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...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.