Friday, December 30, 2005

Why No Ethnic Restaurants in Israel?

David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy today observes in a parenthesis:
"[Right now there are NO Ethiopian restaurants in the entire country, except a derelict takeout place for foreign workers, despite the presence of over 100,000 Ethiopian Jews Oddly, in Israel 'ethnic food' is considered something one eats at home, while to go out Israelis tend to favor routine Israeli food: humus/falefal/schwarma, dairy, shipudim ('skewers'), and schnitzel, plus hamburgers and pasta. What a crime that in a country with immigrants from over 100 countries that so few nations' cuisines are represented on the restaurant scene, especially since the Jewish cuisines of those countries were often unique! Someone send (ethnic food maven and occasional VC contributor) Tyler Cowen over there to straighten things out."
Given that in the U.S. one of the first areas for advancement of immigrants is the opening of a restaurant, this indeed seems mysterious. (Even in Britain, based on the Brit TV I watch it seems that immigrants focus on restaurant.) Does this difference result from different attitudes towards food in the mainstream culture in each country (Bernstein's implication), from the economy (does Israel have fewer restaurants per capita because per person income is lower), from religion (presumably religious Jews can't eat out on the Sabbath--reducing potential clientele-days, or am I showing ignorance), from security (restaurants get bombed) or what?

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