Grapevine: A genuine Jerusalemite

A roundup of happenings across Jerusalem.

President Reuven Rivlin  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
President Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Mordechai Kop, the legendary proprietor of Jerusalem’s Café Taamon, which for years was a home away from home for politicians, journalists, artists from the nearby Bezalel School and the Bohemian element of the capital’s social mosaic, died last week at age 91.
A native son of Jerusalem, Kop’s relatively small coffee shop opposite the old Knesset building, which is in the process of becoming the Knesset Museum, was a magnet for anyone who wanted to meet the most important people in Jerusalem. It was to Jerusalem, more or less what Café Kassit was to Tel Aviv.
A kind-hearted man, Kop gave unlimited credit to anyone who couldn’t pay, and on Fridays, there was always cholent on the menu. People came from all over Jerusalem to have cholent for breakfast.
A fifth generation Israeli, Kop opened his coffee bar in 1961 and kept it going till 2014, even though the nature of the clientele had changed, especially once the building across the road was no longer the Knesset.
Today, under a different proprietor, the premises still function as a coffee shop, now known as Georgie. A change in menu accompanied the change of name and ownership.
Kop grew up in the ultra-Orthodox environment of Mea She’arim, and studied in yeshivot as a boy, but this did not prevent from being open-minded and accepting the opinions and lifestyles of others. It was his love of humanity and his ability to accept and respect the other, which contributed greatly to the popularity of Café Taamon. No one, not even vagrants, ever felt that he was patronizing them. Although he could occasionally be sharp-tongued, for the most part he had a heart of gold and a generous disposition.
After the Six Day War, he was one of the first Jews to set up house in the Moslem Quarter of the Old City, and in 1968 he renovated an old synagogue in the area that had been abandoned 20 years earlier and had fallen into a state of disrepair.
President Reuven Rivlin received the news of Kop’s death while on an official visit to Denmark. He wrote a condolence message to Kop’s family on his Facebook account and included a photograph of Kop sitting on the railings outside Taamon. Rivlin wrote:
“Nechama and I were very sad to hear of the death of Mordechai Kop of the wonderful Café Taamon. For every Jerusalemite, Kop was the proprietor of a real institution, a coffee shop that was a house of study – and at times a soup kitchen. Kop used to host guests who didn’t have a penny in their pockets and he always received them with a kindly face. With his demise, we have lost a dear friend, a genuine Jerusalemite.”
In his youth, Rivlin was among the many who sat on one of the rickety chairs in Café Taamon, but was so engrossed in the conversations buzzing around him, that like everyone else who came there, he ignored the discomfort, because the atmosphere was so inviting.
■ LONE SOLDIERS who come from abroad to take on the shared responsibility for the defense of Israel have a special place in the hearts of most Israelis. Caring Israelis provide for the comfort of lone soldiers, either by establishing a group facility for them so that they have somewhere to call home when on leave, or in the case of those sharing apartments, to help them out with appliances, food, furniture and furnishings, depending on their needs.
Judy Segal, director of development at the Israel Goldstein Youth Village, has for the past few years has raising money to build a residence for Lone Soldiers at the Youth Village. Her dream has now come true and the dedication ceremony, which included a performance by the Village orchestra, took place on October 18.
■ MANY INFLUENTIAL people in government, academia and hi-tech enterprises talk a lot about integrating Arabs into the hi-tech work force and into other areas that are not menial jobs.
Representative of Israel’s Arab population can arguably address this better than the most well-meaning Jews. That is one of the reasons why Aziz Kaddan, CEO and co-founder of Myndlift, which has developed an accessible and affordable means of neuro-feedback, and Ayman Saif, former head of the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors, which is under the umbrella of the Prime Minister’s Office, are among the speakers who will present their views at the Taub Center’s annual international policy conference on Envisioning the Future of Israel’s Labor Market.
 The event will take place at Mishkenot Shaananim on November 4.