ALUMNI SERIES: University of Haifa alum supports Israel — one cookie at a time

alis cookies

By: ASUH Published: February 28, 2024

A bakery selling mouthwatering chocolate chip and southern red velvet cookies shouldn’t be a source of controversy. Yet Nofar Shablis, owner of Ali’s Cookies in Emory, Georgia, found herself constantly harassed by customers in the aftermath of Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel.

A native of Kiryat Chaim, a neighborhood of Haifa, Shablis wanted to show solidarity with Israel by displaying the country’s flag in her store. Although her family moved to Georgia only a few years ago, Ali’s Cookies has been able to earn a cult following for its delicious offerings of homemade goods baked from scratch every day.

In our conversation, Shablis talks about her time at University of Haifa, where she earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA), and how her store is coping today despite opposition from local residents who oppose her support for Israel.


What made you want to enroll in University of Haifa? In what ways did your degree from Haifa prepare you for running your own business?

I have a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Bar-Ilan University, and I knew I wanted to get my masters. Given the location and nature of the program, Haifa was the perfect place for me. Then COVID-19 happened, so we studied by Zoom. Ninety percent of my degree was from home. To do exams from home and care for a small baby was challenging, but we got through it. That experience, though, prepared me pretty well for the reality of running a business — where you often have to juggle several things at once.

The content of my business degree was very useful too. There, I learned what makes for a good business, what a decline in sales means, how to market to customers and how to find investors that are a good fit for your business.

Why did you decide to open a bakery?

Baking was always a hobby, but I spent more time cultivating those skills during the COVID crisis when I had a lot of time at home. I started to bake and discover all the things I could make — and they were really good! Muffins, challah, cakes, cookies — it was so much fun to create with my hands. When I graduated from University of Haifa, I thought it would be a good idea to combine this hobby with business degrees, which gave me confidence to open up my own business. My husband is also really talented in the kitchen, and we work together at the bakery.


Can you talk about what you love about baking and what makes your shop special?

The cookies are great! Our cookies are fairly large and pack a lot of flavor with our smores, sugar, oatmeal, apple pie and chocolate chunk cookies all really popular. I think what sets us apart from other bakeries is that everything is made from scratch every day.

In the aftermath of October 7th, you showed support for Israel by displaying its flag in your store — something that many customers took issue with. What did they tell you? How did you react and how did your business suffer as a consequence?

We’ve been dealing with a small group of people in our community that have strong beliefs, but we felt obligated to stand with our country. We have an Israeli flag draped above our TV and when some people walk in and they see the flag, they say they won’t buy from us because we’re murderers who support genocide. If they come in with friends, they’ll pull them out of the store. Another person saw the flag, cursed at us and spit on the floor. A few people have tried to tear it down. Some drew a Palestinian flag on our table or wrote “free Palestine.”


I called the police, but they said this was a matter of free speech. Who am I to argue with the police?

Yesterday, one person came in and said that he wished other Israelis would die and threatened to burn down our bakery. When we called the police about that, they opened a report.

And then we get a constant stream of bad reviews and hate emails from the general public.

Do you ever think of confronting them?

No, I prefer to not engage because if they’re capable of being so rude to my face, who knows what they will do. At the end of the day, I have a family business and want to provide for my children. I don’t want to fight with anybody and would rather the police do their job.

As someone who attended a school known for being a beacon of diversity for Arab, Jewish and Druze students in Israel, what do you wish people knew about the country?

I don’t think people really know a lot about the country. People should read more before they speak and make an effort to get to know our people.

How is your store faring today?

We get a lot of support from the Jewish community and we’re very appreciative. Christians have also been supportive and that warms our heart to know that there are good people out there. Our sales are okay, they’re not where I want them to be, but I guess this is a rough patch and we have to power through it. This too shall pass.

What can the Israeli community in America do to continue to support each other during these difficult times?

Just support and listen to us. Be there for us. Try to see things from our perspective. Israel is on fire. It’s all very bad and our families in Israel and our friends are going through something unbearable. It couldn’t be worse and it’s too much. Everything that happened on October 7th, is a harrowing reminder of our fight for survival in 1948.