In the uncanny way that art imitates life, Jerusalem’s literary café, Tmol Shilshom, has been the setting for fictional accounts of young Israelis in search of love. The café, named in honor of the masterpiece by Israeli Nobel Prize-winner S.Y. Agnon, is half-hidden in a courtyard of the city’s historic Nahalat Shiva neighborhood. It is renowned for an atmosphere that encourages both cultural dialogue and romance over shared meals and occasional evening talks by Israel’s literary lights.
The loves that have blossomed at Tmol Shilshom were the subject of a book published by the café, and David Ehrlich, founder, is also known for his Hebrew fiction. His new story collection, “Who Will Die Last,” offers English translations (Syracuse University Press).
Ehrlich has also tried his hand as a playwright. He composed the script for an improvisational play focusing on the encounter between a hopeful couple who meet at the café (played by Ariel Keren and Osher Gilad). This far-asea-from-Broadway production (in Hebrew) debuted last year, and its enthusiastic reception has led to repeat showings every month or so, with two this month.
Dinner theater is a new dimension in Tmol Shilshom’s evolution. When the café first opened its doors in 1995, Ehrlich’s cherished friend, the late poet Yehuda Amichai, expressed skepticism about his enterprise. “’He told me “Your customers will spill coffee on the books. And they won’t pay for the coffee — or the books.’”
Fortunately, Amichai’s prediction proved false. Tmol Shilshom looks forward to celebrating its twentieth anniversary in 2015, and continues to expand its literary and culinary palate. This summer, the café has invited a new character to its pages–chef Silvio Nadel, the Argentinean-born gourmand who is gradually transforming the menu’s plot.
The next showing of “Love Stories at Tmol Shilshom” will take place at the café on December 19, at 8 pm. Show, dinner and wine, 120 NIS. Reservations required, 972-2- 6232758, or TMOL1994@gmail.com
Eva L. Weiss is a writer and editor who lives in Jerusalem.