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Come In, We’re Open

A Jerusalem coffee shop bucks Shabbat tradition

Author Wendell Steavenson

On Saturdays, West Jerusalem is largely shuttered in observance of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. But not Hili Klatchko’s trendy café, Qawe House. Even on Saturday this place draws a hip crowd of writers, artists and young families, who munch on lemony chopped salads, tahini cookies and Klatchko’s famous challah French toast with a pot of homemade fig, plum or apricot jam from her mother’s kitchen and slices of Jaffa orange or persimmon.

“I wanted to make another option for Israelis who are not necessarily religious to have a place to go on Shabbat and have a cappuccino instead of being stuck at home,” Klatchko says. “I wanted to make a place where people could feel they were being taken care of.”

That’s something she seems to have accomplished. On a recent Saturday morning, the diners pick through a rack of magazines, scan their laptops and unfurl newspapers; conversations flow between tables at a volume just below the Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo. “Hili’s is like an oasis,” says Karen Brunwasser, deputy director of the Jerusalem Season of Culture and a Qawe House regular. “It’s a little patch of life on Shabbat. I bump into all my friends there.”

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