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Owner Yaniv Maymon bags some pastries for a customer at Cafe FortyOne, in Vancouver, on Wednesday.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

For the past month, Yaniv Maymon has tried to figure out a new normal for running his kosher café along the small but busy strip where Vancouver’s Jewish community gathers.

His Café FortyOne, named for the street where it’s located, right next to the Jewish Community Centre, has seen a significant drop in customers since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

He understands they are scared. Incidents of hate against Jewish and Palestinian communities in many Canadian cities are escalating, and establishments that proudly share the cuisines of those cultures are easy targets.

“They don’t come as much as I expected them to come,” he said. “But again, I cannot force people when they’re in fear, right?”

Mr. Maymon, who was born and raised in Be’er Sheva, Israel, about 54 kilometres from the border of the Gaza Strip, serves certified kosher dishes from different diasporic Jewish communities. From Montreal, he brings in specially sourced pastries such as bourekas, rugelach, babkas, croissants and Danishes. He also offers a few of his own locally made creations, including falafel, shakshuka and pizza, which he says is popular in Israel.

“Food is the thing that combines all Jewish people. Every holiday we eat and drink. Every Friday we eat and drink. That’s how you get your community to come together,” he said.

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Yaniv Maymon chats with a friend at Café Forty One. One of Mr. Maymon's closest friends was killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

As he always has, he buys products for the café from Jasmine Halal Meats and Mediterranean Foods, a Muslim store. The owner, he said, is a good friend.

Mr. Maymon keeps working while worrying about his family members in Israel. A couple blocks away from the café is where one of his closest friends, Ben Mizrachi, attended high school. Mr. Mizrachi was killed in the Oct. 7 surprise attack.

“You know what’s the funniest thing? The police came to me a few days back and asked me, ‘Do you feel safe?’ I said, ‘I don’t know what feels safe but I feel normal.’ ”

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Further east across town, the owner of Tamam Restaurant, which serves traditional Palestinian dishes, has been on the receiving end of hate.

“Our restaurant started to receive phone calls, letters and e-mails from people who call us terrorists just because we are explicit about who we are,” Sobhi Al-Zobaidi says. “We’re Palestinians.”

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Owner Sobhi Al-Zobaidi at Tamam Restaurant in Vancouver on Nov. 22.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

He describes Palestinian cuisine as sophisticated, and a reflection of ethnographic and cultural diversity. He opened Tamam, named after his wife, to introduce his food and culture to Vancouver. The restaurant serves a variety of dishes, including kibbeh, falafel, kebabs, stuffed grape leaves, cabbage rolls, braised lamb shank and namoura, a Levantine dessert.

In Palestinian culture, he said, food is communal. “Rarely you will see somebody eating alone in Palestine. … But not only that. We eat together, we plant together as a family, as a group, we harvest together.”

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Since Oct. 7, he’s had to take more precautions to protect his restaurant, he said, adding that whenever fighting breaks out between Israel and Palestinians, “you always feel like it’s going to have a negative effect on you and your business.”

Mr. Al-Zobaidi, who has been sharply critical on social media about the Israeli government, was born in Jerusalem and raised in a refugee camp in the West Bank. He grew up travelling back and forth to Gaza every summer since he was six years old. His family would “swim, eat fish and oranges, play in the lemon and orange groves and ride bicycles.”

“I have many friends in Gaza, not family any more,” he said. “No one is safe, to be honest.”

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Mr. Al-Zobaidi prepares for front of house at Tamam Restaurant on Nov. 22. He opened the restaurant, named after his wife, to introduce his food and culture to Vancouver.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Tamam has hosted two fundraisers for Gaza since Israel retaliated for the Oct. 7 attacks, bringing in about $34,000 dollars by serving a traditional Palestinian dish called mujaddara, which is rice, lentils and caramelized onions. Mr. Al-Zobaidi chose this dish because it is symbolic of Palestinian cuisine as families are typically large and it is an affordable, nutritional dish to feed nine or 10 people every day.

People of all backgrounds and ages, from individuals to families, attended the fundraiser, he said.

“I think everybody is frustrated, everybody’s been hurt. And it’s somehow therapeutic to be able to be engaged within like a community that’s doing something with what’s happening.”

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