Coffee is more than just coffee. It brings people together and offers them the chance to get to know each other a bit better, with little more than a meter separating the drinkers – which is at the crux of the problem of meeting for a cup in a world living through a pandemic.The past few months have been very difficult for coffee shop owners, suppliers, waitstaff and especially for customers, who have made these special places an integral part of their lives.It is fairly clear that heart-to-heart talks over the dark brew are cheaper than unpacking issues on a psychologist’s couch and may account for the remarkable Israeli ability to get through everyday stress both large and small. The simple midday respite brings civility to even the most hectic of days.Jerusalem has a coffee culture that stretches back to the Turkish coffee of the Ottoman period. Israeli culture is seeped with influences from the Arab and Bedouin traditions of coffee as an inseparable part of life.One notices this when shopping in the Old City. A merchant senses the presence of serious customers and invites them to enter his store and offers coffee – a part of the haggling ritual to this day.The local Jerusalem Jewish communities, some of which lived under Ottoman rule for centuries, also absorbed these traditions into their own Ashkenazi and Sephardi kitchens. One can see antique hand-operated coffee grinders with rotating handles in many historical museums in Israel, including in the Old Yishuv Court Museum of the Old City’s Jewish Quarter.During the early part of the last century, others joined them, bringing the cultural influences and coffee traditions of their homelands: the flavors of Russia and Poland entered with those escaping pogroms, the salon culture of Austria and Germany came with those fleeing the German Third Reich, the baking traditions of Hungarians and Czechoslovakians added to what could go alongside coffee, and it all formed the mélange.The early days of the pre-state Mandate period saw newly arrived yekkes adjusting to the blazing sun while transplanting a European salon-style atmosphere in which to enjoy their daily brew. This was closely followed in the 1950s by the traditions of the North African, Yemenite, Kurdish, Iranian and Iraqi Jews arriving in early Israel after anti-Zionist policies of their homelands forced their departures after centuries of residence as Jewish minorities alongside the predominantly Islamic population. The arrival of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s and ’90s further enhanced the culture while – in a sense – looping back to the origins of coffee. Ethiopia is an area known for strong (pun intended) local coffee bean cultivation and roasting.
Noted food writer and Jewish culinary historian Gil Marks, who passed away in Jerusalem in 2014, credited the Ethiopians with discovering coffee. Ethiopian folk legend relays that more than 1,000 years ago, shepherds noticed their herds eating berries and chewing the leaves of native trees and becoming livelier. Curiosity led them to try chewing the leaves and they discovered the buzz themselves, leading locals to use those leaves and berries to steep infusions. From there, it was brief sailing across the Red Sea to Yemen, where Sufi Muslims imported their beans, roasted them and added sugar.Marks noted that since alcohol is prohibited in Islam, coffee provided a stimulant that helped them stay alert for prayers, also becoming the Middle Eastern drink of choice for socializing. Jewish scholars also appreciated the stimulant, which similarly helped them stay alert in study and prayer.When the Turkish Ottoman Empire encroached into Yemen in the early 1500s, coffeehouses became widespread in the Arab world, with coffee eventually reaching Italian shores, and from there spreading throughout Europe.This leads us round again to the influence of European cultures on the local coffee scene. Notably, the recent arrival of French immigrants to Jerusalem, due in part to antisemitism in France, sees them figuratively bringing their coffee traditions along in their carry-ons.What follows is an informal guide, mostly for the uninitiated, a way for out-of-towners to familiarize themselves with the local coffee scene. Aliyah seems to be on an upswing, and the expected olim can with this guide acclimate themselves to life without Starbucks, but with great cups of joe. The big surprise is that coffee in Israel is so good it will quickly slide off the list of longed-for products, even if Ziploc bags stay on it for a while longer.This is an idiosyncratic, subjective list and incomplete by intention. With over 200 coffee shops in Jerusalem alone, there are mountains of beans to climb to thoroughly assess the ever-changing scene. I will be choosing the most local spots that, in my opinion, have an individual character and attitude separating the grounds from the brew and bringing neighbors back again and again. As an avid fan of coffee shops, I also love getting to know more about the Jerusalemites who keep them going.
