Cliché or reality? The Evolution of Workers’ Restaurants in Israel

  • Talk
  • 16 June, 12:00 — 13:30
  • Asif, 28 Lilienblum St, Tel Aviv
  • 20 NIS
Illustration of man infront of old restaurant sign

What is a workers’ restaurant in Israel? Do such places still exist or is it just a romantic notion? And does the word act as a way of whitewashing?   This conversation will look at various representations of workers’ restaurants in Israeli literature and journalism that were identified in the creation of the exhibition “Home Away From Home Away From Home: A Tribute to Workers’ Restaurants.” The discussion will be moderated by Yuval Sa’ar, founder of the design and art magazine Portfolio, and will include exhibition curator Liora Rosin, journalists Neta Halperin and Ofri Ilani, and food writer Hila Alpert.

“The main cause of culinary poverty is the racism of the Jewish state,” explained Ilani in a recent Haaretz article “Israeli cuisine? Let’s Face It: The Restaurants Here Are Embarrassing.” Jews, he continues, “do not excel in culinary tradition. Because fundamentally, what are the ethnic cuisines? Diluted versions of the local cuisine where the ethnic group resides, subject to kosher laws.”

But, Alpert isn’t convinced. In a recent piece on the Asif Journal, she looks back at the days when Jewish immigrants from Arab countries filled Mahane Yehuda market with pots of food they cooked for one another. They turned the market into one big workers restaurant, whose influence we can still see on Israeli kitchens today. 

In this gallery discussion, we will delve into the ways workers’ restaurants are represented both in the past and present. And examine if these representations are cliché or reality.