Eli Fhima is used to welcoming a diverse clientele to Fhima’s, the Minneapolis restaurant he runs. But a Wednesday night incident angered him enough that he took his frustration to social media.
Fhima said that three women left the restaurant without paying after learning that he and his family are Jewish.
“Three Somali women walk in and, they were asking their waiter what the name Fhima was, and the waiter told them it was the last name,” Eli Fhima explained. “They said ‘oh, so they are Muslim?”
The waiter said no, that Fhima is Jewish, which Fhima confirmed to the group at the table as we went over and welcomed them to the establishment. He explained that his last name is of Spanish/Moroccan/Jewish origin.
He said he did a lap around the restaurant, and when he got back to that table, the three women were gone.
“Immediately my heart dropped. And I knew why they were gone,” he said. “I didn’t have to ask, but I did ask the host ‘The girls at 52, they didn’t have their dinners, it’s still in the [kitchen] window, and they’re gone.’ The host said she asked if everything was OK and they said ‘This place isn’t for us.’”
Fhima, the son of longtime Twin Cities chef David Fhima, said that while he has dual American and Israeli citizenship and has been pro-Israel on social media, this incident had nothing to do with Israel — only the family’s Judaism.
“It’s your job to have a thick skin and just shake it off. I’m in this industry to service guests,” he said. “This was a little disheartening because this was nothing to do with Israel/Palestine. You don’t even know where my politics are when it comes to the Middle East.”
Fhima said that he loves America and is also critical of it. Same with Israel.
“We need to accept criticisms, and we also need to be honest with ourselves and criticize what we do think is wrong and stand for what we truly believe in,” he said. “I truly believe in Israel. I do disagree with some of the politics and the Israeli government, just like most if not all Israelis.
“But a line got crossed. And that’s why we’re so passionate.”