An Israeli vendor was barred from a Philadelphia food truck event scheduled for this weekend because organizers feared protests over the recent conflict in the Middle East. After tremendous backlash and accusations of organizers bowing to anti-Semitism, the event was cancelled for Sunday.
Food truck vendor Moshava said on its Instagram that they were "deeply saddened by this," after their invitation to the Taste of Home event scheduled for Father’s Day was retracted. "We have some unfortunate news to share with all of you. We won’t be attending The Taste of Home event, this Sunday, on Father’s Day. We are deeply saddened by this. The organizers of the event heard rumors of a protest happening because of us being there and decided to uninvite us from fear that the protesters would get aggressive and threaten their event."
Eat up the Borders, announced the decision to cancel the Moshava food truck’s participation "in order to best serve our guests."
"We decided to remove one of our food vendors for Sunday’s event so that we could deliver an optimal experience to all," the statement read. "This decision came from listening to the community we wish to serve and love. We do stand by our initiative to give vendors from all nationalities a platform to showcase their talents and provide an awesome experience for all."
Eat Up the Borders claims its mission is "to break down our everyday barriers through shared experienced through language, food, and culture," and to "promote small, family, or immigrant owned businesses within the Philadelphia area."
Following the backlash of over 4,500, mostly negative comments, Eat up the Borders temporarily took down its Facebook and Instagram pages, then made them private. One of the comments read, "Would you do this to a Chinese vendor? Would you do this to an Arab vendor? Would you do this to a Muslim vendor? Would you do this to a Palestinian vendor? Your answer to all of these is NO. The fact that it’s okay to do this to a Jewish/Israeli vendor shows blatant discrimination or blatant ignorance. You decide which you are."
Co-organizer Sunflower Philly announced minutes before the event was scheduled to begin that the festival had been cancelled in an Instagram post.
"At Sunflower Philly we truly believe in creating a positive and inclusive community space here in Philadelphia. Due to the ongoing situation with one of our event partners @eatuptheborder and @moshava_philly we have to decided to cancel the Taste of Home event today. Sunflower Philly is a non-profit organization created to bring our community together through art, music & sustainability. We will continue to host events with people of all races, nationalities and sexual orientations who are aligned with our mission."
The local food truck, founded just last month by Israeli-born chef Nir Sheynfeld, said in a response that they hoped in future the organizers would make good on their promise of a safe environment "for all religions and nationalities – not just all of them except Israeli and Jewish ones."
The Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia posted a statement on Twitter which said they were "deeply disturbed" by the events. They were joined in the statement by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Philadelphia.
"We have spoken with the event organizers and expressed that we unequivocally disagree with their decision. We do understand that threats to the organizers were made, and we understand the fear and confusion that comes when your community faces that intimidation. However, the decision to bow to this antisemitic intimidation by disinviting Moshava was wrong. In the next few days, we will be meeting with the organizers to discuss what happened, provide education on antisemitism and share communal security resources."
Philadelphia Congressman Brendan Boyle also addressed the controversy in a statement and said, "This decision represents surrendering to the threats of bigots."
"Given the disturbing rise in acts of antisemitism across our region and country, this decision by the organizers is only helping to embolden those who would use threats of protest or even violence to prevent any people, businesses, and entire communities from living and operating freely without fear.” Boyle also called for an investigation by law enforcement into the incident.
The Moshava food truck posted on Instagram following the cancellation of the event, "We wanted to say thank you to everyone who reached out to us. The love and support we have been receiving the past 24 hours has been overwhelming. We are actively working with both eatuptheborders and @sunflowerphilly and will meet with representatives from both sides in the coming days to try and educate and grow together in a safe space for everyone. Although we were disappointed with how the situation was greatly mishandled we do not believe the organizers intention came from an antisemitic place but the threats they were receiving to their event were."
Moshava added, "Our shared goal for the future is to steer away from violence and hatred and be able to share a platform with all members of our community and collectively share our cultures."