Hungry for Hatzot

ONE OF the most veteran and popular restaurants in Jerusalem is Hatzot on Agrippas Street. Aptly named, it is a midnight stop-over for out-of-town entertainers.

By
October 10, 2019 22:03
3 minute read.
Jerusalem Great Synagogue

Jerusalem Great Synagogue 150. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Ariel Horowitz )

■ ONE OF the most veteran and popular restaurants in Jerusalem is Hatzot on Agrippas Street. Aptly named, it is a midnight stop-over for out-of-town entertainers. Even without them, it’s fairly full and sometimes full to overflowing at the witching hour – especially on Thursday nights when so many young people go out on the town. Brothers Avraham and Michael Ajami founded what was essentially a steakhouse in 1970, and the menu continued to grow as did the clientele. These days, the restaurant is managed by the second generation of the Ajami family, and shows no sign of losing customers despite the huge competition in Agripas Street itself and inside the Mahaneh Yehuda market, as well as the alleyways between the two. Sometimes there are long lines of people in the street, waiting for a vacant table. In addition to entertainers, Hatzot clientele have included local and national politicians, as photographs on the walls can testify. Given that so many iconic Jerusalem restaurants and coffee shops either closed down and disappeared or moved from their original locations, it is a miracle that Hatzot is still going strong after almost half a century in business. Last month, the Ajami family showed up in force at Zappa, where Avraham Ajami was named an honorable citizen of Jerusalem by Mayor Moshe Lion.

Some of the once well-patronized restaurants and coffee shops that have disappeared or moved include La Gondola, Taami, Chez Simon, Link, Savyon, Savoy, Europa, Feferberg’s, Atara, Alaska, Café Paris (formerly Moment), the original Café Hillel, Tarabulus, Kohinoor, Alno, Philadelphia, Beni Dagim David’s Harp, Norman’s, Kapulsky – and more.

Veteran pharmacies and branches of banks have also disappeared. It is quite disturbing to walk downtown and see the empty shops which stand like testaments to broken dreams. Most of these shops were rented out to people who invested a lot of money in renovating them to suit the needs of their specific lines of business, but moved out after a year because they couldn’t attract a large enough clientele.

Happily, Hatzot is not the only veteran enterprise that has remained in business and is doing well. Among the others are Berman’s and Angel’s bakeries, as well as Ne’eman Bakery and restaurants, Cafe Rimon and Taamon.

■ ANYONE ATTENDING High Holy Day services at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue cannot help but admire the energy of choir master Elli Jaffe, who puts his whole heart and soul into conducting the magnificent Great Synagogue choir. His body language is acutely expansive and expressive, and he sometimes sings along or claps to the rhythm of the melody. Moreover, he’s on his feet for the whole of the service. The beauty of the choir is disturbed by crying babies, and by very young, restless children running up and down the stairs in the various sections of the women’s gallery or along the aisles. Laudable though it may be for so many parents to bring their children to synagogue, it would be even more laudable if the diversions they provide for them would comprise nicely illustrated books that would occupy their attention.

For many years, parents who brought young children to the synagogue sat in the lobby directly outside the women’s gallery, but within earshot of the cantor and the choir so they were able to play with their children while simultaneously listening to the service. Children occasionally wandered inside, but most of the time they preferred to play with their parents and with each other. Hardly any of them were in the lobby this year. Worse still, their main diversion seemed to be fast food such as potato crisps or crumbly cookies, which they spilled and stamped into the red carpet without rebuke. Some of the children who obviously had ADHD kept endlessly pushing past congregants, as they ran in and out of the rows in which their mothers were sitting.

What is always amazing after High Holy Day services at the Great Synagogue to see how many of the congregants – some with children in tow, and some leaning on canes or walkers – cross the road on a red light, after having prayed to be inscribed in the Book of Life.
Go figure.
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