Social Protesters Open Cooperative 'Pub of the Revolution' in Tel Aviv

One could say the pub shows protest activists just wanna have fun, but it also stands for building things and setting an example.

Dozens of enthusiastic youngsters Thursday trooped to the opening of Israel's first cooperative pub, founded in Tel Aviv's bohemian Florentine neighborhood by a group of leaders of the social protest movement.

About half the revelers at Bar Kaima (Hebrew for "Sustainable") were shareholders who had invested NIS 1,000 each, and will be entitled to wholesale price food and drink for life.

"It's my bar," one of them said without blinking when I asked them about the place.

One could say the pub, whose founders include Yigal Rambam and Julian Feder, shows protest activists just wanna have fun. But it also stands for building things and setting an example, reminiscent of the beginning of the previous century, when huge cooperatives were set up here.

The bar's address - on Hamashbir Street, is also symbolic. Hamashbir was the first cooperative in this region, founded in 1916 and named by Berl Katznelson.

Even so, class distinctions reared their head. Oded, a former high-tech lad, boasted he had bought share No. 123. He was immediately silenced by Adi, who said she had bought share No. 21 and even signed the founding document.

The fear of being left out was contagious. If I weren't a journalist afraid of being investigated I would have slapped NIS 1,000 on the table. Another journalist, a serious guy in a button-down shirt, interviewed Rambam at length and decided he wanted to buy a share. The problem was, there were no ATMs in the area.

In contrast to most cafes, the new bar does not use plastic water glasses. As a souvenir I took a receipt for the large coke glass I drank from, inscribed "Love for all and long live the revolution." On the other side it said "Cafe Greg."

"It's all recycled," one of the dozens of owners told me proudly.

Social activist Or-Li Bar Lev (share No. 27! ) said, "This is a revolution. For the first time there's a project combining community values with night life and fun. New social groups are touching cooperative economics, by means of beer and having a good time."

Another partner, Liron Achdut, whose photograph - being arrested by the police two weeks ago - shook Facebook, said she spoke to two school pupils who had read about the bar. They got a few friends together to buy food cheaply and are now selling it at cost to their buddies, bypassing the school cafeteria's exorbitant prices.

Blogger Shuki Galili said it was no accident the bar was opened in Florentine. "Since 76 percent of the people here voted for Dov Khenin in the municipal elections, Ron Huldai pretends the neighborhood doesn't exist. The only thing this neighborhood gets from the city is garbage trucks and inspectors," he said.

"Florentine has become ex-territorial, a place where people just have fun," he said.

Among the 172 shareholders are MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz ), who is apparently a member of every cooperative imaginable.

"We built a ramp for his motorized wheelchair," says one of the organizers, pointing at a flimsy piece of wood.

Another partner, Itzik, 68, sat happily at the bar with an orange juice. He had heard about the project on Rothschild Boulevard and bought two shares.

The exuberant atmosphere was cut short by social activist Elian Marshak, the revolution's walking news channel. "You just built another place for protest mind-f---ing," he said.

The bar's excited partners went out to dance in the street to the strains of a Greek song. Rambam took his shirt off. The youngsters persuaded a team of sanitation workers to stop their garbage truck and join their dance. Then the truck moved on, one cheerful young woman hanging from the back of it.