Mike, a retired photo-journalist started this tradition in 1993, when he opened a cozy little bar in downtown Jerusalem, where he welcomed all.This tiny little pub that many people mistook for a private living room later became a prominent Jerusalem landmark.
From the very beginning, Mike’s Place attracted the most eclectic assortment of individuals: from travelers to native Israelis, foreign students to Russian immigrants. Arabs, Jews and Christians all sat together with, journalists, diplomats, soldiers and UN personnel – all sharing the good vibes, good music and great beer.
In the background, unique and unmistakable, the signature of Mike’s Place; free, live music – every night.
Among the original regulars, or the irregulars as they became known – was Haifa-born, Jerusalem-raised Assaf Ganzman,.
In 1995, in what became Mike’s Place folklore – Ganzman inherited the bar when Mike threw in his bar-towel, tossed him the keys, wished him well and headed back to Canada
Within months – Mike’s Place became one of the best known secrets in Jerusalem, one of the first bars in Israel to serve Guinness on tap, customers spilling out of the door.
By 1999, Mike’s Place had become a fixture on the Jerusalem scene and Ganzman decided to expand the business. He brought in his brother Gal, as a business partner.
The bars got bigger, the bands got better and the regulars became family. It really never stopped being that living room
In July 2001, Mike’s Place opened in Tel Aviv. Next to the U.S. Embassy on the beach-front promenade, but the bar never abandoned its Jerusalem heritage even amongst the bright neon lights of Israel’s biggest city. The friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere still provides a welcome contrast to the trendy and often pretentious local nightlife.
The bar by the beach became a place where people could just relax and be themselves. True to its roots, the mix of live blues and rock-and-roll, with no cover charge, was a first for Tel Aviv.
On 29th April 2003, terrorists attempted to destroy that Mike’s Place ‘home’ and everything it stood for.
The weekly jam-session was in full swing, and as usual the regulars were dancing and getting some air on the sidewalk outside. At 12:45am, a homicide bomber approached Mike’s Place and blew himself up at the entrance to the bar – killing three and wounding over 50. Long-time friend and regular, security guard Avi Tabib blocked the bomber, preventing him from entering the bar, and without doubt prevented a far greater tragedy.
Dominique Hass, 29, Ran Baron, 23, and Yanai Weiss, 46 were murdered in the attack.
The pain was felt across time zones, continents and generations of people who had visited, experienced and felt at home at the strange little bars in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
People from all over the world; people who had only ever passed through Israel and stopped in for a visit, joined the chorus of support, from the Mike’s Place family worldwide. All did what they could for the wounded and their families.
In the days following the attack, there were over 80,000 hits on the Mike’s Place website, hundreds of messages and calls of support, some from friends but many from strangers, expressing sympathy and solidarity with the Mike’s Place family.
And that solidarity could be seen on the ground. Exactly seven days after the attack, hundreds of people, including foreign and local dignitaries, attended a remembrance service held at Mike’s Place. That ceremony, which fell poignantly at the end of Israel’s National Remembrance Day, and the beginning of Israel’s Independence Day marked the reopening of Mike’s Place after just one week.
It also expressed a desire to carry on – and show that terrorism would not prevail, and that the Mike’s Place spirit would live on. When the sun went down that day, the nation dried its tears of sorrow and began to celebrate independence. That is the Israeli way, to grieve, and then bounce back again.
To continue the legacy of the family members that were lost, the Life after Terror Fund was established to assist and aid the wounded and their families. Concerts are planned in London, New York and Tel Aviv to raise money for the fund, and to celebrate the lives of those who were murdered.
One memorial message left at the scene of the attack put it simply:
“The Mike’s Place spirit was never constrained by mere walls, it resides in the people who it touched, and became part of its family forever.”