In every cafe in every Israeli city, town, village or kibbutz , there is always a parliament. If you aren’t Israeli, I’ll explain:
Five, maybe six grandpas — usually war buddies from ‘67… they drink coffee, and then another and another… and talk about their grand children, gossip about their neighbors and solve all the worlds problems.
“If I were the prime minister, believe you me, I would…”
“Oh yeah? Well I called up my friend Bibi, and I said to him….”
“What do you know from Bibi? When Yitzhak Rabin and I were in the war together….”
These are men who helped build this country and have history under their fingernails — but they’re also full of shit. That’s part of their charm.
(If you’ve seen Coming to America, think the epic barber shop scenes. Only with way more yelling and way more ego.)
Usually, there’s only one parliament per cafe. It’s kind of an unspoken rule.
But in Jerusalem where we are so often divided across religious and political and even ethnic lines, there are sometimes two parliaments per cafe
Like at Aroma Cafe at the mall
There’s an Ashkenazi parliament — Maybe a Goldberg or a Klein or a Blonder, and always a Ben-David present and accounted for, and there’s a Mizrahi parliament — A Hazan or a Sadgat… usually at least ONE Gadasi and also always a Ben-David.
They sit on opposite sides of the cafe — and usually ignore each other.
As a diaspora Jew where if you’re a Jew you’re a Jew and that’s all there is to it, it was hard for me to understand the fraught divides between the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi communities in Israel. But the anger and pain run deep, and we even saw it spill over between the communities during the political unrest within Israel before the war.
But a few days ago, I saw the two parliaments sitting closer together at Aroma — not together-together, but only one table away.
And today, the groups had merged. Klein and Goldberg and Blonder and Gadasi and Sadgat and Hazan and Ben-David x2 were sitting together — all the guys – a parliament of 10, 11 men – more than a Minyan – drinking their coffee and talking about their grandkids and gossiping about their neighbors and solving all the worlds programs.
“Believe you me, if remember back in 1967 how we…”
“Oh yeah? You were the general? Come on, you served kitchen duty at the base.”
They were even drawing up battle plans on paper napkins.
“Hey,” I heard them shout to another man about their age who was holding his tray with his coffee and pastry and looking for where to sit. “Nu, Yalla. Over here, Moshe.”
“Wait, we sit together now?”
“Yes! It’s time to unite! It’s the only way to beat Hamas.”
And for the first time since October 7, I smiled.