Halftime in the Holy City ‘

"In Jerusalem" goes looking for a neighborhood bar hosting the Super Bowl.

At Mike’s Place: An island of Americana (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
At Mike’s Place: An island of Americana
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Jerusalem was miserable. With temperatures at 7°, fog and drizzle, it was a far cry from the sunny San Francisco where Super Bowl 50 was taking place. Nevertheless some 200 or so braved the weather to crowd at the few bars downtown showing the game.
At Habibi Bar, nestled in the stone buildings of Nahalat Shiva, a bunch of yeshiva boys had packed several long tables to watch a grim projection of the game. Touts outside tried to corral more.
One young man had painted his face. By halfway through the first quarter they had already gone through narghilas, numerous shots and chips they brought from home. Some shouting and cursing was taking place because someone had placed bets on an early lead by the Panthers. They were unhappy the Patriots had not made it to the Bowl.
The Barrel had advertised the game online, but it seems its clientele was not into it. One room was showing it in high-definition on a flatscreen TV. For some reason the local broadcaster didn’t have the famous ads that go with the game. No matter. I packed in a BLT and a pint of Leffe Brown, and someone wondered why the score was so low.
This was supposed to be Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s last game. He was channeling the spirit of legendary John Elway in his performance. With several extraordinary running plays and perfect passing, he dominated the first half. Lady Gaga’s red glitter eyeliner was also dominant.
I made my way to Mike’s Place to see the real thing. The iconic Jerusalem establishment located next to the light rail was charging NIS 100 a head. “Entrance is free,” explained Yossi Fraenkel, “it’s NIS 25 beers and NIS 2 wings, they pay upfront and get credit.”
Mike’s Place had the version of the game with the famous commercials, and its downstairs bar and seating area was packed with 150 people. The pungent smell of wings and burgers hung in the air. People cheered as a Doritos commercial came and went, but they were less keen on PayPal. The crowd seemed split between Broncos and Panthers fans, and many seemed happy to have found an island of Americana to cuddle up with.
Outside the fog had drifted in. Like a drifter I wandered down to O’Connells, which was empty, and then back to the Dublin, which was closed. The few bars that had been open, like Zollis, were putting up the chairs. The only islands of fun left, it seemed, were where I’d journeyed before. The yeshiva kids were in a bit of a snarling mood, their Panthers being tied up by Manning.
Momentary happiness came when Peyton was sacked toward the end of the first quarter.
By halftime it was 13-7. With running back C.J. Anderson, No. 22, playing so well, I figured I’d seen enough good plays for the evening and tucked back into the awful weather.
Three in the morning in the Holy City. Mike’s Place wings beckoned. But so did a night’s rest.