Coffee with Golda Meir

December 2, 2019 | Karen Chernick
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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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