Coffee with Golda Meir

For more than ten years, the Atlas Coffee Shop in Tel Aviv has sold a special blend named “Golda,” after Israel’s fourth prime minister. The Raffaeli family, who have owned and operated Atlas for decades, inherited the recipe from Aaron and Mura Cohen when they retired and closed their own shop—where, once upon a time, Golda Meir had been a regular customer. To accommodate her preferences, the Cohens  had begun roasting a new blend of coffee, as Karen Chernick writes:

“It’s a very strong coffee,” says Uri Rafaelli. “Bitter, and it has a bit of a special aroma.” He hesitates to add that the blend’s acidity recalls the blunt personality of its famous drinker, as well as her reputation as an Iron Lady, [a nickname applied to her before Margaret Thatcher moved in to 10 Downing Street].

From the time Meir served as a cabinet minister in the 1950s and throughout her tenure as prime minister from 1969 to 1974, an inner circle often huddled in her green Formica kitchen to talk policy—likely over a cup of black coffee. Meir’s favorite brew was sipped by heads of state, decision makers, and foreign dignitaries.

As prime minister, when Meir was frustrated that her cabinet couldn’t accomplish anything during meetings on Sundays (the first day of the Israeli work week), she started her own weekly tradition. A select group dubbed Golda’s “Kitchen Cabinet” gathered around the countertops of her Tel Aviv home at 8 HaBaron Hirsch Street on Saturday evenings to make important decisions in advance. “It was a mark of honor to be invited to meetings in Golda’s kitchen,” [said] the veteran politician Lova Eliav. “It showed that you were important.”

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Read more at Atlas Obscura

More about: Golda Meir, Israeli history, Tel Aviv

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy