A Taste Of Tel Aviv

Israel’s Vibey City Also Vegan Capital of the World

By David. E. Kaplan

I recall some 25 years ago, the celebrated English novelist and former politician, Jeffrey Archer, addressing an ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association) public lecture at City Hall in Ra’anana. It was a riveting talk on his bestsellers interspersed with anecdotes and a revelation that he still had his sights on residing at “10 Downing Street”.

He had plenty of positive things to say about the Holy Land but concluded with one negative – its cuisine. “OMG where am I to go for dinner after this lecture. Your country may have plenty to offer, but good food is not one them!”

The audience laughed.

A quarter of a century ago, Archer was dead right.

Today he would be dead wrong!

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Affirming this transformation is none other than that esteemed writer’s country’s public service broadcaster – the BBC. Its ‘Good Food’  ranked Tel Aviv in the Top 10 Destinations For Foodies In 2020. Israel’s “City that never sleeps” came in seventh following  Galway in Ireland, Lyon in France, Los Cabos in Mexico, Holland, Malta and Marrakesh in Morocco.  In ranking Tel Aviv so highly, the BBC’s Good Food spotlighted the city’s well-deserved moniker as “the vegan capital of the world.”

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Vibey & Vegan. Tel Aviv has been designated the “Vegan capital of the world”.

 

Writes BBC Good Food:

With vegan dishes at the heart of Tel Aviv’s culinary tradition, it’s always been a great destination for lovers of plant-based food. Backed by vast agricultural land, this seaside city serves up veggies that often travel farm-to-fork in the same day. In recent years, Tel Aviv has upped its game to become the world’s self-designated vegan capital, with slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza. This young, LGBT-friendly beach buzzy city has boutique Bauhaus-style hotel hangouts with cool cocktail bars, and a burgeoning crop of cheffy restaurants, but the budget-eats steal the show. For stellar street food, there’s nothing like Tel Aviv’s hummus, falafel and shakshuka, served at hole-in-the-wall joints, street stands, and stalls lining local markets such as the sprawling Shuk Hacarmel. Just four-five hours’ flight from the UK, this is an exotic break that doesn’t require a long-haul schlep.”

BBC’s Good Food picked up on Israel being in the vanguard of healthy eating, focusing on what grows in the field rather than what dwells on it. For one Israeli company, Aleph Farms, its philosophy is that man’s eating experience should not be at the expense of the life of an animal. In October, Lay Of The Land published an article Israel leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World revealing this company served the world’s first lab-grown steak.

However, not only is Israel looking to ‘cultivate’ meat involving no slaughtering of animals but is catering to the ever-increasing appetite of VEGANS which was glowingly acknowledged by BBC Good Food. It highlighted that the country has in recent years “upped its game,” offering “slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza.”

Tel Aviv is home to at least 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens and hosts annual vegan festivals.

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Smooth Operator. Bana is one of Tel Aviv’s super-cool, new vegan-friendly restaurants (Bana)

Viva La Vegan

So, with 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens serving most of Israel’s 200,000 vegans, going meat-free isn’t only easy, it’s a chance to chew on the best chow in town.

As one food critic noted:

 “Thanks to the sun-kissed climate, high quality fruit and veg is never too far – you can see it in the colour, taste it in the flavour and smell it in the aroma of what’s on your plate.”

In Tel Aviv, “there is a real emphasis on freshness of produce,” says vegan restaurant owner Merav Barzilay. Though he founded Meshek Barzilay on an organic farm 15 years ago, he says it was an easy move to the city. Tel Aviv’s proximity to fresh vegetables “means a customer can eat a tomato the same day it was picked in the field”.

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Looks Good, Tastes Good, Is Good. A vegan burger at Meshek Barzilay in Tel Aviv (Meshek Barzilay)

For Tel Aviv’s green chefs, preparation for the day ahead, starts with a stroll through the kaleidoscope of colour and chaos  of its “shuks” (markets) selecting fresh produce.

