Nostalgia Sunday – Tmol Shilshom

October 23, 2011 - 8:03 PM by

Some places some are born nostalgic, some achieve nostalgia and some have nostalgia thrust upon them. Bookstore-cafe Tmol Shilshom is all three. Founded in 1994, the location alone — a 130 year-old building on Jerusalem’s winding cobblestone Nahalat Shiva street — would be enough to guarantee a sense of days gone by. And then there’s the name, the phrase “tmol-shilshom” which can be translated as “those were the days”. See? Born nostalgic.

Tmol Shilshom quickly became a fixture on Jerusalem’s literary landscape as a venue for Israel’s best known writers to read from their works. The late Yehuda Amichai, who read from his poetry at the cafe’s opening, was one of its major patrons: his favorite chair still stands in the corner. And so, despite its youth (as compared with other of the city’s older establishments), Tmol Shilshom has acquired a antiqued patina.

In 1996, the cafe expanded to include two separate seating areas, one hall frequently accommodating literary or other events, the other serving regular customers.

Like most public venues in Jerusalem, particularly those in the center of town, Tmol Shilshom was greatly affected by the second Intifada. Frequent terrorist attacks made people afraid to venture out. Many businesses closed but Tmol Shilshom weathered the storm, or, as their website pluckily puts it: “Having survived all that, we’re now one of the veteran and favorite cafes in town. Some people like us for the food, others for the books, and others yet for the atmosphere. There`s always something to do at Tmol Shilshom.”

Despite being classified as a bookstore-cafe, Tmol Shilshom is really more of a bistro if you look at the menu (highly recommended), and their Friday morning breakfast buffet is legendary.

The interior is lined with bookshelves, framed pictures, snapshots of famous patrons and even the menus, covered with images from literary classics, hark back to yesteryear. And then there are the plates — decorated with quotations — and of course, the hot beverage glasses with their metal holders, just like grandma’s.

And the place-mats, which quote both Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and The Jefferson Airplane’s Go Ask Alice. (Click on image to view full-sized). Trippy…

Other well-know authors and poets — Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, Batya Gur, David Grossman, Jonathan Safran-Foer and others — have frequented Tmol Shilshom as well; the place prides itself on being an inspiring atmosphere in which writers can park themselves at a table and nurse a cup of coffee for hours upon hours.

Tmol Shilshom also encourages talent by hosting writers groups and classes. Upcoming is The Book of Beginnings: From the first family’s story to your own (26 October – 28 December 2011) is an English-language creative writing workshop with writer Ilene Prusher, who will guide students in writing fiction and/or nonfiction works inspired by the family stories, inter-generational struggles and complicated relationships in the Book of Genesis.

Writer Judy Labensohn has for several years been conducting an English-language “Writing Gym” at Tmol Shilshom, where she promises there will be “No sore muscles, as in other gyms”. Called Loosen Up, the program is scheduled to resume in 2012.

You can check out CultureKey Jerusalem for other upcoming events at Tmol Shilshom.

Tmol Shilshom is located at 5 Yoel Solomon Street. Open Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m. till 1 a.m. Closes early on Fridays, closed on Shabbat. Click here for 10% discount coupon from

Photos by Ella Cohen, Ivan Tihienko


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