A few weeks ago, I posted about Ayat, a new palestinian Arab restaurant in NYC that has the antisemitic, genocidal phrase “from the River to the Sea” plastered across its menu. The owners Ayat Masoud and her husband Abdul Elenani claimed they were misunderstood:
‘We’re just against the Zionist mentality of, like, eliminate or flatten now,’ he said, adding he meant no ill-will toward Jewish people.
‘Our neighbors are Jews, our friends are Jews, we work with Jewish people all day every day. We do not hate Jewish people. It’s the opposite,’ he continued. ‘Judaism and Islam, they are the two most similar religions.’
I showed how they were serving up lies, since the restaurant’s Facebook page contained glorified armed terrorists and Elenani had made the antisemitic comparison of Israelis to Nazis a few times on his own Facebook profile.
But now Ha’aretz has come out with a report about how nice they are – they will be holding a special, free Shabbat dinner for anybody in the neighborhood who wants to come.
You know Ha’aretz is being Ha’retz when they start the piece by uncritically parroting the owner’s unlikely claim:
Abdul Elenani never anticipated this kind of backlash.
When he designed his Ayat restaurant menus a few years back, he put the fish and seafood selection under the heading “From the River to the Sea.”
He thought it was a cute idea, never anticipating that these words might eventually trigger some of his customers. He had no idea, he insists, that many Jews equate the slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” with a call to eradicate Israel.
“I had always understood it as a call for freedom and equality for all people who live on that stretch of land,” said Elenani, in a conversation last week at his restaurant in the Ditmas Park section of Flatbush, Brooklyn.
“The whole thing drove me absolutely crazy,” recounts Elenani. “We never thought we had to explain what ‘From the River to the Sea’ meant because we thought everyone got it.”
A non-violent meaning to ‘From the River to the Sea’ is what is rare; and this should be even clearer to everyone after the events of October 7.
Later on in the piece, this is what Elenani says about putting on a Shabbat dinner:
I’ve started researching what it entails, but – holy shit! – I had no idea what a production this would be. You’ve got to get challah, you need wine, candles, and there’s all these blessings before and after the meal. Who knew?
Funny how he can research this but not what “From the River to the Sea” means 99.9% of the time.
But Ha’aretz’s Judy Maltz and Gili Getz seem determined to give the owners the benefit of the doubt, and they paint them as heroic for their seemingly generous offer:
Among those shocked and outraged by the attacks on Elenani were many of his loyal Jewish customers. They immediately put out messages of sympathy and support, and went out of their way to patronize his businesses around the city to make sure he knew they were on his side.
So moved was the young restaurateur by these acts of solidarity that he decided to reciprocate in his own unique way: On January 26, Elenani will be holding a special Shabbat dinner for anybody in the neighborhood who wants to come. And it’s free of charge.
Based on responses to date, he’s expecting somewhere between 600 and 700 people at the new Brooklyn venue.
In their invitation, posted both on the Ayat.NYC Facebook and Instagram pages, Elenani and his wife Ayat Masoud wrote: “In the spirit of togetherness and understanding, we invite all our incredible neighbors, especially our Jewish neighbors, to a heartfelt Shabbat dinner at Ayat Restaurant.
“It’s not just about breaking bread; it’s about breaking barriers, fostering dialogue, and connecting on a human level. This evening is more than a meal; it’s an opportunity to share stories, embrace diverse perspectives, and celebrate our shared humanity.”
In case you see this as a generous offer by people who are truly sorry for their previous glorification of terrorism and antisemitic posts, I am not so sure:
I’m deeply grateful to Gili and Judy from @haaretz, who graciously took the time to empathize with our story. These incredible individuals, both deeply rooted in #YAFFA, which is called Tel Aviv now, one as a journalist, and the other as a photographer, are passionately against the occupation of Palestinians. Their unwavering stance against this injustice, coupled with their immense compassion and understanding, touched my heart in ways beyond words. Their willingness to sit, share a meal, and listen to each other’s narratives has been a profound lesson in empathy and education. I can not express enough appreciation for the knowledge they shared, enlightening me about issues back home that were previously unknown to me. Thank you, Gili and Judy, from the depths of my heart for your incredible kindness and unwavering support against the occupation. Your presence and willingness to learn/teach are treasures beyond measure. ❤️
***Let me clarify for the ones rushing to message and say we stand with zionists etc.
They are beautiful Jewish people who stand with Palestine and wholeheartedly against what Israel is doing from way before October 7 and 10000% against the occupation. In fact, against what these crazy settlers are doing to the Palestinians!
Please, and please 🙏
Learn not to rush to be negative! No one will get anywhere with a narrow mind, scream, and curse all you want. Just know those actions have never done anything except bring us 1000 steps backward!
**Comments turned off. There’s enough hate out there… not needed here between our own people!
In other words, they still seem to really hate “Zionists.” Which begs the question: would Jews supportive of Israel be allowed to attend the free Shabbat meal?
Although I do have to wonder whether the owners define “occupation” the same way Maltz and Getz do; Ayat’s owners seem to see all of the Jewish state as an “occupation,” while Maltz and Getz seem to only see the post 1967 territories as such.
Note also how Elenani mentions they are “both deeply rooted in #YAFFA, which is called Tel Aviv now”; he has previously referred to it as “Occupied Yaffa”, so it seems he is playing the game in order to get this free, good publicity.
Meanwhile, in case it isn’t still clear to you that Ayat has not changed its ways, here they are supporting South Africa’s vile genocide case against Israel at the ICJ:
I would suggest that proud, Zionist Jews living nearby go to Ayat’s Shabbat dinner with their Israeli flags to see what will happen, but I care about your safety.