Little Jerusalem – Back in the dayLong before the light rail, mornings crossing Jaffa Road would be redolent with wafts of freshly roasting coffee beans – roasted and ground on-site – providing a sensory prompt to quench thirst by ducking into one of the many coffee establishments close by. That roaster has long been replaced by other businesses in its wake, first by a pharmacy and then by a coffee franchise. Not at all the same.Arriving in Jerusalem in July 1979, my then-boyfriend and now husband rushed me in to have coffee at Café Alaska in its waning days. A throwback to the café culture not just of Jerusalem but of Europe, the old-world-style café was replete with the daily papers of every political point of view available on hanging wooden holders. The range of print media was broad and to keep up one had to read hard-copy papers; the Internet was still on a distant horizon.If you lacked the price of a coffee, you could read the front pages of the main papers at the big broad windows of the newsstand on the top left of Ben-Yehuda Street where it meets King George Avenue, the top of the Jerusalem Triangle.Ben-Yehuda Street, the site of lethal 1948, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1997 and 2001 terrorist attacks, was also known for leisure despite it all. Most of the city’s best-known coffee shops were in the center of the Triangle. Across from the newsstand windows on the right side of Ben-Yehuda Street of the same corner was Café Max, serving handmade blintzes and more, with all who entered warmly welcomed by the gregarious owner.Other memorable java spots included Café Atara, which operated from 1938 in pre-state British Mandate Palestine at 7 Ben-Yehuda Street. In its heyday, both British officers and Jewish Zionists – in the Palmah and in the underground Stern Group and Irgun – would frequent it, and were known to eavesdrop on the other’s conversations to glean vital confidential information.In my era, the Atara was an affordable treat, and even students could occasionally indulge in its signature hot and filling onion soup with dripping oven-scorched melted cheese and toasted hunks of bread croutons alongside a simple fresh lahmania (white roll). The middle-aged waitresses wearing white socks with open-toed high sandals had a grumpy yet motherly attitude. This experience was totally different from college dives, discos or the soul-deadening suburban mall food courts back home, just one of the cultural shifts I learned to love. The grandson of the original owners eventually sold out to the American chain Burger King, a harbinger of the times, after a 58-year run ending in 1996.Ta’amon, established in 1938, was situated across the street from the first Knesset on King George Avenue – where construction is ongoing to create a museum to commemorate it – adjacent to the “Horse Park.” Politicians of the day would frequent it when the Knesset cafeteria was a far-off dream. Once the new Knesset was built, the politicians disappeared and it evolved into a bohemian scene, drawing in creators of all kinds.Perhaps Ta’amon was best known for being the most art-loving spot, a few short steps away from the old Bezalel art school, home of the current Artists’ House (Beit Ha’omanim). This café encouraged budding talent and would offer its wall space for rotating exhibits, often being the venue for an artist’s first showing. With so many creators among its clientele, an exhibit would likely be seen by established artists and art lovers.One by one, these and other landmarks of civility and indulgence have disappeared. Occasionally, one can find echoes of these old-timey places. Cremeschnitte or baba au rhum can still be found in the vitrine of a coffee shop caught in a time warp, likely to go alongside coffee served in a handleless Duralex glass cup and matching saucer (clear or in the authentic retro harvest gold color), but happily gone by the wayside is the once ubiquitous waxy thin napkin of dubious use. These places are now rare finds and always bring a smile. Magdaniat Gil, Rehavia – Most historicGIL’S PEOPLE-WATCHING patio is just right for a Jerusalem spring.
