Abigail Klein Leichman
November 19, 2017

“Ben” smiles as he loads an industrial juicer with oranges at Harutzim bistro-café in Jerusalem’s Talpiot business district, run by SHEKEL-Community Services for People with Special Needs as a social business.

His smile broadens with pride when he hands me a glass of fresh-squeezed juice under the encouraging eye of training supervisor Noa Zwebner.

“When Ben started working here two years ago, he wore sunglasses and was very shy. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. We worked really hard with him to communicate along with teaching him how to make coffee and juice,” says Zwebner. “He’s now asking clients what kind of coffee and pastry they want. He’s taking initiative. He’s really made unbelievable progress.”

Social eateries across Israel aim to please palates while employing, training and rehabilitating people from disadvantaged populations such as teenage dropouts and disabled adults.

Café Shalva opened in March 2016 on the new sprawling Jerusalem national headquarters of Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities.

“The concept of our new campus was to create a place for individuals with disabilities but where everyone feels comfortable coming,” says Avi Samuels, chairman of Shalva.

“Everything about it promotes inclusion. It starts with the accessible playground outside where kids with and without disabilities play together, and our inclusive kindergarten and daycare, sports and music programs.”

Café Shalva is popular with the public, says Samuels.

“Hundreds of people come and enjoy a great meal with an additional aspect of learning about the world of people with disabilities,” he says. “We didn’t want people to come out of pity but for the good food and pleasant environment.”

Dualis Social Investment Fund runs four social restaurants in Israel in partnership with NGOs serving Israeli youth in distress.

“The model in all our restaurants is that it’s a for-profit business training and employing dropout youth. We always have a social partner organization and a social worker on site,” says Tamar Levine, Dualis marketing director.

Liliyot, Israel’s first restaurant run as a social business. Photo courtesy of Dualis Social Investment Fund

“We have eight to 12 participants in each restaurant annually. They begin by learning soft skills like coming to work on time and listening to authority,” Levine tells ISRAEL21c. They receive paid on-the-job training under professional chefs, and then get help finding jobs.

“We want them to become normative Israeli citizens, and evaluations show that between 80 and 90 percent of our alumni are able to do that. We find that food is a really good therapeutic mode. We’re even seeing graduates opening their own places.”

If you want to do a meaningful act of philanthropy while enjoying great food, try one of these social enterprise restaurants in Israel. They’re listed by sponsoring organization.


Liliyot, 2 Dafna Street (Asia House), Tel Aviv

Liliyot, an upscale kosher restaurant near the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Tel Aviv Medical Center, trains and employs youth at risk aged 16 to 19 in collaboration with Elem, a nonprofit organization for youth at risk.

Israel’s first social enterprise restaurant, Liliyot was established as a nonprofit in 2000 and shifted to profit mode with the founding of Dualis in late 2008. It boasts more than 250 graduates and has gained a reputation for top-notch cuisine and service for regular diners and private events.


Mata’im in Ramat Hanadiv gardens, Zichron Ya’akov

Mata’im  is a kosher dairy restaurant established in 2012 in the Ramat Hanadiv public gardens. Together with the Zichron Ya’akov municipality and Elem, the restaurant trains and employs youth at risk, preparing them for careers in the restaurant trade. Many private parties are held here.

Dishes prepared at Mata’im in Zichron Ya’akov. Photo courtesy of Dualis Social Investment Fund

Café Ringelblum, 86/6 Ringelblum Street, Beersheva

Café Ringelblum, a kosher restaurant in a gentrifying, hip neighborhood of Beersheva, was Dualis’ second investment and was founded by the Tor Hamidbar nonprofit organization with the objective of providing meaningful work experience for disadvantaged youth from the neighborhood. Currently the eatery is managed by the Kampai restaurant group.

Anna, 10 HaRav Agan Street, Jerusalem

Anna Italian restaurant in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Dualis Social Investment Fund

Anna kosher Italian restaurant opened in May 2016 in the historic Ticho House, a downtown branch of the Israel Museum. It’s staffed by youth at risk affiliated with the Hut HaMeshulash, ( nonprofit and managed by the Mona Group under celebrity chef Moshiko Gamlieli from the famed Machneyuda restaurant. Anna recently received a glowing review in The New York Times.


Café Motek, Mara Theater, 1 Kikar Tzahal, Kiryat Shmona

Founded in the summer of 2006 at the initiative of social-work students at Tel-Hai College in northern Israel,  Café Motek (Sweetie) is a place where people with and without mental illness can meet and work together. It has since moved off campus to the lobby of the Mara Theater in Kiryat Shmona and continues to be operated under the auspices of Enosh Israeli Mental Health Association, a national initiative serving approximately 4,500 Israelis across the country.

Café Motek at Mara Theater in Kiryat Shmona aims at social inclusion for people with mental illness. Photo courtesy of Enosh

The café serves coffee and light meals at a symbolic price, Mondays from 5 to 8pm and Wednesdays from 6 to 9pm. The goals are to involve people with mental disabilities in a social venture together with college students and community volunteers; and to create an opportunity for the general public to shed stereotypes or fears about people with mental illness.

Bekivun Haruach (Toward the Wind), 102 Yarkon Street, Tel Aviv

This volunteer-run nonprofit café is open Tuesdays evenings from 5 to 7:30, hosted by Mendalimos Bar and overseen by professional management. Like Café Matok, the goals here are to integrate people with mental disabilities into the social and leisure fabric of the city and to help eliminate stigma and stereotypes in the greater society.

Bekivun Haruach cafe, Tel Aviv. Photo courtesy of Enosh

Bekivun Haruach holds parties for Jewish holidays, karaoke, free evenings, open-mic evenings and more. Menu items are sold at cost thanks to donations from local businesses including Shufersal, Vegetable Farm 79, Bread & Co., Boutique Central and Pizza Hut.


Harutzim, 11 Yad Harutzim Street (SHEKEL Center), Jerusalem

Harutzim Café in Jerusalem is staffed by intellectually disabled clients of SHEKEL Community Services for People with Special Needs. Photo: courtesy

Harutzim  kosher mehadrin bistro-café employs and trains people with intellectual disabilities to work in Israel’s restaurant industry. Run in partnership with businessman Nir Segal, Harutzim also caters events and has become a popular social and cultural hub, drawing local Jerusalemites to programs during the summer months.

It’s open Sunday to Friday from 7:30am to 5pm (2pm on Fridays) for sit-down meals and take-away.

SHEKEL also runs Harutzim cafeterias at Beit Yehudit (Ginot Ha’ir Community Center) and Lev Smadar Cinema, both in Jerusalem’s German Colony.


Café Shalva, 1 Shalva Road, Jerusalem

Café Shalva is an equal-opportunity work setting where people with disabilities learn to be managers, waiters and hosts through a vocational training program run in cooperation with Ministry of Economy. They work alongside staffers without disabilities.

Café Shalva’s inclusive coffee shop opened in Jerusalem in 2016. Photo: courtesy

The kosher mehadrin Mediterranean-Italian fusion cuisine and the interior design were developed in partnership with the management of Derech Hagefen restaurant in Beit Zayit. The menu includes breakfast dishes, pasta, fish, seasonal salads and desserts.

Café Shalva is open Sunday through Thursday from 8am to 10:30pm; Fridays until 2:30.

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