Azza Street is religiously eclectic but quicksand for many businesses

Rechavia, an attractive and central Jerusalem neighbourhood, has a religious mix that is a breath of fresh air to me, especially after living in Katamon for many years. The unique diversity has led to a few interesting food establishments opening on Azza.

azza map

Carousela – kosher without certification

Carousela is one of the restaurants on the forefront of the struggle against the Rabbinate’s hold on Judaism in Israel. Carousela, on the corner of Binyamin Metudela and Azza, is a totally kosher dairy restaurant. They even told me once that they use Gush Katif greens (green leafy vegetables that are certified to have no bugs). They are closed religiously on Shabbat. And yet they purposely don’t have a kosher certificate.

Recently they were actually fined for calling themselves kosher without a certificate and a large protest at the restaurant ensued.

Carousela is very popular (and smokey – the one thing I don’t like about the place) because it’s got a chilled ambiance and unique food, but it’s also popular out of principle; many religious and non-religious people are happy to support a place that boycotts the Rabbanut.

There are often cultural events at Carousela. This was taken the day of the Jerusalem Marathon, 2013.

Cafe Yehoshua – non-kosher, closed on Shabbat

Then there is Cafe Yehoshua on Azza at the corner of Radak. This restaurant is confusing. Firstly, it’s really more of a restaurant than a cafe and secondly, its menu is very much full of non-kosher dishes and yet they also close religiously every Shabbat.

Restobar (RIP) – non-kosher, open on Shabbat

The other religiously-interesting food establishment on Azza is Restobar. Or shall I say, “was.” It was just made known Monday morning that the one food establishment on Azza that opened on Shabbat, which was located where Azza meets Ben Maimon, has permanently closed its doors.

“Closed” – taken Monday afternoon
“Closed” – taken Monday afternoon

The land owner supposedly forced them to either stay closed on Shabbat or close entirely. But I am hearing all kinds of rumours about what happened and so I am taking all claims with a grain of salt. You can read more about that on their Facebook page (in Hebrew).

Either way, I was sad to hear about this turn of events. I am very traditional and can’t see myself ever frequenting Restobar because it’s so unkosher, and definitely not on Shabbat. But I found it comforting having a restaurant near me that is open on Shabbat because it created a certain live-and-let-live feel to the ‘hood. There is a fine balance between being open minded and losing the special feel of Shabbat which so many of us cherish. There are different opinions about where that line is drawn, but seeing a restaurant open and bustling on Shabbat made me feel at ease that there is place for secular Jews in Jerusalem.

And then there are the “regular” kosher places

That is not to mention all the “regular” kosher establishments on Azza like Zigmond, a funky glass hut-like restaurant at the corner of Ha’Ari, Sushi Rechavia (yum!) and the new beautiful, dairy restaurant that opened in the place of Coffee Shop (woops, can never remember its too-fancy name).

Failed businesses on Azza Street

Restobar is far from the only business to close on Azza. I frequent both Derech Azza (aka Azza Street) and Emek Refaim and my feeling is that businesses on Azza fail more often than those on Emek Refaim.

I have attemted to compile a list of failed businesses – mainly food establishments – with a little (OK, a lot) of help from my Facebook friends. Please help me along with ones I am not aware of by adding them in the comments. Here is what we’ve got so far:

Dulce Waffle Bar was a tiny place next to the lovely, pleasant Russian ba’al tshuva tailer/shoemaker/everything-fixer.

Coffee Shop was around for quite a while, also on Emek Refaim. It got run down over the years, became very mediocre and then it finally closed in the last year or so. A beautiful new kosher dairy restaurant is there in its stead.

Minerva, a publishing house – I took a spoken Arabic course a couple of years ago and it turned out that the publisher of the book we all got was Minerva, which was located in Rechavia with a store on Azza by Radak. It recently closed. Now there is a used clothing store there.

There is one location with more turnover than the others. At the corner of Azza and Radak there has been an Indian restaurant called Gandhi, a Chinese restaurant called Beijing and now there is a baguette place which remains empty most of the time. Yes, it should at least be called Gaston or Paris. Alas, it is not.

Home Pizza‘s first home was in the location where Restobar was (until yesterday).

Boutique 34 – I never heard about this place. It was a shop that specialized in boutique-type food items like ridiculously expensive chocolate and good wines, fresh sandwiches and salads, olive oils infused with truffles and expensive dried tomato paste. (Thanks Menucha for helping us become that much more sophisticated!)

There was “the bagel place” – I think that in most of our minds, it never really acquire a name. It was around for a second, give or take a few seconds, in the last couple of years. It was in the same location as Boutique 34 was. Recently, a realtor opened up there.

Atara – Does anyone even remember this? It was one of the oldest restaurants in Jerusalem on Ben Yehuda Street. From what I’ve been told, it got moved to Azza around the time of the second intifada. I found an old municipality page that puts Atara at 29 Azza Street which is at the corner of Metudela and Azza. Anyone have more details about the history and fate of Atara?

I’m also curious as to what was at the corner of Azza and Metudela before the frozen yogourt place (not where Atara was)…

On the way to Gaza

Derech Azza feels neighbourly, homey and young. The parking is way worse than that on Emek Refaim. One often gets to see Netanyahu’s enterouge howling through red lights. It’s the home of the prime minister’s private home and a minute from his official home.

Rechavia is a special neighbourhood with a special purpose and it’s fascinating being a part of it, noticing the details, hoping that things evolve in a way that keeps the uniqueness while letting it continue to flourish.

And I guess that part of the uniqueness is having the opportunity to roll your eyes whenever a new establishment opens where Gandhi/Beijing/etc. used to be.

About the Author
Deena writes about life, relationships and her beloved Jerusalem. She organizes "Jerusalem Encounters" and shares hand-picked cultural events in her online calendar, Things to do in Jerusalem.