“That’s the beauty of the marketplace – everyone is feeding each other,” says Cafe Kaymak’s Jo Cohen, one of the first vegetarian coffee shop owners in Tel Aviv. Sourcing for his multicultural kitchen from the nearby Carmel Market, “We draw from many different wells,” he says, “Turkey and Greece as well as Japan, Morocco, Tunisia and, of course, the Middle East.”  His signature vegan dish, galean mjadra, is a spicy hot-pot of lentils, paprika, almonds and berries cooked and presented on a bed of bulgur wheat and topped with salsa and tahini.

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By George! Nanuchka has a been a culinary institute in Tel Aviv for the last 20 years, it started as a Georgian restaurant and bar but during the last 5 years changed its skin and became fully vegan.

In the past seven years, the explosion of plant-based restaurants has transformed Israel’s population of just eight million into the largest vegan nation, per capita, in the world. Israel’s Tourism Ministry now promotes the country as a “vegan nation” – and Tel Aviv is at the heart of this culinary movement.

Nothing surprising in this phenomenon, explains Sharon Berger in the Forward:

“Unless you have been living under a rock you will probably already know that Israel has become the leading vegan country in the world, with 5.2% of the population eschewing all animal goods in their daily diet. This number has more than doubled since only 2010 when 2.6% of the population was vegan or vegetarian.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Israeli staples naturally includes a large amount of vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes already, including hummus and falafel, the country’s best-known dishes.

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Culinary Unveiling. In colorful Levinsky Market in South Tel Aviv, OPA is the highly curated work of vegan chef extraordinaire Shirel Berger. Working exclusively with produce from a farm 40 minutes north of the city, Berger creates understated Mediterranean-style dishes such as squash with maple-smoked pumpkin relish, jalapeño and lemon; and guava with macadamia milk, sourdough crumbs and betel leaves. (Photo by Tommer Halperin)

“The fresh produce is top quality and the Mediterranean diet has lots of flavours in its naturally vegan dishes,” says Ruthie Rousso, a Tel Aviv-based food historian and critic. “The Israeli diet is based on the meze (the little salads you eat before the meal). So giving up on meat is not the biggest sacrifice.”

Inbal Baum, a former attorney and founder of Delicious Israel, a company that offers culinary tours, sees veganism’s popularity as a natural evolution of Israelis’ relationship with the land.

“Veganism makes so much sense historically in the Israeli diet because eating from the land has always been significant,” she explains. “Eating vegetables was a way of survival. We don’t call it ‘farm to table’ here, but this style of local-produce-based eating is how my grandfather was able to live when he arrived at the kibbutz back in the 1930s – they ate what they grew.”

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Fresh At Frishman. Anastasia at Frishman St 54, Tel Aviv-Yafo.

Times They Are A-Changin’

You must know that change is about when even ‘the one and only’ shawarma – that Middle Eastern sliced-meat sandwich beloved by all the world over – is being popularised in its vegan form – most notably at Sultana, a completely vegan eatery in Tel Aviv.

Sultana uses ‘forest mushrooms that have a texture reminiscent of chicken’ and promises to be ‘the original shawarma experience, only 100 percent vegan. Chef Harel Zakaim is bent on changing the rules of the game regarding everything we knew about vegetarian-vegan shawarmas.

Weighing in on why veganism is so increasingly popular in Israel,

Israeli-based international promoter of vegan culture, Ori Shavit, believes there are a number of unique reasons why Israelis are leading this global trend. Over and above the sensitivity to animals, she adds “the country is very young and still evolving so people here are less attached to traditional eating and are used to trying new things, love innovations and  not scared to making changes in their diet.”

Shavit points out that when in 2013 Domino’s Pizza launched its first vegan pizza with non-dairy cheese, it was ‘pioneering’ and “only now just becoming available in other countries.” Israel is also the first country outside of the USA to offer Ben and Jerry’s VEGEN ice cream flavours. “As Israel has a relatively small population,” writes Shavit,  “it’s interesting that these two major international chains both chose to launch their dairy-free products in the holy land.”

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Going Green. Pizza goes vegan at The Green Cat, Tel Aviv. Photo: courtesy

Interesting but not surprising.

