On Monday, ,March 16, 2009, five and a half years since Oved had passed away, Prof. Ariel Rubinstein published an article in "Yediot Aharonot" newspaper under the title " University of Cafes". Something lit up deep within me. It seems to me that Oved would have, with a few slight changes, signed the article, and would have concluded it same as Ariel (that's how Prof. Rubinstein introduced himself to me):" I am having the time of my life."
The cafe for Oved wasn't just about the place, it was about the coffee itself. "I don't care which coffee, a simple coffee", says Rubinstein, "In order to be part of our campus there's no need for an advanced Italian espresso machine...it's important that sitting in a cafe won't bring on a gluttony spree...the place should have a caressing cozy ambiance. It's recommended to have a tree to shield the windows on days of heat waves, it's important to have a window and not openings that bring on draft. The acoustics are also important...the music, it mustn't be too loud."
On Rubinstein's website there is a list of tens of cafes around the world, our little world, in which our scholars gather at all its' corners. (When Nissim left University for work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he was tempted to think that this was the only way he could travel the world. What a mistake!).
Why cafes? I must admit that I thought Oved had set up this way of working. I didn't know the intellectuals of Taamon Coffee Shop in Jerusalem, and I haven't heard of Atara Cafe in Ben-Yehuda. I did hear about and read about Kasit in Tel-Aviv, which was a central gathering place for Bohemians. The people of my generation didn't sit in cafes, back then there was only the University in Jerusalem, spread out in different buildings across the city.
Personally, I had studied in Terra Santa. When we went past the old monastery one day with our eldest grandson Yaron, Oved's son, I told him: here we met, Grandfather and me. "So" said Yaron "this is where you decided to be my grandma and grandpa!"
I already mentioned in one of the previous chapters that the students went to the cafeteria Hillel St. That was due to the low prices, and as a popular gathering place. I kept a distance of a wide radius around the cafeteria which reeked of Bakala, and had spread the stench to its' surroundings. Terra Santa didn't have cafeterias. There was a small Kiosk, which was always stuffy and packed full of people. Friends and lovers sat on the steps. Who from my generation won't remember Haim Guri and his beloved Aliza on the steps of Terra Santa? Right before our eyes, their love which lasts to this day, grew.
And again I ask: what's with the cafes? For my parents in Kefar Bilu, who were hard workers of the settlement, the cafes were outcast. "What do healthy people do in the morning in cafes??", asked Mother. That's a gang of lazy parasites, bourgeois (meant as an insult), speculators, vacuous, that aren't made for the new homeland and aren't fitting in. At three years old I was taught to sing, in front of deeply moved guests, songs of the revolution. "Rise up laborer and ready yourself for the rebellion, grab the weapon worker! Trample and crush fascists' thugs, in flames the world will subside!"(Applause).
Oved, as a child and as an adolescent, loved the countryside. His childhood experiences outdoors and working on the farm must have contributed to the absolute patriotism in his adulthood. As much as it seems contradictory to me, he wouldn't under any circumstances settle down in the country as many of his friends did. The urban atmosphere which was part of his adolescent life around the world (due the service in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and the dynamic upbeat pulse of Tel-Aviv "The city that never stops", was also his pulse. "What can you do, I feel like going downstairs at two A.M, drink coffee and think...with myself or with friends."
Dr. Koresh Galil, today a professor in Ben-Gurion University, reminisces: "We met at "Hashoftim" Pub on Hashoftim St. in Tel-Aviv. It was the second day of Rosh Hashsana, at ten P.M, Oved was just before a departure and had to finish up some urgent matters. It was the only spare time he had left. We talked about the material of instruction for my doctoral thesis. I didn't see anything unusual in that. A standard meeting. And I know that after I went came a few other students for counseling and guidance." Koresh recounts another pleasant meeting, one of many, in the Sheinkin garden, a quiet place in bustling surroundings. Friends came one after another. "I", says Koresh, "have never met Oved in his office. I liked this "cafes system" so much I adopted it nowadays, as a professor: a nice day, Be'er-Sheva, sun, beer (not necessarily, coffee) work well, but small talks, humor, and openness, also fit in. I was a journalist when I first met Oved, it was him who drew me into studying economics, I feel it's thanks to him that I completed my thesis."
