Bagels, Politics and Personal Ownership, Here and There

by Brian on November 7, 2012

in Food,Just For Fun,Only in Israel,Politics

While all eyes today have understandably been focused on the U.S. elections, sometimes it’s the little things that are elevated to true shmooze status. And for fast foodies in Jerusalem last week, it was the closing of Tal Bagels on Emek Refaim.

Let’s face it, no matter who’s president, you still have to eat bagels…at least a couple of times a year. And Tal was the best in town. The product was tasty, the facility spacious, the shmears shmeary. I’ve had many a meeting there over the years. So why did they suddenly shut down?

No one knows for sure although a Facebook discussion on the subject (yes, people will speculate about just about anything on social media) suggested that Tal Bagels had lots its mojo a while back and was no longer the place to be and be seen.

Tal Bagels in Jerusalem was the only kosher branch of a national Israeli chain. The owner of the local franchise also owns the adjoining Aldo Ice Cream and the former yogurt shop. Those two are doing fine.

Don’t worry too much for us poor Jerusalemites…it’s not like we’ll be bagel-less. Holy Bagels is still open a couple of stores down on the same block. And, not too far away in Baka, Bagel Bite is going strong after many years. Other bagel establishments exist downtown – Sam’s and Nina’s are two – but I can’t speak for their tastiness; I just know I liked Tal the best.

There’s something a little deeper in my mini-obsession over the local bagel scene. It’s that sense of personal ownership those of us in Israel can feel over the smallest things, a feeling that’s very different than in the old country. I remember when they put in a new McDonald’s near where we lived in Berkeley. Big deal. Or when they erected a new stop sign. Yawn.

But here…every little jot and tittle on the ground is a big deal. A new flower arrangement on the roundabout – hey, that’s my traffic circle! Aroma now makes a Chai latte with soymilk – woo hoo!

It’s not that Jerusalem is a small town compared with Berkeley – it’s the opposite – but rather this is my town, my country, my future. We didn’t just move to another state in the U.S. We made a statement of connection, of belonging, of peoplehood. And that’s reflected in everything we do here, including the seemingly insignificant, like fretting over which bagel restaurant is down the street.

On Wednesday they were carting off the furniture at Tal and taking down the sign. By Friday, there was a new sign up. Coming soon: Bagel Café. You can take the Tal out of the bagels, I guess, but you can’t take the bagels out of the hood. Bring on the shmears, round two. And yalla,  it’s on to the Israeli elections, onion and garlic in hand.

I bid farewell to Tal Bagels yesterday on Israelity.

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