Terror-Supporting Bakery Reems Listed as One of Thrillist’s Best New Restaurants of 2018
Thrillist is an online media website covering food, drink, travel and entertainment. They seem to have a relatively large following.
What makes it even worse is how they go out of their way to portray owner Reem Assil so sympathetically, knowing how she has a mural of a terrorist who murdered two innocent people.
Chef Reem Assil wasn’t sure if she was ever going to be able to eat again. She had developed a case of acid reflux so severe that it was traumatizing to feed herself. When Assil noticed more than 30 pounds quickly drop from her already svelte frame, she realized she needed a dramatic change. A student at Tufts University in Boston at the time, she decided to quit school and move across the country to the Bay Area in an attempt to heal herself.
It was in California that she rediscovered what food could be. As she slowly recuperated, Assil found that food, which was once her nemesis, was now a source of strength. She relearned how to cook for herself and began to understand how good vegetables could really be. “A tomato [in California] tasted like a real tomato, “ she recalls with a laugh. She quickly became, in her words, “an avid amateur cook.” Thirteen years later, she would become a successful chef with thriving restaurants in Oakland.
Assil is the owner of two beloved restaurants, the first being Reem’s, an all-day cafe and bakery she threw the doors open to in May of 2017. The second is Dyafa, her fine-dining spot that she opened less than a year later in partnership with lauded chef Daniel Patterson.
If you ask Assil — the child of Syrian and Palestinian immigrants by way of Lebanon — what type of food she cooks, she will describe it with just one word: “Arab.” The term is one that has been maligned and misunderstood, meaning people are often afraid to use it. Not Assil. “The word Arab is considered a bad word because of the political climate,” she says. “I was like, ‘You know what? I am going to mainstream that shit because it is not a bad word.’”
Not everything has been so warm for Assil at the bakery, however. The space, which features high ceilings and plenty of sunlight, also features a large and colorful mural of Rasmea Odeh on the wall opposite the front door. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the space. The painting of Odeh, a Palestinian activist who was controversially convicted by the Israeli government over a bombing that killed two Jewish students in Jerusalem in the 1960s, set off a firestorm for Assil shortly after Reem’s opened in 2017. A very pregnant Assil was soon bombarded with poor Yelp reviews and death threats, with people spouting hateful language towards Arabs, and others accusing Assil of being “anti-semitic.” Protesters started showing up to her bakery and harassing her staff.
It took quite a toll on Assil’s health. She went into early labor, something her doctors were able to halt. But then was put on bed rest shortly after rendering her unable to continue with her usual 16-hour days. Still, her resolve — and her activism — wasn’t dampened. She continued with her plans for Dyafa, the restaurant she hoped would make fine dining more accessible to everyone, while hosting events for the community like a play about Syrian refugees and a symbolic birthday party for a Palestinian teen activist who was imprisoned for an altercation with an Israeli soldier after her cousin was shot.
The disgusting trend of mainstreaming terrorism continues. And it leaves one hell of a bad taste in my mouth.