In 1998, Koby and Yossi Sherf opened the first branch of Café Hillel on Jerusalem's Hillel Street, the source of the chain's name. They envisioned a coffee shop with a relaxed "Jerusalemite" atmosphere serving world-class coffee and food.
Most of the branches are run by franchises, with only two or three owned directly by the company.
In 2003, seven people were killed and over 50 wounded in the Café Hillel bombing, a suicide attack at the Jerusalem branch of the cafe. Dr. David Applebaum, an emergency room doctor who had treated numerous suicide attack victims himself, was killed along with his 20-year-old daughter Nava Applebaum, who was to be married the next day.
- Cafe Scene: Cafe Hillel, The Jerusalem Post, Viva Sarah Press, January 7, 2007[dead link]
- Café Hillel, World Zionist Organization, Rochelle Mass[dead link]
- Jeffrey Hyman (21 July 2011). "Israel's top 10 cafes". Israel21c. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
- Franchises are booming, The Jerusalem Post, Alex Margolin[dead link]
- Tzrifin and Jerusalem[dead link], Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Kordova, Shoshana (12 September 2003). "Almost too tragic to be true". Haaretz. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
- Café Hillel locations