Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

Photo Essay

In the Shadow of the Separation Wall, a Restaurant Remains Open

Snapshot

Isolated by Israel’s Separation Wall, which lies only a few feet from its front door, a family restaurant on the main Jerusalem-Bethlehem road remains open for business.

Al-Karawan Restaurant, on the main street between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, is a family restaurant that has been in business for nearly 40 years. Its owner, Abu Alzoz Nassar, is from a well-known Palestinian family from Beit Jala. 

After Israel completed the Separation Wall in this area, the restaurant was entirely surrounded by walls and looming guard towers; nonetheless, it managed to remain open. All dishes are made by hand without any machines. On most days, the owner’s grandmother can be found sitting in the middle of the restaurant making homemade labneh, cutting parsley for shish kebab, preparing salad, or handling any other culinary task. 

Al-Karawan’s food is known for being particularly delicious; this is why customers still brave the walk to the place in the towering shadow of the wall and enjoy the experience despite the view of the wall that lies inches from some of the restaurant’s windows. People come from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the north, and all over to eat here. 

Al-Karawan restaurant in Bethlehem

Abu Alzoz Nassar, the owner of al-Karawan Restaurant, stands at the front door, which is faced directly by the Separation Wall and a guard tower, December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

Abu Alzoz Nassar, the owner of al-Karawan Restaurant, heads out the front door, which is faced directly by the Separation Wall and a guard tower, December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

Abu Alzoz Nassar, the owner of al-Karawan Restaurant, December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

Guests arriving by car must park in the restaurant lot that is surrounded by the wall, shown here on December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

Guests arriving by car must park in the restaurant lot that is lies just beneath the wall and the guard tower, shown here on December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

A cook prepares the ground meat using only his hands; no machines are used to cook at al-Karawan family restaurant. Shown here on December 28, 2021. 

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

The staff is ready to serve the customers at al-Karawan Restaurant, despite its proximity to the wall, on December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

Customers enjoy the home-cooked meals at al-Karawan Restaurant on December 28, 2021. 

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

The view from the restaurant window. The Separation Wall, as shown here on December 28, 2021. 

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

To enter and leave the restaurant by foot, customers must turn left out the front door and walk directly alongside the Separation Wall, as shown here on December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

The view from the restaurant window. The Separation Wall, as shown here on December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story

Customers entering or leaving the restaurant will have difficulty missing this poignant message, painted on the Separation Wall just outside al-Karawan Restaurant, as shown here on December 28, 2021.

Credit: 

Afif Amireh for Jerusalem Story