.Palestinian Pride Expressed Through Coffee and Cuisine

How Oakland restaurant owners celebrate Palestinian roots

For diasporic communities everywhere, food is a love language.

Now six months into Israel’s latest attack on Gaza, Palestinians in Gaza and surrounding occupied territories remain without steady access to food, water and electricity. Instead of turning to despair, Oakland’s own Palestinian business owners are grounding themselves in communal love and care.

Through food, the Palestinian diaspora reconnects, remembers and resists.

Jerusalem Coffee House

Caffeine lovers can start their morning off with a cup of coffee made from organic, non-GMO and mostly homemade ingredients inspired by the spices and flavors of Palestinian cuisine. Curated in-house by founder Abdulrahim “Raheem” Harara, the current menu features classics such as the date-tahini latte, the orange-blossom latte and the iconic shai karak, a blend of black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom.

The Jerusalem Coffee House seeks to provide for the community, not just through drinks and tastes, but through cultural programming, live music and more. The coffee house opened this past October at 5443 Telegraph Ave.

“I appreciate the space to share my words, but nothing about Palestine is brief,” Harara says. “Our history is full [of] depth and traces back to days that time was a concept bound by only the sun and moon. It’s an honor to amplify the beauty and resilience of Palestinian culture by way of Jerusalem Coffee House. 

“Our truth is anchored by the steadfastness of our brothers and sisters fighting genocide in Gaza,” Harara adds. “Israel has been systematically targeting Palestinians through a 76-year military occupation. What we’re seeing today is humanity manifested by way of resistance. We honor this at Jerusalem Coffee House by amplifying the call of self-determination. Every cup of coffee tells a story, shares a story, is a story—of pride, faith, resilience, and of humanity.”

Ike’s Sandwiches

Ike Shehadeh, who is of Palestinian descent, learned to make sandwiches when he was five. His mom taught him how. At the time, nobody could have known that he would become the face of a local sandwich empire. Ike’s Love & Sandwiches, which began as Ike’s Place, now has locations all over California, and is slowly making its way around to the rest of the country. Sandwich lovers in Oakland can grab some of the Bay Area’s most iconic sandwiches from the Oakland location at 2204 Broadway or order online at ikessandwich.com.

In the early 2000s, before he became THE Ike, Shehadeh lived in his car. In 2007, after a series of odd and unrelated jobs—and a brief stint as a professional poker player—he found the storefront in the Castro that would become the first Ike’s location.

Although the sandwiches aren’t Palestinian at all, Ike’s rose iced tea is Shehadeh’s way of remembering moments with family and a tribute to a beloved childhood favorite: minty tea with rosewater.


It began with something as simple as sharing food with her coworkers. Now, it’s a full-time job.

Chef Nikki Garcia didn’t always love cooking. In fact, she told San Francisco Bay View that when her husband first taught her how to cook Cuban dishes, it felt like a task to be completed. After spending a year as part of Oakland Bloom’s test kitchen incubator program, Garcia runs a Palestinian-Cuban pop-up inspired by both her and her husband’s cultures and cuisines.

For her, food has always been political—separating identity from food is an impossible task. These days, Garcia’s pop-ups at The Understory have been held in tandem with community events such as letter writing.

Asúkar’s schedule changes frequently, but diners are most likely to find Asúkar at one of three locations posted on its Instagram @palestinian_cuban_fusion. For an up-to-date menu, interested diners can stop by the pop-up to see what’s in store.

Reem’s California

Another popular establishment in the Bay Area, Reem’s California launched in 2015 as part of La Cocina, a women’s food business incubator program. The dream was born in 2010, at the doorstep of a bakery in Beirut, Lebanon. Before she became an award-winning Palestinian-Syrian chef, Reem Assil was a community organizer with numerous local organizations including the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, SEIU Local 1877 and East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy.

When Reem’s first location—inside the Fruitvale BART plaza—shuttered during the shelter-in-place due to a lack of customers, the Fruitvale kitchen partnered with chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen to provide 1,800 meals a week to frontline workers, low-income residents and the homeless community. In 2021, Reem’s returned to another Oakland location briefly before moving across the bay to San Francisco to open one location at 2901 Mission St. and the other in the Ferry Building. Assil, however, is still a proud Oakland local.

Mishmish Souq

A graphic designer at the time, Michelle Nazzal began her project as a way to document food and family through a cookbook of sorts. When she shared food with friends, they would ask if she had a pop-up. So in 2021, the project began to take on a new form.

Her family came to the Bay Area in the ’60s, soon after the first Nakba in 1948. For her, food is one of the only ways she can connect with her culture and lineage.

“Mishmish was started as a means to preserve my family’s food traditions in a world where many seek to erase them… but as a diasporic Palestinian, there’s a guilt that has seeped in lately,” Nazzal writes in an Instagram post from late November. “I can’t help but think of families on the land who don’t have the resources to cook these foods… or of those who will never be able to enjoy them again.”

Mishmish Souq’s changing menu features vegan dishes adapted from Nazzal’s family recipes. Though many Palestinian dishes are already vegan, she intentionally sought to remake meat-centric dishes. For more updates on Mishmish Souq’s upcoming events, visit mishmishsouq.com.


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