The most nostalgic spot is the classically low-design Magdaniat Gil on 19 Keren Kayemet Street in Rehavia, hardly changed over its four decades. Rehavia, one of three suburban garden neighborhoods (with Talpiot and Beit Hakerem) first built in the 1920s, has almost reached its centennial. This coffee shop is so inconspicuous that one could be forgiven for walking right past this leap back in time.Entering pulls one back to the days of the Socialist era of Knesset members wearing their white collars spread wide across their jackets in lieu of a tie. Ties were then shunned for being associated with the unpopular British and the tensions of the pre-state period. Typical of neighborhood coffee shops that were once commonplace, its offerings are homey and unpretentious.Jerusalemite Yehudit Hanoch and her brother purchased the shop from the previous owner, Gil, whose name has graced their sign since 1979, if not before. After her partner-brother died, the next generation stepped in to help the aging mother who had married and become a grandmother. Daughter Michal has been helping to keep this shop a going concern for many years.There are some quirks inherent in an old-style place. It is also run by old-school methods and values, for both the good and the less good, depending on your outlook. Save yourself the bother of googling the spot; it doesn’t have a website. With no Facebook page, there is no need to give it a like; it doesn’t tweet who came in that day or share Instagram snaps of the coffee foam art. It doesn’t have an email address. Wi-Fi? No, not really, but Michal will see if she can hook up customers who request it. And menus are also apparently too modern. “We are not really into the new technology,” says the younger of the two staff members.The café does sport a telephone number on the awning outside. I guess there are some concessions to the 21st century after all.As to the coffee? It is made on a good-quality espresso machine with the standard offerings available and more than adequate coffee, but probably not for coffee snobs. The in-house bakery was busy making its signature apple strudel from fresh apples without preservatives, and they also offer it without added sugar. All the baked goods are made on the premises, including cookies, both parve and dairy, fancy cream cakes and burekas. In the vitrine were old-timey rum balls properly coated in chocolate jimmies, and – be still, my heart – a whipped cream-blanketed baba au rhum winked right at me, I swear.I sampled a half-moon-shaped burekas. A flaky crust (made with very little margarine, according to the senior Hanoch) enveloped the Bulgarian cheese, baked to just the right crispness, sprinkled with sesame seeds and warmed in the toaster for me – frankly delicious and a bit of a bargain at NIS 2. You read that right.They also bake fresh challot for Shabbat (NIS 13-15), rolls as well, and there is a whole wheat option (NIS 7).This is really not so much a place you go and expect to see a lineup of laptops with customers staring at screens. It is more about conversation with each other or with the senior Hanoch. She prides herself on her connection with her clientele, happy to offer a sympathetic ear. Her eyes twinkle when she says, “I see part of my job as being like a clinical psychologist. I am a good listener to all.”The simplicity of the spot is deceptive; it belies its A-list patrons. Comprised of the who’s who of Rehavia – which essentially means Israel – the café has served movers and shakers of every level. Former Supreme Court president Moshe Landau was a regular, members of the Knesset came and went, and numerous ministers sat at the simple Formica tables. Roni Milo, a longtime politician who served in multiple ministerial posts and as mayor of Tel Aviv, was also a customer. You could never sense that this pair of experienced businesswomen regularly rubs shoulders with the great and near great. As modest as they and their shop are, there is nary a photograph of their illustrious customers; ostentation and braggadocio is not their way.Not just the high and mighty find their way to this spot seemingly frozen in amber. Situated directly across the street from the famed Gymnasia Rehavia, the historic high school built in 1928, and close to the equally historic Evelina de Rothschild School complex, they also have a steady young clientele, and they recognize current and former students.Unfortunately, in recent weeks, the secular Gymnasia high school was in the news for apparently being lax in abiding by the health regulations and was closed due to a new outbreak of the coronavirus. This posed another challenge for Magdaniat Gil.Hanoch and I spoke by phone to hear how things are going since they reopened after the COVID-19 lockdown. I could hear in her voice the quiet resignation to their new situation. “We are still here. We go on. The school [Gymnasia Rehavia] was closed, our clientele slowed to a trickle, a few kids showing up for their bagrut [matriculation] exams… and the older customers are afraid,” she recounts. All her staff members wear masks; the outdoor patio is now more in use than the indoor seating, and it is perfect for people-watching in the pleasant spring weather.When cultural life returns, this modest spot is a prime location for people attending lectures and classes at the nearby Ben-Zvi Institute, who often stop in for a quiet break on their way, and it is also steps away from Beit Avi Chai. Jewish Agency employees who work at the end of the street find it a convenient stop as well.Yet Hanoch, who at her age has seen everything, concedes, “We are here, we are open, but things are hard. This still isn’t it, zeh od lo zeh, there still is no serious traffic coming in. We are hoping for better days ahead.”I asked the two: What is the secret of their four-decade-long business? Without a blink, the two – almost in unison – answered, “We offer the taste and character of what was.”Magdaniat Gil
19 Keren Kayemet Street, Rehavia
Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Bathroom: Separate outdoors, ask for key
Service: Personal to the table
Kosher: Jerusalem Rabbanut Mehadrin Dairy
Wi-Fi: No. No website
Buses: 9, 19 very close
Vibe: Trip back in time, uniqueMagdaniat Hellman on Strauss Street – Most authentic, oldestHELLMAN’S CELEBRATES its 53rd year, preserving traditions generation to generation.
