In which city on earth is the safety of a restaurant a major factor when choosing to eat out. The answer is, of course, Jerusalem. I am lucky, because I get to spend “next week in Jerusalem,” since I travel to Jerusalem every week for my job as Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University, and I stay overnight to reduce travel time. So safety is a major factor for me in choosing where to eat out every week when I’m there. After two years of this arrangement it could be said that I have amassed a specialized knowledge of where to eat out safely in Jerusalem.
Ordinarily I do not write restaurant guides, but I thought that this would be a break from the usual heavy political stuff. Herewith are some of my favorite restaurants: My favorite restaurant is “Ima.” This is a grill, specializing in shashlik and shnitzel, both Israeli favorites. Not only is it kosher, but it is reasonable and very popular. But, it is out of the center of the city. It is located in an old building that has incredibly thick walls, must be medieval, right on the corner of Ben Zvi and Agrippas Streets at what is called New York Square, where there is a small metal copy of the Statue of Liberty at the junction. It also has a good guard, usually the same man, who always locks the door after you enter.
Another favorite is the Botanic Gardens restaurant that not surprisingly is located at the entrance of the Botanic Gardens on the Hebrew University campus at Givat Ram. However, the campus is so big that it is right at the end of Rehov Burla at the opposite end from the main University entrance. The reason this is very safe is that it is so isolated. You park in the Botanic Gardens parking lot and then walk for a few minutes up a path leading to a nice lake and beautiful scenery. This is an Italian restaurant, and they make great minestrone.
Another relatively safe restaurant is “b’sograim” or in English “in parenthesis.” This is located in a grand old house in the middle of Usishkin Street, near Rehavia. The neighborhood is quiet and uncrowded and the entrance is approached from a side street and around to the front. They specialize in soups, and it has a nice European atmosphere, having been a diplomat’s residence.
The restaurant named “Montefiore,” after the Jewish British aristocrat, is located just below the windmill named after him, that he established above Mishkenot Sha’ananim, which was the first building to be built outside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem in the 1850’s. It is approached by car from the junction opposite the Inbal Hotel and down the slope. The restaurant has a balcony and one can see views of the Old City walls, the Abbey of the Dormition and David’s Tower. This restaurant is part of the Adenauer Conference Center and serves only dairy meals. It is located at the end of the neighborhood of Yemin Moshe that was the first developed outside the walls of the Old City. Practically all of Western Jerusalem grew out of settlement by Jews over the past 150 years. But, then in the 1850s Los Angeles was a small Mexican village.
At the other end of Yemin Moshe is another difficult to find and fairly isolated restaurant, in the building of the Zionist Confederation, called “Te’enim” or “Figs.” It is just across the valley from the Jaffa Gate and has a magnificent view of the Old City, although only from a few windows. It is approached by driving down a small alley (Rehov Emile Botta) next to the King David Hotel. There is a sign pointing to the “Confederation Building” down a small path to the right, and further down the road a parking lot behind the building. It specializes in trendy salads and vegetarian dishes.
All of these restaurants are relatively safe because they are quite isolated and the terrorists tend to go for crowded and busy places with many pedestrians. Also, all of them have guards, who seem to be more or less effective. But, I use the word “relatively” because in reality no place is really safe in Jerusalem, particularly until they finish the Security Fence around the City. Bon appetit, b’tay avon.