For Americans in Israel, a Home Away from Home

December 20, 2012 5:25 pm 0 comments

Inside "Mike's Place" in Jerusalem. Photo: Deborah Fineblum Raub.

JERUSALEM—“The guy is an animal!” shouts one of the white-shirted guys from Mir Yeshiva, as he gestures at the helmeted jock on the screen above his head. And coming from this fan, the word “animal” has about it a tone of grudging respect.

For these normally studious young men, Jerusalem’s “Mike’s Place” sports bar means Sunday nights away from the Talmud (sorry, Mom and Dad) and, just a few weeks back, away from the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

Walking down the steps at Mike’s Place on bustling Jaffa Road, you might as well be in Baltimore, Boston or Boise.

“This is our only connection to home,” says Mir student Tuli Tyberg, an 18-year-old a long way from his Brooklyn beginnings. “It’s a great outlet for American guys in yeshiva.”

It was precisely because of this connection to home that, a few weeks ago, when the Gaza conflict was on everyone’s mind in Israel, Mike’s Place felt safe. “During the war it was a little scary and it was kind of nice to come here,” adds Tyberg’s pal Yechiel Perr who hails from Far Rockaway, NY.

But not everyone who packs into Mike’s Place on football night is a yeshiva guy. Brooklyn’s Efrayim Goldberg, for instance, was in town visiting his son, who is learning in Israel for the year. “This place is pure nostalgia,” he grins after ordering his burrito. “It’s comforting, and the kind of place you wouldn’t mind your son coming to.”

For the young, however, there is one very distinct difference from life back home: in Israel, 18—not 21—is the legal drinking age.

It’s a privilege that on a recent night was being enjoyed by four friends in Israel for a gap year program in which they do volunteer gigs, take classes, and learn Hebrew. “Coming in here brings me back to America for a few hours,” says Becca Segal of San Diego, 18.  “The burgers are good and the French fries are real American ones. They’re not Israeli chips,” she adds, swooping a specimen through a pool of ketchup and popping it into her mouth.

“Since they’ve never been able to order alcohol before, it’s for us to teach them how to drink responsibly,” says Reuben Beiser, who’s ringmaster to the happy hubbub. Beiser, who owns Jerusalem’s Mike’s Place with his general manager Udi Kaniel, is a native of Providence, RI, who left the U.S. two decades ago as soon as college was behind him. And he never looked back. As the resident sports king, the power rests in his hands to determine which games air on the screens. Sometimes, the wisdom of Solomon is called for when competing groups of fans vie for their teams’ games to be broadcast.

“Sorry, I promised the Boston game to that group over there,” Beiser calmly tells one employee who approaches him with a conflicting request. “Maybe next week.”

Beiser is also an architect who continues to work in that field. He will tell you that he certainly didn’t intend to run a kosher sports bar/restaurant (this Jerusalem location is the only one of the six Mike’s Places across Israel to cater to a kosher clientele). But years ago he used to hang out at Mike’s Place’s previous location a few blocks away, and he began to see the value of this “American home away from home” for newly minted Israelis (who still know every word of The Star Spangled Banner), along with the countless American students who come to learn in Israel.

After the original building was condemned in 2008, Beiser bought the Jerusalem franchise, using his architectural skills to create a homey, open and distinctly American ambiance in a new locale. Two years later, he swung open Mike’s Place’s doors at the corner of Jaffa Road and Rivlin Street.

Though Sunday night is all football all the time (with a bit of American basketball thrown in for variety), other evenings are devoted to arguably more civilized activities: live music and even a lecture series on a range of thought-provoking topics. All washed down with a cold Sam Adams.

“People feel good down here,” says Beiser, gesturing to the crowd. “For Anglos it’s like home, and for Israelis it’s a trip to America without the airfare.”

On the Sunday night when JNS.org visited the bar, the lone Israeli who braved the roomful of boisterous American fans was a 28-year-old native Jerusalemite named Tal Katz. His passion for American football? It dates back to the day in 2009, when an American friend schlepped him to a football game at Jerusalem’s Kraft Stadium.

“I got hooked,” he says good-naturedly, his eyes glued to the screen. “Most Israelis don’t know much about football and baseball, what the heck is that?” So what’s the best thing about being an Israeli fan of American football? “If a team loses, I’m not all that upset,” he says with a shrug. “One team is as good as the next when you’re not American.”

Yes, Americans do love their sports, something abundantly clear this night at Mike’s Place. In fact, back at the Mir Yeshiva table, Tuli Tyberg had one bit of advice for Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Now that you’ve got football here, it would be great if you could just open a basketball stadium here, too,” he says he’d tell the prime minister, should they ever meet.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.