I admit I had not visited Hellman’s for quite some time. After an interval of years, the only difference I noticed in the interim is that the outdoor sign is now more faded. Otherwise – thankfully – it hasn’t changed at all.I was warmly greeted by Ze’ev Metzger and his wife, Tzippora, daughter of the original Hellman of the café’s name, who brought my café hafuch strong, as requested.Hellman’s on Strauss Street has been serving its customers for 53 years. They specialize in traditional yeast cakes and sheet cakes from back when Jerusalem was a much smaller city. They serve customers from the surrounding haredi neighborhoods of Mea She’arim and Geula with modestly priced baked goods accessible to every pocket. Back then, the waitresses were often matrons fully covered in a long flowered apron and head scarf in this spot not far from Shabbat Square.Well-located, this coffee shop is more or less at the juncture of the more secular side of Jerusalem, a few blocks from the light rail on King George Avenue, and near institutions such as Bikur Cholim Hospital, and sits along the invisible divide of Hanevi’im Street, where the more religious sections of Geula and ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim begin. Unseen are the sites of the former Eden Cinema, the Mitchell Auditorium, which also screened films and where indoor basketball games were once held (it had a roof), Cohen’s two-table restaurant, and other ghosts of the former secular-haredi cultural turf wars of the 1960s and early ’70s.The roots of this popular place reach deep into prewar Hungary. The original owner was Yaakov Hellman, who hailed from Klausenburg, near Cluj in Transylvania (which was sometimes in Hungary and sometimes in Romania – depending on the year, the borders changed in those times).He was a maker of “whites,” meaning ceramic building elements baked in a commercial oven. Family lore has it that business was not doing too well, so Hellman turned to Rabbi Yissachar Dov of the Belz Hassidim and asked for advice. The answer he got was, “Nu, you have an oven. Make something else in the oven.” Hellman was perplexed and asked “What, for instance?” His rebbe answered, “Challot, bake challot for Shabbat.” It sounds better in Yiddish.Taking his advice was a fortunate turn and the bakery did well. Later, following Hellman’s early demise of a stroke at the age of 43, it was taken over by his son, Mordechai Yehuda Hellman.World War II’s tentacles inevitably also reached Klausenberg and its Jews, including the younger Hellman and his brother, who were put into forced labor camps and shunted from camp to camp, until the two brothers jumped together from a train. They survived to the war’s end and returned to a much-changed Klausenburg, now ruled by the Soviet Union. The bakery again succeeded, and he made a lot of money for his new “partners,” the Communists. It did so well that they no longer needed him and pushed him out of his own bakery. In 1958, he applied to leave Romania, received approval and exit papers to travel to Israel, and they made aliyah. He says, “They threw me out; I was lucky to leave.”Once in Israel, Hellman did all kinds of work to make a living, and he and his wife had two daughters, one of whom is Tzippora. He turned to Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam from his old community, founding Rebbe of the Sanz-Klausenburg Hassidic dynasty, and asked what he should do to make a living in this new country. Open a new bakery was his answer. With that vote of confidence, they opened Café Pat on Hanevi’im Street and the corner of Rav Kook Street in 1965. The commercial bakery was located at 14 Yoel Street in Geula, where he did the labor-intensive baking while his wife ran the coffee shop.Real estate speculation after the Six Day War forced the Hellman couple to find a new home for the coffee shop. Plans were afloat to build a hotel at the Pat site. In 1967, they moved to their present spot on Strauss. (Their former business instead became connected to the Hebrew University.) These days, the bakery functions in Atarot, an industrial area near Jerusalem, using the original recipes the grandfather started with in the tradition of his father before him.Metzger calls this spot “a boutique coffee shop” to differentiate it from the franchises. His clientele, he says, is “haredi, secular, all the Mizrahim [descendants of Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa], all sit together, from all the shades of the rainbow. Jerusalem Arabs also are our friends,” he continues, “coming in from Abu Ghosh and Beit Safafa. All stop by here.”