ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 260

Or Shocron prepares treats for her cafe, ORYOSSS (Asaf Karela)
Or Shocron prepares treats for her cafe, ORYOSSS (Asaf Karela)
Reporter's notebookOriginal location in evacuated Kibbutz Erez still closed

Back from IDF reserves, TV chef reopens beloved Sderot cafe, giving terror just desserts

Or Shocron brings a little sweetness back to the war-torn southern city after serving her country for seven months following the Oct. 7 massacre

Or Shocron prepares treats for her cafe, ORYOSSS (Asaf Karela)

At the ORYOSSS cafe in Sderot, a server with a handgun strapped to her hip dashed between indoor and outdoor tables with a wide-eyed new hire-in-training in tow.

Reopened on May 1, the cafe had been closed for over half a year after the October 7 massacre that ravaged the southern city and the mass evacuation of residents that followed. Just recently locals have begun to trickle back.

Proprietor Or Shocron only returned from IDF reserve duty the day before the reopening. A retired army major and mother of two, Shocron had rushed to volunteer for the reserves as Israel prepared for its ongoing offensive against Hamas and stayed in uniform for months.

The Sderot cafe initially opened in August 2023 following the success of a first location in Kibbutz Erez, where Shocron lives with her family. She and the rest of the kibbutz residents were evacuated from their homes at the beginning of the war, though unlike Sderot, the kibbutz has not yet been deemed safe for them to return home.

“The one who really encouraged me to open this place [in Sderot] was a man called Kobi Paryante, who owned the building,” Shocron told The Times of Israel a week after the grand reopening.

Paryante was a regular at Shocron’s cafe in Kibbutz Erez — which is still closed — and strongly encouraged her to open a second location. He suggested she use his building, which was already painted the same dark green shade as the ORYOSSS logo.

Paryante was murdered by Hamas while out for a morning run just outside Sderot.

Customers enjoy the nice weather, eating outside at the ORYOSSS cafe in Sderot on May 7, 2024 (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)

The cafe has a full menu, but Shocron is known best for her desserts. In 2021, Shocron gained nationwide recognition for her creativity and talent when she reached the finals of “The Perfect Dessert,” a popular baking competition on Channel 12.

At ORYOSSS (pronounced “Oreos”), Shocron creates gourmet pastries, cakes, and mousses. The two most eye-catching (and popular) are the “avocado,” a pistachio mousse with a mango filling, and the “mushroom,” a vanilla mousse with nougat and salted caramel. For chocolate lovers, there is a creamy chocolate mousse with sea salt.

The aptly named “crack pie” made with oats, caramelized brown butter and cream also comes highly recommended by Shocron, who designed the whole cafe down to each piece of decor and menu item.

The large print of McDonald’s fries in the back room is an homage to Shocron’s first job in food service. A wall covered in antique-looking household items was inspired by a similar installation at a hotel Shocron once stayed at in the United States. She also put up photographs of the family who lived on the property in the 1950s when it was a private home to honor the history of the building.

Decorative wall in the ORYOSSS cafe in Sderot, which reopened on May 1 after proprietor Or Shocron returned from seven months of IDF reserve duty. (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)

A ‘major’ chef

Shocron said she was always interested in pastry-making, but instead of pursuing a career in culinary arts, she joined the IDF and stayed on active duty for 13 years, retiring in 2021 with the rank of major. She served as a human resources officer in several units, including the Combat Engineering Corps, the Givati Brigade, and the Kfir Brigade.

However, she never completely abandoned her love of gourmet food. In her last seven years of IDF service, Shocron took night classes to hone her pastry-making skills. She opened her first ORYOSSS location in 2021 as Israelis were emerging from their third nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

Now, the October 7 atrocities and the Israel-Hamas war have hit Shocron hard, professionally and personally.

Or Shocron prepares treats for her cafe, ORYOSSS (Asaf Karela)

“The last six months,” she said, “has been the most difficult period of my life, mentally. I lost a lot of friends — a lot of [regular] customers were also killed on October 7.”

Less than one week after its reopening, business at ORYOSSS was booming. Customers chatted contentedly while babies squawked and soft jazz covers of Top 40 hits played over the speakers. Shocron flitted from one end of the cafe to another, checking in on customers and helping the waitresses while stopping periodically to field questions from a string of reporters coming in and out.

“Even with all of the excitement [of the reopening],” she added, “there were some hard situations. I was sitting with a Ha’aretz reporter this week. All of a sudden, one of my regular customers from before October 7 comes up to me.”

The customer asked if Shocron remembered the gift card for a special breakfast at ORYOSSS that she had bought for her son and his girlfriend.

The wide variety of confections available at ORYOSSS in Sderot (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)

She answered in the affirmative, recalling that she had even signed the gift card “with love.”

This was how she found out that the recipients had been murdered in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7.

“It was like a slap in the face. Even after half a year, and even with trying to recover, it’s like, boom,” Shocron said with tears in her eyes.

No help for businesses in evacuated south

She also pointed out that while the Israeli government has promised compensation to the residents of Israel’s south for damages incurred due to the war, businesses are left to suffer.

Mushroom pastry from ORYOSSS (Asaf Karela)

Even when the nation is not at war, the proximity to the Gaza border can be tough for local businesses.

“One red alert siren reduces the number of customers drastically for weeks,” Shocron said. “A month, sometimes. And from the government’s perspective, that’s nothing. Just a light sprinkle.”

Shocron was quick to add that the war has also brought out a lot of good in people. Recently, a donor who wished to remain anonymous gifted ORYOSSS some NIS 30,000 ($8,100) so that soldiers could eat for free.

“The support from Israeli [companies and donors] is the most wonderful thing,” she said.

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