success - Israeli businesses crumbling
by Daniella Peled
October 3, 2002
Moshe Basson is watching his dreams crumble around him. He
has dedicated the last 15 years to turning his Jerusalem restaurant
Eucalyptus into one of Israels top eateries.
But even so, it has not been immune to the current crisis.
In the last two years Basson has seen trade fall by a staggering
90 per cent.
This summer we averaged 12 customers a day, he
says. Before the intifada we had a minimum of 120.
The 51-year-old dad-of-three doesnt know how long he
can carry on, although he is passionate about the restaurant,
named in honour of his humble start in catering, grilling
kebabs in the shade of a eucalyptus tree near his childhood
"Yesterday we had
in the restaurant.
You cant compare it
to how it was before.
In September 2000
the place was so busy
people used to book
a year- and-a-half
to ensure a table."
The award-winning chef has developed a unique brand of cuisine
inspired by the ancient history of the Holy Land that draws heavily
on ingredients mentioned in the Old Testament, like grapes, olives,
figs and dates.
He delights in searching the surrounding countryside for gourmet
treats such as wild hyssop and forest mushrooms to use in his dishes.
Specialities of the house include quail with pomegranate and a
fragrant ice cream made from powdered orchids.
But these delicacies are not enough to tempt people into the heart
of Jerusalem, hit by bomb after bomb in the last two years.
People are afraid to travel to Jerusalem, Basson says
grimly. Yesterday we had two couples in the restaurant. You
cant compare it to how it was before. In September 2000 the
place was so busy people used to book a year- and-a-half in advance
to ensure a table.
From last Pesach we stopped serving lunch. We would have
maybe two couples, or maybe none, and we needed at least 40 customers
to cover our costs.
When we had lunch and dinner every day we had more than 30 people
working here waiters, chefs, cleaners. We now employ about
The restaurants stunning location, in a piazza surrounded
by gardens and a five-minute walk from the Old City, was once a
favoured venue for mayor Ehud Olmert to entertain foreign dignitaries.
Basson recalls with pleasure cooking for a delegation from the
Vatican and huge parties of American senators.
Ministers from the Palestinian Authority used to meet there alongside
their Israeli counterparts. Arabs and Jews mingled in the spacious,
Now it doesnt happen, he says bleakly.
The reasons are clear. First of all terror. Then the crisis
in Israels hi-tech economy and also the lack of tourism.
People from the US and Europe just arent coming, and this
is a cycle that affects others who depend on tourism. A lot of my
friends businesses are having to close down.
Asked about the future, Bassin sighs. The harsh reality he faces
seems inevitable. He has watched all the surrounding restaurants
close down one by one.
People ask me how long I can stand it. I owe NIS 700,000
(£92,000) to the bank and in rent. Before the intifada, in
a really remarkable year, we might have made up to NIS 600,000 (£80,000)
But its not just money I invested in this building.
Its also my heart and soul.