With Israel in the vanguard of the global vegan trend, it was little wonder that the Holy Land came in the BBC’s Good Food Top 10.

It’s indicative of who we are and how we would want to live.

“No matter where you live,” says Shavit, “the greatest effect an individual can have on the world starts on his or her plate — so no wonder that people who understand that will try to make a better choice for their food.”

Bon Appétit!

 

*Feature Picture: From The Field To The Fork. Each day, Tel Aviv’s top vegan chefs shop  for fresh produce at the ‘shuks’ like the famous Carmel Market

Seven Things I’ve Learnt In Seven months

By Gabi Crouse

Arriving in the Holy land from South Africa in early April of 2019 was surreal – my long awaited dream come true. We were floating somewhere between holiday vibes, newbies and tourists for a while until the dust settled and slowly, we began the descend back down to earth.

To go into detail about the emotional rollercoaster from our arrival to this point is another article in itself – entitled “the all you could feel Aliya buffet”. There is great learning and hardship, to say the least and potential is forever being reached and stretched. The struggle, as they say, is real. But for some, myself included, humour is the metaphorical sugar to help the medicine go down. A policy to live by is when all else fails – laugh! On that note, I would like to share with you some key observations I have about my new life in the holy land.

  1. Every Israeli owns a cat. Not every Israeli is aware of such ownership, in fact, the likelihood of the  situation is that every cat owns an Israeli. These cats are so well fed by the begrudging Jewish mama (who complains all the way to put the bowl of leftovers out) that the odd mouse or rat strolls around on its back feet, chest out and inspects the would-be left over’s from the cats!

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    Looking to be PUR’ified. Time out at the Western Wall, one of Israel’s over two million cats, who enjoy public generosity and warm Israeli atmosphere.
  2. Not all Israelis working at kupot (check-out counters) are limited to only the Hebrew language.  Some of them do speak English but will only let you in on that bit of information after you’ve said something untoward whilst believing you’re safely hidden behind a language barrier.
  3. The Mazgan (Air conditioner) becomes a sacred part of your structure. The reason for this is that when the moment of its inevitable hum begins, all people (including children) thank the good Lord above, perhaps likened to an informal prayer of techiat hametim (resurrection of the dead).
  4. All roads, when traveling on foot are uphill. This is a phenomenon which, I recon, affects olim chadashim (new immigrants) in particular and can be taken metaphorically as well as literally. Meaning that if you walk uphill to a store, enter the store and then leave again, the very same store which was once at the top of the hill is now magically at the bottom of the hill and the walk home with all your purchased items is now uphill again. You have to live here to believe it.
  5. Your level of emuna (faith) is at its peak when traveling by bus. The very fact that we get on another bus, or a connecting bus after just having survived countless near death experiences is the testimonial of truth to my statement.

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    Ride To Revelations. Life in Israel is best revealed as a passenger on a bus.
  6. The Hebrew language is one big exception to the rule. Every time I think I finally have an idea of how all the tenses are used, out pops the exception to the rule. It is this very inhibiting reality which makes me think they keep changing it to keep me on my toes!

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    Language Of Love. Even if struggling with the Hebrew language, no difficulty in recognising the Ahava (Love) sculpture at the Jerusalem Israel Museum.

The last thing is something that is not easy to explain but I’ll try my best.

  1. Nothing is urgent but everything is urgent to Israelis. Meaning that there is casual approach to getting things done in Israel – everything takes time. Registering processes that could take one or two days drag on for two weeks. Everyone seems to be okay with this for the most part. But on the other hand, G-d help anyone who is slightly obstructed on the road which affects traffic flow – the line of cars instantly becomes a symphony of impatience as if every driver is racing against the clock to save the world.

I would like to add one more lesson which I think is the most valuable to any potential oleh. I have learnt to embrace whatever it is that comes your way and understanding the following:

We haven’t ‘made Aliyah’ – we make Aliyah. It is not something we did, it is something we do every day in all the challenges we face. But as long as we don’t mind walking up the hill all the time, we are good to go and G-d willing everything will be alright. 

