The owner of an Irish bar in Tel Aviv has said the conflict in the region is “very depressing” for people living in the area.
Robert Siegel grew up in Terenure, Dublin at a time when there were “quite a few” Jewish families in the area.
He told The Pat Kenny Show that, as a child, he was taught about the “wonders” of Israel and the story of its foundation in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
“Somewhere inside I think I always wanted to come and at some stage I just decided, ‘That’s it, I’m going to go,’” he said.
“I packed up everything, left everyone behind and came over.”
Life in Israel
Military service is compulsory for all young Israelis and in the early 1980s Mr Siegel served time in the IDF.
“Unfortunately, I was involved in the Lebanese War in 1982, which was not a great time but [it was] an experience in life, I suppose,” he said.
“In other words, if you want to learn how to live in this country and be part of this country, it’s very important to do your military service.”
After he left the IDF, Mr Siegel set up Tel Aviv’s first Irish bar, Molly Blooms, despite describing locals as “not big drinkers”.
“There’d be a small fraction who like a pint of the black stuff and they would be decent drinkers,” he said.
“Most Israelis would have one beer and on a big night out they’d have one and a half or two.
“So, you’re not going to get rich selling beer but we do food as well, so that makes up for it.”
War with Hamas
Mr Siegel said most Molly Blooms staffers have since been called up to serve in the IDF or left to return to their home countries, leaving the bar understaffed.
The conflict also means the bar’s customers have been reluctant to venture outside.
“A lot of people were shaken by the big missile attack yesterday,” Mr Siegel said.
“So, many people didn’t go out but there are people who decided, ‘Enough’s enough, I’ve got to get out the house and go down for a pint and clear the head.’
“That’s what we’re here for.”
'You do sort of get used to it'
In Tel Aviv, locals get a 90-second warning from air raid sirens when a rocket is launched from Gaza and that gives them time to get to a nearby shelter.
It is, Mr Siegel said, “very depressing” but also just a part of life in Israel.
“You do sort of get used to it,” he said.
“It’s something you never really get and it is very off putting when you’re trying to build a business.
“But I’m always optimistic and I hope that all the problems over here will be solved.”
Since October 7th, Israeli officials say around 1,400 of their citizens have been killed and according to Palestinian authorities some 5,000 Gazans have died.
Main image: Robert Siegel in Molly Blooms.