Modern rabbinic lore has it that even though Tel Aviv is the secular capital of Israel it is one of its holiest cities, since no church has been built there. Well, at least not until a few months ago.
The newest "church" in Tel Aviv, Griffin, combines the best of two "evils": Christian iconography and steamy Tel Aviv nightlife.
Griffin, whose name is taken from an early symbol describing Jesus, is a happening, well-stocked lounge bar whose interior is designed to resemble an imposing cathedral.
"This is a dream I had for years," explained Yossi Sher, one of the owners. The idea for this house of liquor worship came when he was partying at an Amsterdam club built inside a former church. He was intrigued by the many common motifs: high ceilings to make a man feel like he is part of something greater, and romantic lighting and art for a feeling of mystic exaltation.
While studying architecture at Tel Aviv University, Sher worked at various TA pubs. As a student, he had already begun to create a model of his bar/church using 3D digital imaging.
The final result is impressive. The lighting, pillars, craftsmanship, embroidery and high ceilings all add to a sense of grandeur. The nave consists of a long, rectangular bar with 60 "pews" leading up to the priest's podium (aka the DJ booth). Above the booth is a stained-glass window with images the pope might find illuminating. The bar is flanked by two lounge areas so people can observe the procession of fellow sinners... err, congregants. The bathrooms resemble confessionals and are perfectly suited for the activities common in pick-up bars - things that would require confession.
Sher and his partner Yuval Barashi, an interior designer, were able to create exactly what they envisioned; it's as if Sher's education was all filtered into the project. Griffin is the only structure Sher has ever built as a graduate of architecture school.
This shrine to Tel Aviv nightlife is intended to attract those who are pious about their nightlife priorities: looking good, smoking premium cigarettes, nursing quality drinks, and picking up classy members of the opposite sex. Almost since its opening two months ago, it has been a hot spot for an attractive professional crowd.
Griffin definitely has an aura of Tel Aviv nightlife sanctity, assisted by devout attention to detail in food, d cor and service. It is located right under the Levenstein business towers. Ironically, prior to construction, the empty site had been used as a makeshift synagogue by the religious Israelis who worked there. But Sher didn't seriously consider combining a shul and a bar.
"Synagogues are much less impressive than churches," he explains.
Rehov Menachem Begin 23, Tel Aviv; (03) 560-0001; hours: from 8 p.m.