French Oleh Seeks 'Shabbat Restos' for Jerusalem

Immigrant oleh French businessman Laurent Levy wants Jerusalem restaurants to open on Shabbat - and remain kosher.

David Lev ,

Coffee shop (illustrative)
Coffee shop (illustrative)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Immigrant oleh French businessman Laurent Levy, who recently bought out a well-known Jerusalem coffee shop, turned it kosher and closed it on Shabbat, is seeking to work out an arrangement where restaurants in Jerusalem – and perhaps elsewhere – would remain open on Shabbat and serve kosher food, under rabbinical supervision, and without violation of the Sabbath laws.

Levy is reportedly working with several partners on developing and implementing the concept, and has met with city officials, who said they would help implement the program.

The idea is to give secular Jerusalemites options for entertainment on Friday night, alleviating the complaints of many secular residents of the city that there is “nothing to do” in Jerusalem on Shabbat. The vast majority of restaurants in the city are kosher, which means they are closed on Shabbat.

The technology to allow restaurants to serve hot, fresh food on Shabbat exists, and is used in kosher hotels all over the world, says Levy. The Rabbinate allows hotel dining rooms to operate on Shabbat under supervision, and there is no reason this cannot be expanded to restaurants, a spokesperson for Levy said. Current Rabbinate rules that provide kashrut certificates strictly for hotels dining rooms can be changed or adjusted to allow for the restaurants to operate.

Last year, Levy bought a building housing the Restobar, a decades-old coffee shop in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood. Insisting that the coffee shop become kosher and close on Shabbat on pain of losing its lease, the owners closed the establishment, to the criticism of Rehavia residents and the Hit'orrerut faction on the Jerusalem City Council. Levy has met with Hit'orrerut council representative Ofer Berkowitz to recruit him for the project as well.