“We see the customer as a person, not as a number” on a spreadsheet, says Metzger. He recalls his father-in-law walking around with trays offering his customers something new he had made to try. “It was a different generation, they were proud of what they did; not everything was about money.”Of her parents, Tzippora Metzger adds: “They started from zero. People were different; this place maintains its traditions for generations, keeping it unchanged for the next generation, preserving the family atmosphere and the warm relationships. In a word, this place is authentic.”The owners and staff mind their business in both senses, such that they are sometimes unaware of their illustrious clientele. It takes a bit of prying to get Metzger to relay that after years of visits by the lady with respiratory problems, others told them that it was first lady Nechama Rivlin (1945-2019). This started because her driver would come in to get a takeaway cup of coffee to bring to her at the nearby kupat holim. “She was so modest and never showed off,” Metzger recounts.Alongside my coffee (NIS 10 to sit, NIS 8 to go, for either large or small!), Tzippora proffered a pastry and I asked for poppy seed, a real test of a traditional bakery, in my opinion. Most anyone can make a decent chocolate yeast cake, but not just anyone can pull off makosh (Hungarian poppy seed roll cake). She brought a generous plate of three slices from a strip of the full yeast cake. It had been years since I had such a good piece. The cake itself was not overly sweet, and the filling was just right – not from a can, not filled with corn syrup to stretch it, not grainy from not being ground finely enough – pereg perfection. (Despite my best intentions to just try one, unsurprisingly, I succumbed and scarfed it all down.)The baked goods arrive fresh daily. They make many different flavors of yeast cake, including four kinds of chocolate available on Fridays, with regular chocolate and chocolate crunch offered daily. Strips of yeast cake are NIS 18-22, mini pastries, NIS 2 (yes!).One of their specialties is trays of cheesecake, with two styles available most days, more on Fridays. Cheesecake also comes in a strip or in the form of a Danish, called cheese delkalach, with the same filling available as a mini-pastry. Excellent chocolate rogelach are available, especially if you prefer yours not cloyingly sweet and fully baked (as do I).Weekdays they have more than enough for anyone in need of a nosh, but things really start rolling as Shabbat approaches. Thursday kicks off with makosh (poppy) cakes and the unsweetened challot available. Fridays see the arrival of half-sweet, whole wheat and spelt challot. Cheesecakes are for sale with or without added sugar, as are their cookies. For those without a sweet tooth, cheese burekas are on offer.If it wasn’t part of life when the store opened in 1967, don’t expect to see it at Hellman’s. There is no Wi-Fi, without apology. There are no social media sites in which they participate. Thankfully, there is a convenient bathroom in the décor of the original plain white square tiles.Regarding the reopening in the new situation, Metzger says, “There was one life before the corona, and then there is a different life after the corona. Regardless, the coronavirus continues. We will learn to live through the corona times, too.” He explains to In Jerusalem in our phone interview that all staff wear masks and all who come in do as well, with tables are adequately spaced apart.Metzger adds that no one he has spoken with in the food industry has returned to the level of business they were accustomed to back in March (less than four months ago!). When asked how these times compare to other hard times in the long history of their business, Metzger replies, “Yes, there have been other hard times. But not like this. This is the hardest of them all. But we adjust ourselves to the situation, we are careful to keep costs according to present needs; we can learn to live with this, too.”Simcha (who asked not to be fully identified) has been a customer at Hellman’s for 30 years. What she loves about it is the calm. After she said that, I become aware that despite being on a main thoroughfare, it is very quiet in the table section behind the display shelves and the kitchen in the front. There are no wall decorations. There is no music other than the music of people conversing with each other. As they once did.Magdaniat Hellman
18 Strauss Street
Phone: (02) 538-3677
Orders for Shabbat can be put aside, no deliveries
Hours 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Fridays and preholiday 7:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. in winter; in summer till 3 p.m.
