Ezekiel "Hatzkel" Weinstein : The Man Behind "Kafit," a Tel Aviv Icon

Ezekiel Weinstein, known by the nickname "Hatzkel Ish Ksat" (Hatzkel, the Man with the Cap), was the founder and owner of the renowned Tel Aviv coffeehouse known as "Kafit."

Born in the town of Rysha, in Eastern Galicia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in Poland), Hatzkel embraced Zionism from a young age. He was an active member of the pioneering movement in the Boruchov group.

At the age of 21, in 1929, he made Aliyah to the Land of Israel and participated in draining swamps in the Be'erah region. Settling in Tel Aviv, he began working as a dishwasher, cook, and waiter, where he would later meet his future wife, Leah. After gaining experience in the field, he opened the "Waiters' Club" on Nes Ziona Street. In 1931, for a brief period, he managed "Hoberman Café" on the old Tel Aviv promenade.

In 1935, together with Elona Mordekovich and Lieb, he founded the coffeehouse "Kafit" on Ben Yehuda Street, which later moved to 117 Dizengoff Street after the partnership dissolved. "Kafit" quickly became the epicenter of Tel Aviv's bohemian scene, attracting intellectuals and artists like Nathan Alterman, Abraham Shlonsky, Leah Goldberg, Chaim Gouri, Moshe Shamir, Hanna Rovina, Alexander Penn, Yosef Zaritsky, Uri Zohar, Shmulik Kraus, Josie Katz, and Arik Einstein.

Hatzkel Ish Ksat was responsible for feeding David Ben-Gurion's entourage during his third visit to the Negev and Eilat in June 1949. Ben-Gurion himself acknowledged his generosity in a letter. Hatzkel Ish Ksat was renowned for his extreme generosity, often providing free meals to actors and artists. His imposing figure, with a tall, broad-shouldered frame, stern yet frozen expression, and small eyes, gave the impression of an Assyrian despot, but his heart was pure gold. He had a soft-spoken demeanor and a gentle touch, always attentive to the needs of his guests, be they Hebrew scholars or struggling artists.

Hatzkel often featured in songs, stories, paintings, and photographs taken at his establishment. During this time, he acquired the nickname "Hatzkel." Along with Abraham Shlonsky, during a period when everyone underwent a name change, they transformed "Weinstein" into "Ish Ksat," and "Einstein" into "Ish Kabibble." Thus, "Kafit" was born.

Hatzkel was featured in the song by Arik Einstein, "Yoshev Besan Francisco Al Hamayim" ("Suddenly I want to go back home, back to the swamp, to sit at 'Kafit' and laugh with Moshe and Hatzkel"). He also appeared in the song by Ya'akov Rotblit and Shmulik Kraus, "Eich Osim Tiklit" ("How to make a recording"), set in the coffeehouse ("Yavvei and Shmulik sit at Hatzkel Ksat's place").

Upon his passing in 1979, Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat decided to hold an official funeral service for him. During the ceremony, all of Dizengoff Street was blocked to traffic, and his coffin was carried with great honor into "Kafit," where eulogies were delivered by Amichai Gurvitz and Moshe Bernstein. The funeral procession then moved to the Kiryat Shaul Cemetery, with thousands of Tel Aviv residents participating. On his tombstone, the famous Yiddish actor Shimon Dzigan recited the eulogy.


Hatzkel left behind his wife Leah and their two children, Moshe Ish Ksat and Tzvia Litman, who continued to run "Kafit." After the passing of their two children, Leah ran the coffeehouse with her son-in-law Zeev Litman.

From 1996 to 2001, a legal battle ensued over "Kafit" between Zeev Litman and the owners of the premises, who had leased it to Hatzkel under a protected tenancy. During this period, Leah was no longer involved in the affairs of the coffeehouse. Leah passed away on February 9, 2011, at the age of 101.

Even years after his passing, "Kafit" continued to hold memorial events for Hatzkel Ish Ksat, attracting many bohemian personalities and intellectuals of Tel Aviv.

Hatzkel's enduring legacy is not only the beloved "Kafit" but also the profound impact he had on the cultural and social fabric of Tel Aviv, forever remembered as "Hatzkel Ish Ksat."

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