It's interesting to point out a different narrative as well: Roi Shalem, a student of Oved's from the list of students that was provided for me, in all goodness, by Anna Ayash and Dafna Gal, the secretaries of the School of Economics, as they're emphasizing that he was Oved's protégé. He said he only met Oved in his office in the university. Like him, Moshik Lavi who works in Paris nowadays on a scholarship from the Sorbonne, points out: "I have never met Oved at cafes but I met him countless times at the school. He was so dominant at the department, radiating strength and warmth...there was something captivating in him. He taught me when I was studying for an M.A, and encouraged and helped a lot with moving to the "winner's track". There were students like these as well.
My first memory from "The Campus of Cafes " brings me to "Shelly" cafe, in Dizengoff Center. It was during Oved's B.A studies, in Bar-Ilan, on a temporary leave from the army. Shelly, a place that isn't intimate at all, open, endless traffic, high volume, and Oved in between. Almost every morning, a coffee to start the day, often with Yossi Cassuto, his close friend. At the time of my matriculation exams, according to my mother, everyone was tiptoeing in their socks. That's how they made it possible for me to handle the exams successfully. Oved knew how to seal out the commotion, to concentrate and work for hours. The noises which he allowed to infiltrate had a positive effect. It seemed he even needed them. He was a student then and the cafe constituted a place of work and pleasure, at the cafe he studied, prepared his assignments, and thought to himself. When he thought, nothing could distract him.
The group he belonged to at the time consisted of three colonels of the IDF, who were older than him. Yehuda Bar and Eitan Ben-Eliyahu from the air force, and Rafi Apel from the navy. They were there in order to complete their studies for an academic degree, which was needed for a promotion in the army. The three of them felt a bit "rusty", due to their long period of absence from any form of schooling. "We discovered the boy", says Yehuda, "And from that moment on we didn't leave him alone. "Oved tutored them through the Introduction to Economics, Macro, and price theory, and prepared them for the exams. They were already married and had studied in their private homes. Nevertheless, the cafes were not neglected. In the evening Ariella, Oved, and their friends went out to drink. If he had work, Oved kept on going until late, with an additional espresso, of course.
After Bar-Ilan Oved went back to the navy, as a missile ship commander. It was a dream come true, and a circle completed. Though his father urged him to become commander of the navy, Nissim's efforts were in vain. At Bar-Ilan he found his purpose, and didn't have anymore doubts about his academic future. On the website, in the chapter "From Mother's Diary" there is a section dedicated to this period in time. The time passed and went by, Oved kept running forward. He was overcome by the feeling of precious time being lost. He had already enrolled for an M.A. in Jerusalem. Prof. Patenkin's reputation preceded him. The scholarship he received wasn't too generous. Ariella, his wife, helped as much as she could, and Oved prepared students for their exams. The price he charged was ridiculously minimal. His family joked about it:
Question:"What do you teach Oved?"
Answer: "The price theory. "
The low price theory of course!
His close friend at the time was Oscar Volij. Nowadays an economics Prof. at the University of Ben-Gurion in Be'er-Sheva. Oscar, a newcomer from Argentina, where he received his B.A, arrived in Jerusalem in order to study from his economical idol, pure intellectual, as he had put it, admired by the Jewish youth- Prof. Patenkin. He was stunned when he noticed Oved licking ice-cream next to the professor. As opposed to Oved, Oscar's approach on the issue of time was much more moderate. Coming from a supportive family he felt his whole life was still ahead of him. His relationship with Oved set a quicker pace for him. He told me that oved had recruited him for intensive weekends of "labor camp". They would arrive at Eibesheutz in Tel-Aviv, sometimes they would come to visit us in Rehovot for Saturday dinner, and later they would start working. Working and drinking coffee alternately. Great doses of coffee. They barely ever slept. At midnight they would go to a pub and work there as well. Oved liked to come up with ideas and questions, and Oscar, as he testifies about himself, had talked endlessly. They thought together. The issues they discussed didn't have to do with their specific studying topics necessarily, but the occupation with economics from its' various angles, was truly obsessive.
