Jerusalem Cafe Still Employs Arabs Despite Poison Attempt

Although its former Israeli-Arab chef was sent to jail Tuesday for attempting to poison the 'strictly Kosher' restaurant's customers, Jerusalem's Cafe Rimon continues to employ Arab waiters and kitchen staff.


Two Israeli-Arab Hamas members, former employees of the popular Jerusalem eatery Caf? Rimon, were sentenced today for attempting to fatally poison the establishment’s hundreds of Jewish customers. Just a little over a year following the attempt, the ‘strictly Kosher’ restaurant’s policy of keeping Arab workers on staff remains unchanged.

Utman Said Kianyah worked for three years as a chef at Caf? Rimon. Ronen Rimon, owner of the establishment, told Israel National News that “He was a very, very nice man; friendly with everybody and very nice to all the Jewish customers.” Kianyah was sentenced Tuesday to seven and a half years in prison for planning to poison those same customers, causing a large number of deaths.

Kianyah admitted to investigators that he had learned from a Hamas website how to poison coffee and other drinks without being detected. Scheming with a friend he met working at the Hebrew University’s laundry service, he planned to use odorless and tasteless poisons that would strike the victims with heart attack-like symptoms some 12-15 hours after ingestion.

Cafe Rimon was established in 1953 and has had a security guard posted at its entrance since 1997. It has recently enclosed its outside tables, ostensibly to afford better protection to its customers. However the guards and gates would not have prevented the tragedy that almost took place last September.

Jerusalem Police officials subsequently warned restaurant and cafe owners to be alert and suspicious of all their Arab employees. "During these times, this danger exists, and one doesn't have to be extremely wise or forewarned by the police to know that a terror attack of this kind might happen," said senior Jerusalem Police commander Yoram Halevy.

Cafe Rimon employs 80 workers, of which about 10 percent are Israeli-Arab. "There are people who have been working here for ten years and I don't think the actions of one should hurt all of them," Ronen Rimon said.

Caf? Rimon is adjacent to the site of three separate bombings. Soon after the poison plot was publicized, Avraham Feld, a resident of Jerusalem, told Arutz-7 of a disturbing scene he witnessed soon after a bombing near the Cafe:

"Last year, after the explosion that tore apart part of Lunz St. and Ben-Yehuda St. [and killed 11 young people], I arrived shortly afterwards at the Rimon Cafe. One of the things that overwhelmed me was the site of the kitchen staff of the Cafe Rimon in a state of joyous celebration - patting each other on the back, jumping up and down, singing songs in Arabic - it was like at the end of a soccer match when your team wins. They were marching and striding back and forth, so full of energy - it was amazing to me." [Click to hear the rest of Avraham’s comments.]

Ronen Rimon denies Feld's report about the Arab kitchen staff's joy, saying the entire story was fabricated. Rimon claims, “no Arab workers have been hired since then,” but insists he never considered firing any of his Arab employees. When asked by Israel NationalNews whether he felt his restaurant was safe to eat at, Rimon replied, “I think it is the safest of all, because we have ‘tasted’ the danger, so to speak.”

When asked what his reaction would have been had the poisoning plot succeeded, killing hundreds of customers, Rimon conceded that he would then hire an all-Jewish staff.

Other restaurant owners drew similar lines in the sand, opting not to pre-empt the threat, but admitting that if such a plot were to succeed it would lead them to take action. "If yet another incident like this is revealed, I would immediately fire all my Arab workers," said Yoram Cohen, owner of Jerusalem's recently reopened Moment Cafe, where eleven young Israelis lost their lives in a March, 2002 suicide bombing attack. But Cohen defended his Arab workers, saying that he knew them well and didn't doubt their honesty. "They went through the trauma of the attack with me," he said.

Many Israelis prefer not to wait until after they suffer an attack and try to visit and support establishments that use only “Avoda Ivrit,” the Hebrew term for Jewish labor. Some do so for safety reasons, but many see Jewish labor as an integral part of the Zionist ideal. “In a very practical sense – the number of unemployed Jewish Israelis and the number of foreign workers employed in the Jewish state are nearly identical,” explains one of the operators of a Hebrew web site listing establishments and workers that only hire Jews, "our country's addiction to Arab and foreign labor must end."

At no point were any of the three convicted terrorists suspected by their employers. The chilling details of their failed journey toward mass murder were outlined during the trial:

Sufian Abadi planned to carry out a suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem’s Old City in August, 2002, on a procession led by then-MK Michael Kleiner. He was arrested with the third accomplice, Moussa Nasser from the Mount of Olives, just a day before they expected to receive explosives.

The two men worked out a plot in which Abadi would supply the poison and Kianyah was to slip it into patrons' food and drink. Kianyah had the idea to use cats in trial experiments with various poisons. Abadi bought a drug at a pharmacy near Jerusalem's Damascus Gate, but after he conducted a number of tests with the drug, but he found it difficult to follow the instructions for preparing poison. He then returned to his original plan of using a bomb in a suicide attack.

He contacted Abu Sakar, a Hamas operative he met over the internet and asked him to put him in touch with someone in Hamas who could supply explosives. In reply, Abu Sakar sent bomb-making instructions by emails.

In early August, Abadi and Nasser met on the Temple Mount. Nasser proposed that Abadi attack the Jewish procession scheduled to go though the Old City. Abu Sakar, however, sent an email message instructing the two not to carry out this attack.

The two then decided to get explosives to carry out an alternative attack. They were tracked down and arrested by Israeli security agents just a day before they planned the suicide attack.

"People say, 'My Arab employee has been working for me for years, and I know him well,'" warned Jerusalem Police Commander Halevy, "This is definitely a weak point."