Israel has been a destination for pilgrimage for millennia and its ancient heritage is renowned the world over. The only democracy in the Middle East has become a young, vibrant, modern nation… and one of pilgrimage for the intrepid foodie. Travelers of all ages are finding that Israel’s mix of traditional and new is a wonderful way to discover the real Israel, an oft misunderstood slice of diversity in its neighborhood. Over 70 ethnicities make up the mosaic of its social fabric.
The nation is experiencing a culinary revolution inspired by this eclectic plethora of influences that is attracting attention and visitors from across the globe. The food is surprisingly affordable for a first-world nation. Open-air markets called ‘shuks’ are where a lot of fresh produce can be found. Growers and operators of small and specialized food delis gather to showcase their products and the quality is excellent. Unsurprisingly, olives, dates and dairy products abound.
You have to try bourekas, the fluffy, flaky dough stuffed full of the most delicious potato, cheese and/or mushrooms. It is cliché, yes, but hummus and falafel are authentically Israeli and you would be remiss to not try it here. Masabacha is a dish of creamy hummus topped with tahini and spiced chickpeas. Accompanied by lemon-infused chili and onion, it is served with fresh pita. Not. To. Be. Missed. Falafel is probably the most common snack food eaten in Israel, probably because no one does it better anywhere else. Not only that, you will not find as much variety or as many different ways of preparing the favorite in any other country. Shakshuka! No, that isn’t a traditional Israeli greeting; it’s this mouth-watering, heavenly, divine… (you get it) tomato-based egg dish that has people raving. Just the memory of the sight of the eggs arranged around the center of the bowl of creamy tomato sauce and cooked in place has made me hungry right now. Sprinkled with feta and herbs, it is especially good because you can make it on your own, adding your favorite ingredients. Schwarma is a meat-lovers delight. Spiced meat, roasted to perfection on a rotating spit is sliced off and ensconced in pita bread. It is enhanced with tahini, onion, hummus and spicy sauces that vary from creator to creator, meaning most people have their own favorite schwarma places.
The Israeli love for food is on display all over the country. However, Tel Aviv-Jaffa should be the very first destination, on your list – it was named the world’s fifth-best food travel destination last year.