Vancouver police investigating hate speech directed at Israeli-owned restaurant
When the Israel-Gaza war began, Ofra Sixto, the owner of Ofra’s Kitchen in Vancouver’s West End, put an Israeli flag in the window of her restaurant as a way to show support for her homeland and her relatives back in Israel.
“All of my family is there,” said Sixto, who posted on social media asking for an Israeli flag, because she didn’t have one on hand.
But she says displaying that flag, and posters of Israeli civilians kidnapped by Hamas, have made her and her restaurant a target, both online and in person.
“They got into my Instagram and Facebook accounts and started sending messages to all my contact people not to come to my restaurant,” said Sixto. “They walk by and say, ‘Death to the Jews.’ Go inside my restaurant and say, ‘I wish all the Jewish people dead,’ and then they run.”
The Vancouver Police Department is investigating two reports of hate speech directed at Ofra’s Kitchen.
“We have not yet identified suspects, but we have things to work with. We know in one case a witness took a photo of a suspect while they were walking away, so that’s something we can work with,” said Sgt. Steve Addison, who added police have seen an uptick in hate speech since the war began.
“We have seen an increase in the number of incidents of people reporting suspicious people, hateful speech and generally a feeling in the community, in some community members, that they are feeling less safe,” said Addison. “What we want to make clear to everybody is that we will not tolerate incidents of hate. We will not tolerate hate crimes, they will be fully investigated.”
Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert says what happened at Ofra’s kitchen is unacceptable.
“I think it’s just horrific and horrible that people would use what’s happening internationally to spread hate locally,”said Chandra Herbert. “Her business is being targeted because she’s Jewish. And there is no place for that in Canada, there really isn’t. I’m going to go there on Friday when I’m back from the legislature and have lunch there, because she needs our support.”
Sixto says she’s not backing down in her support for Israel, and the flag is staying in the window. “I’m not afraid,” she said. “I can’t show fear anymore. We cannot show fear.”