David Ehrlich, beloved owner of Jerusalem’s Tmol Shilshom, dies suddenly at 61

Ehrlich founded the cozy, book-lined establishment that has been hosting authors and poets for 25 years

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Tmol Shilshom founder and co-owner David Ehrlich (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)
Tmol Shilshom founder and co-owner David Ehrlich (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)

David Ehrlich, a lover of books and writers, and the beloved owner of Jerusalem’s iconic Tmol Shilshom cafe, died Sunday.

According to sources, Ehrlich died of a sudden heart attack. He was 61.

His death was announced on Facebook by his business partner, Dan Goldberg.

“With great sadness and inexplicable pain, I announce that my partner, close friend and founder of Tmol Shilshom, David Ehrlich, passed away tonight. It is hard for me to talk of him in the past tense. The good in him, the love and hope for a better future always guided him,” wrote Goldberg on the Tmol Shilshom Facebook page.

Ehrlich’s funeral will take place Monday in Rehovot.

For the last 25 years, the book-lined cafe in the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood has been known as a place where authors, poets and book lovers sit, nurse a cup of tea, and, often, work on their writing.

Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai read his poems at Tmol Shilshom’s opening in 1994, later followed by Amos Oz, Aharon Appelfeld, David Grossman and Etgar Keret.

On a Facebook thread following Goldberg’s post about Ehrlich’s death, Amichai’s son David Amichai wrote a tribute.

“This dear, sweet man with the best heart, whom I spoke with just two days ago, isn’t here any longer,” wrote Amichai. “When my father, Yehuda Amichai, was sick and did not have an appetite, beloved David would regularly come with bread from Tmol Shilshom that Dad so loved, and he never missed an opportunity to come. This describes who this man was, in one sentence, as I’m drenched in tears.”

Ehrlich struggled to keep the cafe open at various times — during the Second Intifada in 2000, and again in 2014 and 2015, when tourism was decimated by rockets from Gaza.

Last week, he announced that the cafe would be closing indefinitely because of the coronavirus.

Back in 2015, while battling to keep his business going, he told The Times of Israel, “This place has an importance far beyond my making a living.”

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