to feed their heroes.

My social media feed has been full of images and videos of food boxes and bags being packed. One of the first was from Sally-Ann Thwaites’s home kitchen where she had been baking with volunteers.

Thwaites told me that when the wail of sirens and warnings interrupted their Simchat Torah celebrations, she knew something was very wrong.

“At 9am my husband came home from synagogue to check I was ok. He went back and shul was over by 10am — by which time we’d heard the news. Everyone had been told not to celebrate Simchat Torah. There were no children in the shuls and the streets were empty. Everyone had been advised to stay at home.”

She’d invited 17 guests back for a festive lunch. All but two joined them — “I think we all consoled each other” — and during the afternoon a non-Jewish friend, who’d been helping her in the kitchen, showed her videos of what was going on so, despite it being Shabbat, they knew what had happened.

“By the evening we were all in shock. I woke the next morning, not having slept well and knew I had to do something — I had to keep busy.”

She contacted the Israel office of One Family Together, a charity set up to help victims of terror and one she’d supported when she lived in London. “They suggested I form a voluntary group to make meals for the soldiers and families down south.”
Within an hour she’d commandeered a crowd of helpers to come her kitchen that afternoon.

Ten of them stood together baking as many cookies and cakes as possible in two hours before the bakes were driven south by the charity’s volunteers.

“We’d been asked to prepare meals — a protein, vegetable, rice or potato and a cake. I was unable to get chicken for the Sunday but on Monday, managed to get 100 pieces from two butchers, and cooked trays of honey mustard chicken.”

She also made chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies and carrot cake and then created a spreadsheet of willing volunteers ready to make meals.

The former Londoner isn’t the only one making food for families and soldiers. Internationally famous chef, Eyal Shani, has filled his Instagram feed with videos of his staff packing fresh salads and dumpling-filled stews into takeaway containers for delivery to IDF’s soldiers and survivors of the massacres in the south.

He’s not the only top chef taking action. Ariel Rosenthal  founder of Tel Aviv’s famous falafel bar, Hakosem — has been hard at work sending out 500 portions a day. “I’m not a soldier – I’m more than 50 years old — so my weapon is the food — the falafel and the hummus I make.”

Further north, in Acre’s Uri Jeremias (Uri Buri) has set up a truck offering coffee, ice cream and hair cuts for the security and rescue forces passing through the Western Galilee.

The restaurant community has also pulled together in Jerusalem. Rinat Silvester, who owns Rani restaurant in the city’s First Station development, has been co-ordinating their efforts. “People have been unbelievable. The business community — all the chefs and the restaurants are absolutely remarkable. There are so many of us, it’s incredible.”

On Sunday, she posted on her social media channels about doing something to support their country: “Instead of sitting in front of the television and crying — which is all I’d been doing for the first 24 hours — I had to act. By doing, we heal ourselves.”

Numerous restaurants contacted her, and she is currently coordinating between the restaurants and IDF — sending food to army bases but also to anyone who needs feeding.

“We’re feeding families that lost their loved ones — who are sitting shiva; for those who have had family kidnapped — they don’t have the energy to start cooking, and also families who came from the south to Jerusalem who may not have the money for food.”

Meals are also being supplied to the nursery attached to Shaare Zedek hospital. “They’re for the children of the hospital workers — we’re helping anyone that’s involved in this war. We’re making thousands of meals a day.”

Silvester explained the number of people directly affected by the attacks means everyone knows someone. “Whatever I experienced in the last 50 years was nothing like this — we’re hearing more and more horror stories.”

Her sons are both serving in the military — “They’re up north — one is a student, and one works in the restaurant with me. They’ve been called up and they want to protect us.”
She tells me the IDF can only accept kosher food — “you can’t bring food that one soldier can eat and another can’t”. So non-kosher restaurants have been either arranging for their premises to be made kosher, or their chefs are bringing supplies to kosher restaurants and cooking there.

“Tzohar Food Supervision [a kosher certification authority] has been volunteering to make kosher restaurants in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that want to cook for the army” says Debbie Kandel, food and travel blogger behind Debbest Israel .

Kandel, who also runs Facebook group Restaurant Club Jerusalem, also wanted to lend her support and, as well as packing meals, is promoting a fund-raising campaign started by restaurant, Jacko’s Street, to pay for meals for soldiers. Donors can give 70 shekels (around £14) for a meal and at the time of writing, had given more than 100,000 shekels (£20,000).

“They’re calling this campaign their reservist duty — for those who have not been called up by the military.”

She explained that even if people did want to eat out, most restaurants are not open. “There are no clear rules [on opening] — it’s a question of whether you’ve got somewhere safe for your employees and customers to go, but not everywhere has a safe room or shelter. And also, whether they have staff because most the waiting staff will have gone back into the army.”

Whether from the front line or their kitchens Israelis are fighting in whatever way they can.

Find other ways you can help Israel, here.

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