At the cafeteria in Jerusalem, Adi Brener (who nowadays works for the Bank of Israel) used to join them. "We were the department's trio", is how he put it. He studied for his PhD in the United States. After a detailed examination of the Universities coast to coast, their conditions of admission, tuition fees, scholarship options and so on, Oved chose Harvard-Cambridge and they chose him. An intellectual and social experience like no other. Met some wonderful people, friends for life. There he completed his studies with outstanding achievements, received the luxurious Sloan Scholarship, and created the foundation of his academic life, which progressed successfully and was full of satisfaction.
After completing his post-doctorate at Brown University in Providence, he came back to Israel. Lucky to have two wonderful sons. He had to make a difficult decision, to chose between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. In Jerusalem he graduated his degree Summa Cum Laude. There were instructors and professors he appraised and respected and they had waited for him. When I met Prof. Shishinsky to discuss my writing for the website, he had told me that he was convinced and certain that Oved was planning to obtain a position in The Hebrew University, where he originally studied. He had been encouraged by his teachers in Jerusalem, and Shishinsky himself was involved with his admission to Harvard. Prof. Shishinsky had told me: "At first I resented Oved for his decision to work in Tel-Aviv, and had shown discontent. Nowadays, in retrospect, I would have thought otherwise and would have accepted each individual's right to flow freely and chose what seems to be the best in his opinion. It is probably good for him, and so is also good for his research." At the same time when Oved moved back to Israel from the U.S. a few more young and outstanding colleagues joined the Economics department at Tel-Aviv University. It was an important contribution, and the future seemed bright. Yet in Jerusalem, they weren't aware that one of his main considerations was the "campus of cafes", in which he planned to fit in, and so he did.
I very much liked Ehud Menirav's story which I named: "domestic coffee". At the meeting with Prof. Nava Cahana in Bar-Ilan, I was shocked to discover she remembers Oved whom she had taught twenty-five years ago. Nava, a noble and rare teacher, keeps in a special binder different items and souvenirs from students that she became attached to. She showed me a postcard that Oved had sent her from Harvard, and the recommendation letter she had provided Oved with on his way to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Another beloved student, whom she had told me about, was Ehud Menirav. He had a dilemma about whether to continue his studies for an M.A. in Bar-Ilan or Tel-Aviv and asked for his teacher's advice. "Out of loyalty for the institute in which I work I should have recommended Bar-Ilan. But because I want what is best for you, I would love to see you fit in the course to an M.A. and PhD under the instruction of Oved, in Tel-Aviv University. "While I'm still deliberating", tells me Ehud, "I received a phone call from Oved, whom I had already met." "I'm on my way to Rehovot, to visit my parents, for Saturday dinner. I would gladly take this opportunity to meet you at your home in Nes-Ziona, which is on my way anyhow." "We drank, coffee of course, and more coffee- domestic coffee! We talked for a long time and I was persuaded." Oved formed a connection between Ehud and Prof. Helpman, who instructed him during his doctoral thesis. The end result: Ehud Menirav graduated. Today he works for "Teva". He is content to be where he is at.
