Guy Kimhi, owner of La Boca Restaurant in Jerusalem, adds a finishing touch to a dish.
Kimhi was able to open his restaurant thanks to the Jewish Agency Loan Fund.
January 27, 2011 / 22 Shvat 5771
Guy Kimhi always loved to cook.
While serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the Golani infantry brigade, he would cook for his fellow soldiers, managing to transform drab and industrialized army fare into inventive and tasty cuisine. Impressed, his army buddies encouraged him to pursue food for a living.
"They decided for me," said Kimhi, 31, with a laugh. And so he studied culinary arts at Hadassah College in Jerusalem, and then worked in the kitchen of a few restaurants in Tel Aviv and even Australia.
Eventually, the Jerusalem native ventured into South and Central America for what he called a "culinary tour," working in restaurants in Mexico, Cuba and Argentina, and immersing himself day and night in the culture, the people and specifically, in what makes their food unique.
It was while in Argentina that Kimhi came to a realization. "I decided that when I returned to Israel, I would open a restaurant called La Boca, named after this magical neighborhood where I was living," he said, referring to the neighborhood in Buenos Aires that is known for its distinctive European flavor.
Kimhi kept his word. When he returned to Israel, he took courses in business administration and then turned to the Jewish Agency Loan Fund, which through the UJA Federation of New York Entrepreneurial Fund for Jerusalem, gave him the initial capital to launch his restaurant.
In 2006, when he was only 26-years-old, Kimhi opened La Boca on bustling Emek Refaim street in Jerusalem's German Colony neighborhood. The neighborhood was chosen intentionally. In a Jerusalem full of hills and little nooks and crannies, Kimhi deliberately sought out Emek Refaim because of its flat stretch of sidewalk where residents and tourists alike can stroll and enjoy a plethora of shops, restaurants and cafes. He also did research and found that there are very few Latin restaurants in Israel.
With La Boca, which is a strictly kosher, patrons can taste a bit of South America through dishes such as Emapanadas Verdures, Paella Espagna, and Bife Ancho - without ever leaving Jerusalem.
"Without this loan from the Jewish Agency, I would never have been able to start my business," said Kimhi.
Kimhi is one of over one thousand entrepreneurs and small business owners who have received loans from the Jewish Agency Loan Funds over the past eleven years. As a result, many businesses are now flourishing in the Negev, the Galilee and Jerusalem, and since the loan funds emphasize helping new young entrepreneurs, immigrants and/or native Israelis from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, they often are the gateway to new life and opportunities for entire communities.
"The main idea of these loan funds is to give entrepreneurs the chance to fulfill their dreams," said Amir Sznajderman, Director of Economic Development and Loan Funds for the Jewish Agency.
It is no exaggeration: The Jewish Agency Loan Fund steps in where the banks fear to tread, since banks rarely give loans to "high risk" people who often lack the guarantor or collateral necessary to receive loans. In contrast, the Jewish Agency Loan Funds offer not only some of the best loans in today's market, but they are willing to guarantee part of the debt. Beyond that, a loan fund coordinator is assigned to each recipient to offer personalized support throughout the entire process.
For Kimhi, with La Boca going on its sixth year, business is still going strong. "Running a restaurant is a lot of hard work, but with G-d's help we are still here, offering Jerusalem delicious South American food," he said.