 

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Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations aswell as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.

Refusing to ‘Cave’ In

Aussie Rocker Nick Cave UpSTAGES BDS

By David E. Kaplan

Good on ya Nick!”

No matter the opposing odds and tough terrain, Aussies charge ahead. They did it over a 100 years ago in 1917 in Beersheba in helping to boot the Ottoman Turks out of Palestine and they will be doing it again in July 2020 when Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave and his band, The Bad Seeds, will be returning to Tel Aviv.

“Bad Seeds” is a misnomer if ever there was one. We need more of these ‘seeds’!

And may they flourish.

The show will take place at Bloomfield Stadium, as part of a world tour promoting Cave’s album Ghosteen, which deals in part with the tragic death of his 15-year-old son in 2015; after a fall from a cliff.

When he takes to the stage in Tel Aviv – he will again be giving the finger to BDS.

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Pulsating Performance. Nick Cave captivated his Tel Aviv audience Sunday night, November 19 2017. (Courtesy Orit Pnini)

When last appearing in Israel to a packed Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv in 2017, Cave defied pressure from the BDS movement and said he came to Israel  “not despite of” but “because of BDS.”

What did he mean?

Calling  a press conference, the rocker said “After a lot of thought and consideration, I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing a European tour and Israel.’ Because it suddenly became very important to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians; to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians.”

He went on to say that he “loves Israel,” and that he wanted to take “a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians.” He concluded by inferring the BDS Movement’s strategy is backfiring.

So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”

On his website last year, Cave slammed ongoing efforts to impose a boycott on Israel, calling them “cowardly and shameful.”

And this is not to say that he is a supporter of the government of Israel. He is clearly not.

“I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation.”

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Dare To Dream. The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv

This kind of balanced understanding is a far cry from the venomous position of Roger Waters the most visibly public advocate and roving ambassador of BDS that openly promotes – not the “Two State Solution”  – but the dissolution of the state of Israel.  Cave would have none of it from the Pink Floyd cofounder  with his giant-size inflated pig-shaped balloons emblazoned with a Star of David alongside fascist symbols customarily released during concerts.

If his ancestors took on the Ottoman Turks over a 100 years earlier, Roger Waters  and hid BDS cohorts prove they are no match for this principled rocker.

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A Night Where the Stars Appeared In Heaven and Earth. Madonna performing at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Cave Connecting

Prior to his 2017 concert, Cave had previously performed in Israel ’93, ’95 and ’98 and enjoys reflecting that  when “we came to Israel 20 years ago or so, did a couple tours of Israel, I felt a huge connection. Not just ‘people-talk’ of loving a country, but I just felt on some sort of level, a connection that I can’t actually really describe.”

“At the end of the day,” explained Cave in Tel Aviv in 2017, ‘there are two reasons  why I’m here: one is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people, and two is to make a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians. So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”

Waters can remain at the ‘Dark Side of his Moon’ as there has been no letup of artists touring Israel from pop queen Jennifer Lopez, to the 2019 Eurovision Song Competition  held in Tel Aviv.

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Go Figure. Stunning J-lo at Tel Aviv beach in August 2019.

In keeping with the lyrics of Rhianna who has performed numerous times in Israel:’:

Don’t Stop The Music

 

 

 

*Feature picture: Australian musician and writer Nick Cave has elaborated on his stance regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. https://www.irishtimes.com/ (Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images).

Two Faiths, One Direction

By Sarah Ansbacher

I saw him from across the road, his eyes darting towards the entrance to the Aden Jewish heritage museum in Tel-Aviv . I could tell he was thinking about coming in for a visit even before he stubbed out the cigarette he was smoking; and crossed the street.

From his unhurried gait he didn’t appear like a tourist, but neither did he look like a local. He greeted me in accented English – Australian, as it turned out to be.  He told me that he is posted here for a year, working for an international organization. But I could tell his origins weren’t from Australia, as he confirmed, while I answered his questions about the history of the Jewish community in the region of Aden and Yemen; and he told me his family was from around that region.