When Oved first started to study economics as a form of concession on his part, rather than an act of choice. Bar-Ilan University allowed people who were serving in the Army to achieve a B.A. degree in economics, to complete it in two years with no additional schooling, which matched the period of time he could take a schooling leave from the army. Oved had yearned to study mathematics. He had to give that up. That choice would have left him with schooling obligations well into his army service. In retrospect, he believed that some guiding force led him to the profession that suited his personality so well. Mathematics, with all of the intellectual satisfaction it contains, and its' expressions of the wondrous human mind, is integrated anyhow with economical studies. Only, economical studies also involve a human aspect of life: the person, his needs, his inclinations, his aspirations, and his urges, which suited Oved so well. It suited his passion for life, and above all else, his love for mankind. Therefore, the bustling environment of coffee shops, the company, the arguments, the simplicity and humor which balance the depth of thought, have become a way of life for him.
During the "Shivaa" we received a letter from Charlotte Ostergaard, a student of Oved's from Brown: "When I was visiting in Tilburg University I had discovered another side of Oved's. I cherished his professional skills, and was impressed by his enthusiasm, which was so contagious. At Tilburg I had learned about his method of working, namely, his habit of working over a good cup of espresso in a suitable café, was famous even in Holland." We had received many letters that were similar in their essence.
The conversation with Prof. Yishay Yafeh (nowadays a professor at the school of Business Management in the Hebrew University), also had this general theme to it, but went beyond it as well. Yishay was a close friend. Him and Oved had a deep connection between them. They also published a few professional articles together. Oved, due to his special modesty (a typical characteristic of his that I haven't expressed properly yet), was very fond of this broad minded scholar, with his shy smile, who never bothered to emphasize his ego. It was Ishay that Oved asked for on his last day, to come to the hospital with the laptop in order to finish up last matters. "We met at millions of cafes", says Yishay, "I always found Oved with all of his papers working frantically." Yishay, for some reason, like to reminisce about Oved's "red haired" fits. I see him in my mind, in these very moments, standing nearby, waiting quietly and patiently. Like us, he was well aware that this fire subsides quickly. We met, says Yishay, in cafes in Jerusalem, but mostly we worked on "campus" in Tel-Aviv. There were other places we went to as well. I remember a good meeting at the gas station of Ben-Gurion airport, at 7:00 A.M. We were both awaiting our flights.
I carry within me an image of Ichilov Hospital. Ishay and Hedva Ber arrive. Sad days are coming over us. Oved asks me to step outside. I can only guess the meaning of his conversations with the people who were close to him. With me Oved spoke only in a positive manner. His student Dr. Sharon Blei, is also touched by those days. On the day before the last Oved says: "I have to tie some loose ends about Sharon's doctorate and make sure no one stands in her way." Whoever reads Sharon's eulogy on the website and what I had written here, won't be able to ignore the exemplary relationship between a teacher who loved teaching, and a student who loved to learn. At the end of her eulogy she describes what we all had experienced:"the optimism, the decisiveness,....the commitment,...the dedication,...the courage,...the restraint, left the people around him basking in his glory." " Indeed", she tells me," Oved was very active at the "campus" of cafes in Tel-Aviv. His conduct wasn't spontaneous. It was well thought out and planned. As if he had appointed a specific activity for each place in accordance with the matters he dealt with or people he met."
Prof. Francesca Cornelli, from the school of Business Management in London, a close friend from the time spent in Harvard, had worked with Oved for many years around the globe. According to her, Oved was very spontaneous. Even though he was completely absorbed in a project he was working on at the time, he had to, really had to change, to switch surroundings and places, and so he wandered the different cafes. In Brussels, Paris and London, he had become fond of a cafe chain which originated in Belgium, and today is spread out all over Europe: "Le Pain Quotidian" (the daily bread). And why is that? because of the special structure of the cafe. At its' center there was a huge table, which allowed Oved to spread out all of his papers, and even work with a team. She remembers and laughs:" It was in Brussels...we're sitting and working, chatting a little and gossiping a little, drinking espressos of course, eating a croissant or two, and continuing to work, when Oved gets up and announces:"It is time to change." And where do we go? To Pain Quotidian, at another quarter of the city. Even when she came to Israel they would wander the cafes. Oved knew exactly which type of coffee they would get in every place. "We couldn't get an aperitif in Tel-Aviv during the daytime", says Francesca, "But I learned to eat a watermelon with feta cheese in Israel." A month before Oved passed away, Francesca came especially from London and they had worked together at home, on Eibesheutz St. Oved used to become tired very quickly, at the time, and needed rest every now and again. Francesca used these breaks to spend some time with Ariella. They have been keeping in touch all these years.
