The Portland Police Bureau is investigating after at least 3 Portland Israeli restaurants were vandalized with “Free Palestine” graffiti late Saturday and early Sunday, according to a bureau spokesman.
Aviv, a hummus-focused vegan restaurant from Israeli chef Tal Caspi, and two locations of Shalom Y’all, formerly part of the Toro Bravo restaurant group, were targeted. Neither restaurant describes itself as exclusively Israeli, and each recently removed the “Israeli” descriptor from its signage.
Officers took a report on Sunday; bias crime detectives have been notified of the case, according to police spokesman Derek Harmon.
Spokespeople for both restaurants said they didn’t want to “get into the politics” behind the incident. In a statement, Shalom Y’all owners Kasey Mills, Jamal Hassan and Laura Amans described the vandalism, which included “Free Palestine tags and other graffiti, as “antisemitic.”
According to Aviv daytime manager Zach Hoffman, taggers spray-painted the restaurant’s two-day-old Pearl District location at 100 N.W. 10th Ave. during open hours Saturday evening. Confronted by employees, the vandals fled.
“Most of the employees at Aviv are not Israeli,” Hoffman said. “Our chef is from Israel, but I don’t think he wants to be involved in the politics side of it,” noting the the restaurant had previously removed the word “Israeli” from its signage.
Aviv, which opened in Southeast Portland in 2017 after Caspi first drew notice for the shawarma fries at his Gonzo food cart, closed its original location in December. Just three days after opening its new Pearl District location, the restaurant plans to launch a spin-off restaurant, Little Aviv, at 1640 N.E. Killingsworth St. tonight.
Shalom Y’all’s locations at 117 S.E. Taylor St. and 1128 S.W. Alder St. were targeted early Sunday, according to a Shalom Y’all spokesperson. Graffiti at the Southeast Portland location included “Yuppie Scum” as well as arguments that Israeli cuisine appropriates dishes from its Middle Eastern neighbors. “Hummus is not Israeli,” reads one. “Falafel is from Palestine,” reads another.
Shalom Y’all was first opened by former Portland chef John Gorham and his business partner Ron Avni, whose family owns the Israeli dude ranch Vered Hagalil, where ”Shalom, Y’all” hangs above the reception desk. The Toro Bravo restaurant group was dissolved in July after Gorham, incensed over vandals spray painted the group’s catering vans, directed a violent Facebook outburst toward a trans woman of color. Operating as the new Sesame Collective, longtime Toro Bravo employees Mills, Hassan and Amans took over both Shalom Y’all locations as well as sister restaurants Mediterranean Exploration Company, the then under-development Yalla as well as two outposts of burger spot Bless Your Heart. At the time, the new group removed its “Israeli street food” descriptor, while keeping its menu the same.
“We are committed to operating inclusive spaces, and do not tolerate messages of hate or racism in any form,” Mills, Hassan and Amans wrote in their statement “We are so thankful for the outpouring of support we have received from the community over the last 24 hours.”