Israeli restaurant in Texas damaged by burglar who entered by drilling hole through concrete roof

An Israeli restaurant in Texas is recovering after it was found vandalized Tuesday morning in an act described as “psychological warfare against the Israeli community” by the business’ co-owner.

Taste of Tel Aviv, a family-owned Kosher Israeli restaurant in the Houston area, was broken into at approximately 3 a.m. Tuesday by a burglar who allegedly entered the business by drilling a large hole through the roof, FOX 26 Houston reported. The glass front door was also found shattered.

Houston police were notified of a delayed burglary at the location hours later at around 8:05 a.m.

“They came in through the roof, they came prepared, they cut through asphalt, concrete, and aluminum roof,” said Pam Baylis, co-owner and day-to-day manager. The true owner of the establishment is Israeli and does not live in Texas.

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Once inside, the suspect started breaking and shattering things, including a cash register, which appeared to be damaged beyond repair. Prayer books were also stolen.

“The Israeli community is frightened. It’s not only a violent act, but it’s a psychological warfare against the Israeli community,” Baylis said.

Though Houston police are not investigating the burglary as a hate crime, the owners of Taste of Tel Aviv believe it was motivated by antisemitism because threats had been aimed at the restaurant prior to the break-in, according to FOX 26.

The threats were allegedly made because the restaurant was flying the Israeli flag, which Baylis ultimately felt forced to take down.

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Houston police released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, Tuesday night acknowledging the concerns of the Jewish community following the burglary at Taste of Tel Aviv, but including that it “appears that this incident was not motivated by hate.”

“We are aware of the concerns within the Jewish community following the restaurant burglary earlier today at 9804 Hillcroft Avenue,” Houston police wrote. “Based on the preliminary investigation and evidence review, it appears that this incident was not motivated by hate. It is believed to be the work of a lone individual who was burglarizing the business and trying to steal anything of value before fleeing the scene.”

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The suspect, who was dressed in all black with something covering their face, appeared to have a tattoo and has not yet been identified or arrested. Anyone with information on a potential suspect and their whereabouts is asked to contact HPS or Houston CrimeStoppers.

A GoFundMe account has also been created to help the family with repairs needed in order to get the restaurant back up and running. As of early Wednesday morning, over $16,800 had been raised.