Donald Macintyre: Jerusalem stories

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The Independent Online

No to Starbucks

It says something about the stubbornness of Jerusalem's coffee drinkers that Starbucks has, not for want of trying, totally failed to penetrate the city. Howard Schulz, chairman of that most global of companies, is well known for his passionately pro-Israel views. But this has cut no ice with Israelis in Jewish West Jerusalem. In the past 15 years or so - after a long, bleak period when Nescafé and a muddy concoction that constituted the Israeli version of Turkish coffee were all that was available - the city has spawned an excellent home-grown espresso bar culture. In a short stretch of Emek Refaim, the main street of the German colony, there are half a dozen first-rate cafés, each with its own distinctive character. Clients frequently spend the entire morning there working on their laptops. One, Aroma, is even open on Saturdays, when it is always packed. (My favourite in East Jerusalem is the elegant El Dorado, which gives you a chocolate with your Arabic coffee or espresso and where the orange juice is always freshly squeezed.) Who needs Starbucks?

Vicious cycle

It's odd, but petty crime still comes as a surprise here. A bicycle I bought while I was covering the Israeli disengagement from Gaza was unharmed during a week in the now destroyed settlement of Neve Dekalim, and then for a month outside a municipal building in southern Israel. I eventually brought it back to Jerusalem and, ignoring all the warnings, locked it to the railings opposite my flat, only to find the next day that the front wheel had been stolen. Before I had time to take it to the shop I bought it from, the rest of the bike had gone too. But then the city has always combined worldliness with holiness. I had only been here a week or so when the well-known Jewish lawyer Danny Seidmann told me cheerfully, if dispiritingly for a journalist, that "everyone lies in Jerusalem".