Farewell to a Jerusalem legend

Mouli Azrieli, beloved barman and owner of the acclaimed Fink’s bar, dies at 81

Mouli and Edna Azrieli at a recreation of Fink’s by the Tower of David Museum in 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Mouli and Edna Azrieli at a recreation of Fink’s by the Tower of David Museum in 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Mouli Azrieli, the genial proprietor of Fink’s, and a nightly presence behind the legendary bar for more than 30 years, died on August 23 in Jerusalem. He was 81 years old.

Mouli succeeded his father-in-law, David Rothschild, who owned Fink’s, the oldest establishment of its kind in the capital, founded in 1932 and voted by Newsweek as one of the 50 best bars in the world. It was an institution in the city and a witness to Israel’s creation and throughout most of its years.

Fink’s was tiny... only six tables, but its list of clients was impressive. From Paul Newman to Kirk Douglas, Marc Chagall to Teddy Kollek, Mouli greeted diplomats, politicians, journalists and discerning tourists with equal warmth and conviviality. The guest books are preserved for history.

Fink’s had its regular clientele for decades, so during negotiations between Egypt and Israel in 1973 after the Yom Kippur War, when then-US secretary of state Henry Kissinger asked to reserve the place so he could dine alone with his entourage, the answer was a resounding ‘no.’ “The regulars have every right to be able to drop by,” was the response. The story made The New York Times. That tradition never faded.

Like Rothschild, Mouli valued tradition. Over the years the decor never changed, except for the annual paint job. The menu, too, remained unchanged and non-Kosher for years. It was renowned for its goulash and was a rare spot to get escargot in Jerusalem.

Mouli was a valued and unimpeachable source to favored correspondents who considered the bar almost a private club... and it was not unheard of that after closing time, Fink’s doors were locked while reporters stayed on discussing current events in the region while Mouli provided wise counsel and discreet advice.

The Second Intifada (2000-2003) took its toll as tourists stopped coming to Israel. When a suicide bomber blew himself up not far away, causing a ball bearing from the bomb to fly through the front window, along the length of the bar and into a painting of a clown face that was hanging there, the writing was “on the wall.” The restaurant became kosher in an attempt to lure back larger numbers of patrons, but the events of the Second Intifada eventually led to its demise. Although Fink’s closed in 2005, Mouli and Edna Azrieli were special guests at the “London in Jerusalem” exhibition at the Tower of David Museum in 2018, which included a reconstruction of the famous bar.

Mouli Azrieli will be remembered as a consummate host and gentleman and a staunch friend to his countless loyal customers in Israel and around the world. “People loved him – he served as a barman and psychologist who would listen to their stories, and always had a smile on his face,” said his wife, Edna, with whom he had two sons, Eran and Amir. 
The writers were longtime clients of Fink’s