Governor rebukes protestors for Gaza protest at Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia

Governor rebukes protestors for Gaza protest at Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia
After a march targeting a restaurant owned by a businessmen with alleged ties to Israeli institutions in Philadelphia, leading to accusations of antisemitism.
3 min read
05 December, 2023
Philadelphia has seen a flurry of activity in support of Gaza [Getty]

Protesters marching in Philadelphia against the bombardment of Gaza chanted about genocide on Sunday outside an Israeli-style restaurant, leading Gov. Josh Shapiro to call the demonstration “antisemitic.”

In Philadelphia’s Center City and University City neighborhoods, hundreds of people marched to criticize Israel's military actions in Gaza, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. However, it was unclear why some specifically protested the restaurant. A video of demonstrators outside of Goldie Falafel depicted people chanting, “Goldie, Goldie, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” which garnered backlash from the Democratic governor.

However, last month, a group of protesters gathered outside Laser Wolf, a Middle Eastern restaurant owned by the same restaurant group as Goldie, owned by Michael Solomonov.

Solomonov first came to prominence with Zahav, an Israeli restaurant he opened in Philadelphia in 2008. His food empire has expanded with a number of Israeli- and Jewish-style restaurants in the city.

He has come under fire from pro-Palestinian activists for various ties to Israeli institutions accused of aiding Israel's war on Gaza, claims which cannot be verified. 

Shapiro first addressed the protest on X, formerly known as Twitter. Later Monday, appearing at an unrelated event in suburban Philadelphia, the governor said he was in touch with Solomonov, one of the restaurant's owners, to make sure he and his staff know that the governor will support them.

Solomonov is a prominent chef who has co-authored three cookbooks and received several James Beard awards. He and Steve Cook, the co-owner, are both Jewish.

“The purposeful gathering of a mob outside of a restaurant simply because it is owned by a Jewish person. Well, that’s antisemitism, plain and simple,” Shapiro said at a separate news conference Monday in suburban Philadelphia.

Representatives of the restaurant's group, CookNSolo, declined comment on the protest. Goldie Falafel is a vegan kosher restaurant that has five locations in Philadelphia. Requests for comment were left with the Philadelphia Palestine Coalition. CookNSolo operates a number of well-known restaurants with Israeli fare in Philadelphia.

A message seeking information on any possible arrests was left with the Philadelphia Police Department.

“We should have a spirited debate, dialogue, peacefully and respectfully about what’s happening in the Middle East,” Shapiro said. “I don’t want to rob anyone of the ability to do that peacefully, but when it crosses a line and becomes blatant antisemitism, it’s critically important that we all speak up.”

While campaigning last year, Shapiro talked about his Jewish faith and how it inspires him toward public service.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates called it “completely unjustifiable” to target restaurants that serve Israeli food “over disagreements with Israeli policy.”

Israel's war on Gaza has sparked protests across the U.S. and abroad. Students around the country have faced suspension for demonstrations on college campuses and high school walkouts. Demonstrators who targeted specific companies have largely protested media bias and focused on media outlets, including the New York Times.