“From Yemen?”,  I asked.

“Nearby. My father is from Sudan and my mother from Egypt.”, he replied.

He grew up in Australia. One foot in the west, the other in the east – retaining something of the heritage and Islamic faith of his family, and speaking both English and Arabic. But he also surprised me with a few sentences in Hebrew which he’d learnt at university in Melbourne.

I took him around the museum, telling him about the exhibits. And I pointed out a couple of pictures that I thought would be of particular interest.

“That was the synagogue in Port Said, Egypt. There was once a large community there, many of whom came originally from Aden.”

‘What happened to them, did they eventually integrate into the rest of the population?’ he asked.

‘No,’ I whispered. ‘They were all forced to leave in 1956 – along with most of the Jews living in Egypt.’

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The “Ohel Moshe” synagogue inaugurated in 1911 in Port Said Egypt (Photo courtesy: Dr. Rudolf Agstner, Vienna – Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive)

The shock was evident on his face. And so he came to learn something of the history of the vanished communities all around the Middle East.

As we continued, he asked if he, as a Muslim, was allowed to visit a shul (synagogue). In all his time in Israel, he hasn’t yet done so. I told him of course he could and took him up to visit ours. He donned a kippa, and he gazed around in wonder, admiring everything. I explained the  various features to him. For example, that the person who leads the services faces the same direction as the community.

‘Just like in a mosque,’ he replied.

The reason why you won’t find any depictions of our prophets or pictures of Rabbis there.

‘Just like in a mosque,’ he said.

We talked about how the problem isn’t all the different religions, but those who come and turn it to their advantage – and as something to use against others. There was no dispute, just agreement.

I pointed out the Aron Kodesh (the ark in a synagogue that contains the Torah scrolls) and explained to him, ‘Every synagogue around the whole world faces in the direction of Jerusalem. Just like every mosque faces Mecca.’

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Aron Kodesh – the ark in a synagogue that contains the Torah scrolls facing toward Jerusalem

‘I never knew that,’ he replied.

He gazed up at the stained glass windows and to my surprise he then said a Hebrew phrase about God. Contemplating, we stood in silence for a few moments. Two people from different worlds, backgrounds, religions but who pray to the same God.

We stood there, facing Jerusalem.

 

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Sarah Ansbacher is a writer and storyteller. She also works at the Aden Jewish Heritage Museum in Tel Aviv.
*Feature picture: Two faiths, one prayer: Muslims and Jews come together to pray. (Photo:Jewish Journal)

Salivating On The Sidewalk

A ‘Melting Pot’ of where east meets west, discover Tel -Aviv’s ‘Top 10’ ranked Street Food Scene

By David E. Kaplan

With a reputation as “the  city that never sleeps” Tel Aviv provides a plethora of time to eat!

In a recent survey conducted by CEOWORLD – a business magazine and news site for CEOs, CFOs, senior executives, and business leaders – Tel Aviv nabbed seventh slot in a list of The World’s 50 Best Cities For Street Food-Obsessed Travelers.

Looking at the best cities for travelers who love street food, the data for its Street Food Index 2019 drew from a survey conducted over three months – mid-July to mid-September  – of 92,000 business travelers and 1,400 corporate travel agents in 86 countries.

Preceding Tel Aviv’s 7th’s lot was Singapore which took the top spot, followed by Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai and Rome.

The familiar proverb “When in Rome…” apples as much to Tel Aviv, so when in the coastal town ranked by Time Out as the N0. 1 city in the Middle East with “a notorious reputation as a wild non-stop city with a great nightlife and music scene”, tuck into its unique street cuisine.

 Despite the availability today in Tel Aviv-Jaffa of cuisine from all over the world, what remains most popular is its signature ‘street food” that is definitively local and an ‘appetizing’ introduction into Israeli culture.

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Letting Loose In Levinsky. Like these young folk, the Levinsky Market is the perfect place to refuel your body and soul.

After exploring antiquities to art galleries and still have an ‘appetite’ for more, where better to sink your teeth deeper into Israeli culture, then trying its cuisine, and where better to take your first bite than on Tel Aviv’s bustling, pulsating streets.