Service: Personal to the table.
Bathroom: Yes, same floor, ask for key
Kosher: Eda Haredit and Mahzikei Hadat Belz
Wi-Fi: No. No website.
Buses: 71, 72, 77, 34, 13, 56, 36
Vibe: Authentic, old worldDuvshanit, Old Katamon – Most like homeTHE DUVSHANIT family: Aviad Korell (standing top L), Sigalit Korell (standing top R), Nuriel Zarifi (seated bottom R) and Yossi Zarifi (seated bottom L).
Duvshanit on Hapalmah Street in the Katamon neighborhood just celebrated its 50th anniversary since opening its doors on February 17, 1970. Owner Yossi Zarifi recalls, “It sure didn’t look like this then. There were no multistory buildings, and they had just put up housing for Foreign Ministry personnel a block or so away.”It doesn’t take long to catch the homelike feel to this café, and no wonder. It is a family-run enterprise, with daughter Sigalit Korell behind the display of yeast cakes and son Nuriel Zarifi overseeing the baking in the kitchen. Grandson Aviad Korell, a humanities student at the Hartman High School for Boys, drops in to give his grandfather a kiss and grab a snack, and their originally Australian daughter-in-law pops in, as Zarifi and I chat during this unscheduled interview. There is even a garden in the front in memory of Miriam, the grandmother of the operation, who worked there, and died in 1996.A customer enters, saying “Good morning, Yossi,” and he responds to her greeting with a big smile, calling her by name. One gets the impression that this is the norm.I was immediately served a café hafuch to my liking and two small cheese pastries. The freshness could not be denied; the pastries did not have too far to travel – all the way from the adjacent kitchen, where they were just baked. Adding a glass of soda water alongside, Zarifi insists that I drink and eat, before starting to tell me about the place and himself.Yes, Duvshanit feels like it is an extension of its customers’ living rooms. Be forewarned about the village of Jerusalem; this really is just a small town. Odds are pretty good that at neighboring tables there will be a conversation between people you don’t know but will be speaking about someone you do know. This has happened several times within my earshot in Jerusalem coffee shops.Languages are also not so secret. An ostensibly Israeli crowd is often multilingual, with Hebrew, English, French, German, Russian, Amharic, Arabic and many other tongues in use, often simultaneously – as was the case the morning I stopped in.Duvshanit’s walls speak its story. Everything coffee is displayed in art and artifacts, from antique bean grinders to paintings to testimonial gifts from loyal customers to several photos with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara and their younger son, Avner. Avner recently held a post-army job as a waiter at Duvshanit while studying at Hebrew University. Though a typical job for Israeli students starting out, in order for Avner to work it was far from par for the course, requiring an armed security detail from the Defense Ministry to accompany him for every shift. Zarifi’s personal relationship with the Netanyahus began years earlier. Pointing to a table by the window, Zarifi recalls that before he entered politics, Netanyahu, then an employee of a Jerusalem furniture company, “would come here every evening at the end of his workday for eight consecutive years to write up his work orders for the next day, and he sat right there.”It would be a big leap to anticipate Zarifi as personal friends with Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Born into humble circumstances in Baghdad in 1945, he was one of five children born to his parents, who came to Israel in 1948 when Zarifi was but three years old. Speaking of the past, Zarifi’s smile disappears and his otherwise cheery face clouds over. “The winter of 1950 was particularly harsh, bringing with it what the old-timers called the worst snow in 100 years; tents and shacks were blown away, families slept under a dome of stars overhead with a meter of mud below,” recalls Zarifi.