Agadir Jerusalem branch
Agadir Jerusalem branch Credit: Eitan Wachsman

The news of the boycott initiated by a group of secular organizations against his new restaurant took Morris Haziza by surprise. Haziza is the owner of the newly opened kosher Agadir branch in Jerusalem's Cinematheque.

"I still don't really understand what they want," says Haziza, "All we want is not to work on Shabbat for a few good and simple reasons."

The secular forum: "Avoid buying from the Sabbath-observant branch"

The harsh words of the directors of these secular organizations, which were extensively reported on the Kol Ha'Ir website belonging to the Schocken chain, which also owns the Haaretz newspaper, were denounced by many, and it's almost hard to believe they were even written.

"We call on the secular public to refrain from eating at all branches of the Agadir chain, and to give preference to chains that aren't afraid to be open on Shabbat in Jerusalem," said Yaki Hertz, director of "The Secular Majority – Live and Let Live." "The surrender of the Agadir chain to a small public in Israel is disgraceful and symbolizes submission to extremist voices, as opposed to the secular public's demand to eat [in restaurants] on Shabbat."

Dr. Ram Fruman, chairman of the secular forum, added even harsher words: "The secular public in the whole country must boycott all the branches of the chain. If we, the secular people, don't stand up for our rights, while the religious people do stand up, then all the restaurants will decide not to operate on Shabbat in Jerusalem."

"Why do you boycott a person who wants to adhere to his religion?"

Despite the boycott, Haziza says with a smile, "It's always been important for me to provide the best for the people who observe Jewish law and keep the Jewish people's traditions close to their heart. Agadir, known for its high-quality food, opened its first kosher branch in Bnei Brak. I decided to try to bring it to Jerusalem as well."

"From the very first moment, we aimed at the highest level, both in terms of kashrut and strict adherence to Jewish law, as well as in terms of food, service, etc. The kashrut in the restaurant is Mehadrin of Machpud, and it was really not easy to obtain. The supervisors of Rabbi Machpud made the kashrut certificate conditional on an outer door which would allow access from the street so that customers wouldn't have to pass through Cinema City to reach us, and so we did that. And by the way, the Cinema City complex in Jerusalem has only kosher restaurants and is, of course, closed on Shabbat," Haziza added.

"At the same time, a few weeks ago, a campaign of slander and boycotts by some secular organizations began," Haziza continued. "I don't think that they really represent a lot of people but they make a lot of noise. We were told statements like, 'You have no right to exist.' 'We won't let you be closed on Shabbat.' 'We'll boycott the whole Agadir network because of your branch, etc.' Ultimately, it was all for the good. Not only did the boycott not work, and I didn't hear of one secular person who didn't come to us because of the call for a boycott - and many secular people eat here - at the end, it only caused the opposite - the boycott brought a lot of people here."

"It was unbelievable what happened here in the first few days after the secular boycott of our restaurant was announced. Rabbis came here, including those who said that they were on a short visit to Israel but it was important for them to come to show us their support. Haredim, hasidim, Mizrachi Jews, Religous Zionist Jews and also secular people came to the restaurant to show their support and also simply enjoy the excellent atmosphere and quality food."

"Why are you boycotting a person who wants to preserve his faith, to preserve the tradition of his forefathers which has existed for thousands of years?" Haziza wondered. "The Torah is the most important value to me. By the way, soon there will be circumcisions and bar mitzvahs here or any religious ceremony, with special prices for religious families. In general, I want to say that there's a place for everyone by us. Much love was invested in our restaurant and my hope is that the Agadir Jerusalem branch will be a place for everyone to enjoy. I always taught my children to love everyone, and when you enter the restaurant and see all the colors of the rainbow, I don't think there's anything more exciting than that."

"As for the secular organizations that are calling to boycott us, I want to thank God for everything and to say that we are only getting stronger from it. How lucky we are that they're attacking us for a reason like this, for adhering to the Torah," Haziza concluded.

From the Hidabroot website.