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September 28, 2023

Whatever happened to… Jerusalem?

In the last of this 10 year anniversary column, CityMag co-founder Josh Fanning examines the foundations upon which the magazine is built. Enjoy.

  • Words: Josh Fanning
  • Pictures: Andrè Castellucci

Whatever happened to Jerusalem… the iconic restaurant on Hindley Street?

Whatever happened to Michael Merhi… Jerusalem’s enigmatic owner?

Whatever happened to BYO being encouraged… let alone accepted?

I don’t know. But things have changed.

In the last of my silly series of articles bemoaning the micro, macro and completely wako changes the city’s undergone in the time CityMag’s been running, I wanted to focus on something authentic.

This week we celebrated CityMag’s 10-year anniversary with a bit of a shin-dig at Wax on Rundle Street. My very good friend Dylan was there and he brought up this column, describing the first piece as ‘slightly unhinged’.

“I was a bit worried, ‘is Josh alright?’” he said.

We laughed.

I’m fine. I think.

People loved and hated that piece about Ying Chow (which is the commercial imperative of good opinion writing). Many laudable people came to the defence of hospitality workers and business owners citing COVID as one possible reason for why Ying Chow was closed “early”.

Jerusalem’s owner, Michael Merhi peers through the iconic ‘order here’ window.

In the midst of COVID, owner of Jerusalem, Michael Merhi quietly closed his business forever. And with that, he quietly quit his lifelong commitment to serving THE most exquisite, simple, affordable and just plain delicious Middle Eastern cuisine.

And, I believe, the city lost a piece of its soul.

CityMag spent 10 years on Hindley Street or Hindley Street adjacent laneways. And while Hindley Street defines in so many ways, “why Adelaide can’t have nice things,” the felafel from Jerusalem was a true diamond in the rough.

Again, at this week’s party, a visitor to Adelaide asked me what CityMag is, and to forgive her ignorance, but, “is it just like Broadsheet?”

I paused. And had to nod.

How can you describe to a visitor all the many nuances that make the mission of this magazine different from the ravenous beast of Broadsheet?

If you haven’t picked up the current edition of CityMag, please do. Many of the reasons for why and how CityMag is a uniquely Adelaide proposition are printed on its pages.

But if you don’t have time for that, maybe this quote from the Young Pope can sum up how I feel about the mission and vision of this title.

“I will never get over my aversion to tourists,” says the fictional Pope Pius XIII.

“Because they are just passing through.”

Building a city means building foundations. Foundations by definition do not move. They are deep.

Forget the bricks, the steel, the cement, the engineering, the architecture. Forget the decorations above the ground.

A great city’s foundations are its people.

People like Michael Merhi, who fed Adelaide for 45 years. People who don’t seek attention so much as they seek satisfaction from sharing who they are, through what they do, and their unique way of doing it.

It’s these people who make Adelaide unique.

And CityMag exists to tell these people’s stories. And to tell them in a way that pays them back, makes them feel proud of everything they’ve done to make our city a better, more interesting, more inclusive and more resilient place to live.

Jerusalem may be closed. But because we cared to write about it, Jerusalem is forever.

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