In closing, I would like to quote part of a speech given by Prof. Leonardo Felli (also a friend from Cambridge, Massachusetts) at the first economical conference in memory of Oved, in 2004 at the school of Economics in Tel-Aviv. The conference was organized by Prof. Dani Tsidon and Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg. I see in Leonardo's speech a proper summary of the main topics which Oved researched professionally, with enthusiasm and persistence, and his cautious and critical attitude towards economical models. Leonardo points out the friendship and wondrous personal interaction that developed through the "campus of cafes", that are part of the legacy that Oved had left for his colleagues, friends and students. The whole speech can be found on the website www.ovedyosha.com, in the section: In Oved's Memory.
Leonardo:" This conference gives us a unique opportunity to show that not only Oved is still very much with us in our memory as a friend or a family member but he is also with us in the legacy he left us as a scholar. What characterizes his approach was his energy, his enthusiasm, and his will to keep looking until he found an intuitive and satisfactory solution to the problem. We all remember afternoons and evenings spent in coffee shops engaged with Oved in lively discussion of interesting and very diverse economic problems. It didn't matter whether it happened in Tel – Aviv, London, or Brussels. Oved always had his favorite coffee shop and in this his favorite corner. We all know that coffee is a key input of research, and Oved was very partial to this input and to the coffee shop environment as the ideal place where to discuss and develop research……..I believe that this thirst for an answer and in general his attitude toward research is an important part of the legacy Oved left us.
I cannot judge whether Oved's legacy continues to guide and encourage his many students, and if that "contagious enthusiasm" still surges within them. As for the lively activity on the "campus of cafes" in Tel-Aviv, why, Prof. Rubinstien indicates it in his article. From his words we can learn about work that is also fun, about support and productive collaboration. The meetings, even over the phone, with colleagues of oved, give me great satisfaction. I would like to thank Dafna, the secretary at the School of Economics, who helped me track down the friends, with a lot of patience and personal kindness. I believe that there are many more who will find interest in sharing their experiences, with us. It can be done on the website in memory of Oved.
:Roberto Serrano"s comment
Many thanks for your message. I think your idea about putting together a webpage to remember Oved is wonderful. I think of Oved many times. His energy and enthusiasm left a deep inprint in me. I distinctly remember going to work with him to one of the local cafes here in Providence, the “Meeting Street Café,” which is still open. I don’t know if you heard this story before, but this café used to have a promotion called the “bottomless cup of coffee,” which meant that for a little bit more than the price of a regular cup, you could get an unlimited number of refills. When Oved and I went there to work, we made extensive use of this promotion, and it’s perhaps not surprising that they had to get rid of it, no doubt to be able to stay in business.
I’ll try to give you a phone call some time tomorrow Monday.
With all my best wishes, Roberto
Leonardo Felli's comment:
Thursday, February 04, 2010 8:08 PM
Subject: Re: in memoriam of Oved
I received it and read it and saw the website. I am moved and speechless.....it brought back so many memories of wonderful and lively discussions in a lot of coffee places around the world...thank you
I saw an English summary some time ago of Ariel's piece and his affiliation as "University of Cafes" and every time I see it I think that Oved was certainly the founder of that University and were he still with us he should rightly be its President.
I will be delighted to talk about the Harvard period and the many visits to Tel Aviv when Oved got back to Israel and we got to London. When is a good time for you to talk? I am away for a conference (I leave tomorrow) but I am back on Monday and I can skype you whenever it is convenient for you.