The Mifletzet – not what you think

Kiryat Hayovel residents are planning a cooperative bar-café to answer the locals’ needs for leisure spots.

Gaby Bar Giora in front of the renovated Mifletzet playground. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Gaby Bar Giora in front of the renovated Mifletzet playground.
The “Mifletzet” – Hebrew for “monster” – is the iconic installation sculpture at the playground on the corner of the Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood’s Tahon and Chile streets, and it is one of the city’s most beloved landmarks.
But the Mifletzet is also the name of a charming new local initiative: a cooperative bar-café-clubhouse for the residents of the neighborhood.
On Golomb Street, near the turn toward Tahon, there is a small house that stands alone in a small eucalyptus grove, with lots of antennas on its roof. The house belongs to a construction company; the roof is rented to one of the country’s cellular phone service providers. This is the place the cooperative members have chosen to set up the bar.
Unlike cooperative projects such as the one in the Katamonim neighborhood a few years ago – which aimed to help underprivileged families acquire goods at reduced prices and which was linked with various welfare projects – this one came from the residents, who are well-established and simply want a friendly community hangout spot.
Gabriel Bar Giora, Ilan Dadon and Michal Levy are among the growing number of Kiryat Hayovel residents who have joined the cooperative and are working on a volunteer basis to bring it to fruition.
The official motivation for the project was the lack of any such venues in the neighborhood, despite its approximately 30,000 residents, most of them young singles and families.
Kiryat Hayovel has made headlines in recent years for the tensions between its secular, mostly blue-collar residents and largely haredi newcomers.
But the initial backers of the Mifletzet project – who are widely involved in community activities ranging from cultural events to the struggle to keep the neighborhood open to everyone – are mainly looking to enliven community life.
Right from the start, when the cafe was in the planning stages, they launched several community events, including street theater shows and an event marking the inauguration of the renovated Mifletzet playground this past summer.
“It is more than just a bar for the neighborhood,” says Bar Giora, one of the leading members of the cooperative.
The project is progressing on two tracks: the legal one, which involves getting permits from the municipality’s construction and business departments; and the personal one, which involves recruiting more active members for the cooperative.
“Each member buys a share at the cooperative – they are all the same price, NIS 1,000, and through that becomes a member of our cooperative,” explains Bar Giora. “This is not a financial enterprise; most of the work in the bar will be done on a volunteer basis by members.”
The initiative has support from the city council as well.
From the start, two Meretz city council members – Pepe Alalu and Laura Wharton – backed the cooperative, and Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch, who heads the Hitorerut list, added his support soon afterward.
Also helping out is the Kiryat Hayovel Young Neighborhood organization, part of a project the municipality created about five years ago to attract small communities of young people to live in the capital’s neighborhoods. All expect the bar-café to open soon.
The founders of the cooperative hold weekly meetings in private homes, where they discuss every detail of the procedure and make decisions. The transparency of the process is total: The minutes and decisions of each such assembly go immediately onto the cooperative’s website.
The first 30 shares have already been sold, and the goal is to sell at least 60 shares in order to open the place – though expectations range from 50 shares to a more optimistic 100- plus.
The work is shared among the founding members – Bar Giora, Dadon, and their colleagues Irina Abramzon Shmueli, Udi Avital, Nirit Roessler, Chen Ozeri and Shay Knohl – and some others. And there is a lot of work to do at this stage, from examining the commission rates that different banks offer, to comparing suppliers’ prices for the alcoholic and soft drinks that the Mifletzet will sell.
Nevertheless, the feeling that comes out of these meetings is that not only are the members getting the satisfaction of seeing the project progressing, they are all having fun.
Bar Giora adds that the cooperative has obtained the support of the Yuvalim neighborhood council, which includes Kiryat Hayovel. That support, he says, is “very important for the success of the project. It is all in the same frame of mind – to promote something that has been conceived and planned by the residents of the neighborhood, for the residents of the neighborhood.... It is a result of our community and neighborhood belonging and caring.”
Aside from being in favor of the project, the Yuvalim council is putting the modest sum of NIS 6,000 toward it. Still, Bar Giora says, the council’s support means more than financial aid; it means that the Mifletzet cooperative is becoming a part of the neighborhood.
Asked if the bar will be open on Shabbat, Bar Giora replies in the affirmative, saying this is another important aspect of the project.
“That is the reason we have turned down a former offer to open it closer to the Taylor Cultural Center – it is too close to Zangwill Street, which today is almost exclusively inhabited by haredi residents. We are not looking for additional tension and problems between... the secular and haredi residents in the neighborhood.”
He adds that the decision to open the cooperative on Shabbat and holidays was not intended to offend the haredi residents, but to provide “a place for the residents of Kiryat Hayovel who need such a place to hang out in. [It is] not a declaration of war.”
The issue of the café’s kashrut came up at one of the assemblies, since there are quite a few residents who, while they do not define themselves as religious, would still prefer to have kosher food served. One possible solution is to look into the alternative kashrut supervision of Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, a member of the Yerushalmim movement who has promoted supervision for establishments that prefer to forgo the certification of the official kashrut bodies. For now, however, the matter is undecided, since the kashrut seal may not work for a place that is open on Shabbat.
According to the founders, the Mifletzet cooperative should open in a matter of months, perhaps even sooner.
And similar efforts are already under way elsewhere: A neighborhood cooperative bar-café project is in the planning stages in French Hill.