Conflict absent as Conflict Kitchen reopens in Oakland
An Oakland eatery serving pro-Palestinian messages with fare from the region reopened on Wednesday, attracting hundreds of customers but no conflict despite a death threat that closed the restaurant for four days.
“When someone makes a death threat against a restaurant like this, it invites us all to stand up,” said Yvonne Keafer, 57, of the South Hills, who bought falafel and fattoush — a bread salad — at Conflict Kitchen during her lunch break.
It was Keafer’s first meal from the walk-up restaurant in Schenley Plaza, across the street from her office in the Cathedral of Learning.
Co-owners Jon Rubin, a Carnegie Mellon University art professor, and Dawn Weleski closed the restaurant Saturday after police received a letter threatening the business. An investigation continues, Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.
Jewish groups and other critics condemned the threat but criticized the restaurant for distributing what they consider anti-Israel messages with meals. Conflict Kitchserves food from countries or territories with which America has strained relations. The Palestinian project started in October and runs through March, Rubin said.
“We’re highlighting a Palestinian perspective. By putting that perspective into the public space, we’re promoting understanding of Palestinian viewpoints,” Rubin said.
When asked whether Conflict Kitchen would consider doing an Israel-themed project in the future as some critics propose, Rubin said, “It sort of ignores the premise of our project over the past four years,” noting the United States and Israel are allies.
Nearly 200 customers bought meals as of 3 p.m., four hours after the reopening. The restaurant stays open until 6 p.m. daily. Two uniformed officers stood near the restaurant throughout the morning and early afternoon. There were no protests or disturbances reported.
“Without places like this willing to confront the difficult issues, we’d never come to a peaceful resolution. You can’t just turn your head away,” said Ben Dunigan, 37, of Hampton, who bought a falafel and shawarma, a gyro-like delicacy — for lunch.