“When we arrived at the ma’abara [transit camp for new immigrants] in Talpiot, we received two metal-framed beds from Jewish Agency. After 15 years, my parents got a bill charging them for the beds. Yes, the Jewish Agency. My father was the sole support of what grew to be a family of 12. There wasn’t food or clothes; the neighbors brought outgrown shoes for us; otherwise, we would have been barefoot. We were the poorest of the poor in Jerusalem.”When he turned 14, Zarifi left school in order to help his family. He found a job in the food business and learned the trade from the bottom up. By the time he was 23, he was approached by an investor to start a place together. Zarifi shares, “He said we’ll use your hands and my backing. That’s how we started.”Zarifi continues, “From the first day we opened, I’ve gotten up at 4 a.m. every day to work in the bakery. I’m 75 years old now, with four children, two of whom work with me, and two more daughters, one a teacher, the other a social worker. I lost my wife 11 years ago, and yet for 50 years we’ve kept it going.”Everything is made in-house, which is part of its specialness. Zarifi had worked for the Hungarian and Viennese owners Shlomo Zilberger and Reuven Richter of the famed Café Nava on Jaffa Road. He was taught all their recipes and methods. You can readily see the Viennese and Hungarian influence, with apple strudel, poppy seed pastries and typical cheese Danishes all available.Eventually, Zarifi’s bakery mentors aged and decided to close the business. Zarifi delights in seeing the coincidences of life come full circle. His former bosses ended up moving close by and became customers of Zarifi, saying proudly, “The circle closed.”Duvshanit has served other high-profile Israelis. Zarifi relays that former journalist and justice minister Tommy Lapid – who these days is probably better remembered as opposition leader Yair Lapid’s dad – and his good friend Aliza Olmert, wife of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, would come and have a coffee together weekly. Prime minister Golda Meir, who came in every Monday for cinnamon yeast cake and coffee, was once a drop short on her bill. She refused to leave until she could pay the last agora. She dug to the bottom of her purse to find a fallen 10 grush coin to complete the charge. “They don’t make people like that anymore,” marvels Zarifi, shaking his head and smiling in remembrance.Yitzhak Navon and wife Ofira would come in when he was already president and they lived in the President’s Residence. After coffee, they would continue on to Hadassah Hospital together when she was under treatment for cancer. Subsequently, Duvshanit would become the supplier of baked goods to the residence. Laughing, Zarifi jests, “You can write that, don’t worry. I reported the income to the tax authorities.”Nuriel Zarifi brought things up to date in our telephone conversation post-coronavirus lockdown; Duvshanit is again open. They have made accommodations to comply with the health regulations. Nuriel explains, “We have installed plastic protectors to cover the food, the workers all wear masks, as do the customers (unless they are eating, of course). We take temperatures of those coming here. We have fewer seats than before the crisis.” Despite ongoing roadwork, customers now seem to prefer the street-side outdoor seating. “We await better days ahead,” Nuriel says optimistically.Before the long break, the senior Zarifi took pride in telling this reporter that all feel comfortable coming here. Normally, an informal “parliament” of Israeli and Arab friends meet here weekly to discuss events of the day and personal subjects, Zarifi points out. “They are like family to each other and to us. Both religious and secular, people from the Shin Bet, leaders of Abu Ghosh, government workers, have all come here over the course of years. They are invited to each other’s special occasions. It’s beyond a meeting place.”Daughter Korell joins in from behind the counter, saying the secret of their success is the homey family atmosphere. Zarifi adds, “It’s unusual today for a food business to last more than five years. It’s not enough to open your doors and assume that a business will run itself without hard work.” His steady following concurs happily with him, the hard work shows and, despite it all, the seats stay full.Duvshanit, Katamon
42 Hapalmah Street
Phone: (02) 566-2622
Hours: 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Bathroom: Same floor
Service: Personal to the table
Kosher: Jerusalem Rabbinate
Wi-Fi: yes. Facebook Messenger: m.me/Duvshanit1970
Buses: 13, 14
Vibe: Coffee at the kitchen table with your bestiesThe writer was a guest of the coffee shops.?