Blaming the weather for all manner of things is fashionable the world over. Less so in Israel!

It may be that our tasty, popular street food is indebted to Israel’s perennial sunny and warm weather. The fact that one can walk outside and eat outdoors, has created an easy laidback cuisine that gels with the Israel temperament – open, candid and ‘catering’ for loud and boisterous conversation.

Most countries have some indigenous street food, so what’s Israel’s most popular and where best to look?

 Some Like It Hot!

The one indisputable street food that has developed into a national dish is falafel. These are balls made of hummus and spices and fried in deep oil.

It is usually served in a fresh pita (round pocket bread) with a variety of salads, tahina (paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds) and pickles, and if you enjoy fiery hot sauce then you must add skhug (a hot green or red Yemenite chili sauce). Folk with more sensitive palates might dismiss this relish more suitable for gas tanks than gullets, but for most seasoned falafel eaters, it’s a vital component.

“You don’t eat a hot dog without mustard. Same as falafel – you add skhug,” says Avi from Ramat Gan, who the writer met tucking into his falafel in pita at Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa. “This is one of my favorite places for falafel and Shawarma,” says Avi. His wife Ruti was tucking into a shawarma, but without the skhug. “Not for me,” she says, with Avi adding, “she’s hot enough already!”

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Passport To Pleasure. Young visitors from the USA on the Taglit Birthright programme get a literal taste of Israel enjoying falafel in pita. (Photo by Justin Dinowitz)

If in the typically Israeli family of street-food, falafel is the favourite son, then its favourite daughter is shawarma. It comprises cuts of meat (usually turkey, but originally shawarma was made of mutton) which is packed into a pita or laffa (a large Iraqi pitta, which one fills and rolls like a huge taco), with salads and French fries. And if you are wondering why the French  fries, it’s a case of mid-east meets west.

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Street Aroma. GPS in Israel – follow your nose. (Photo by Jonathan Kramer)

One of the most popular ethnic eateries in Jaffa, Dr. Shakshuka takes its name from the dish Shakshuka, which is a pan-fried casserole of poached eggs and spicy tomato sauce, the restaurant’s most popular dish.  Dr. Shakshuka’s many versions of this dish emanate from Libya and have solidly cemented a reputation in Jaffa over three family generations in the business.

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Tasty & Tangy. Shakshuka meaning “mixture” in Berber languages, is a North African dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce with vegetables.

Believing they are “specialists” in this cuisine, explains the “Dr” in the restaurant’s name. But there’s much more here to enjoy: Tripoli-style couscous with mafrum (potato stuffed with ground meat, served with stewed beef and vegetable soup); stuffed vegetables; kishke (North African-style intestine stuffed with meat and rice); grilled lamb patties; and fresh grilled or fried fish. Main courses come with a spread of fresh pita and eight Middle Eastern salads.

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Inside Story. Off the sidewalk in Jaffa you enter the alluring world of the famed Dr. Shakshuka.

Best Kept Secret

While hummus, falafel, and even shawarma, are well-known outside the Middle East, sabich – described by one food critic as “the ultimate Israeli street food” – remains one of the country’s best-kept secrets.

Sabich is a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, tahina, and vegetable salad, while some versions contain boiled-potatoes as well. Pickled cucumbers, chopped parsley, and onions seasoned with purple sumac are usually added, as well as the sauces skhug or amba.

While making sabich may seem simple enough, true lovers of it say that preparing it “just right” is an art form that few truly master. One, who according to Tel Aviv folklore has earned this title of ‘master’, is Oved Daniel, referred to as the “Diego Maradona of Sabich”. Like the revered Argentinean who dominated football in his day, Oved, has been dominating Israel’s sabich scene from his little corner on Sirkin Street in Givatayim, adjacent to Tel Aviv, for nearly three decades. Customers are reputed to flock there from all over the country. Tel Avivians now no longer have to make the trek as Oved subsequently opened a branch in Tel Aviv on Karlebach Street.

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Sabich ‘Say No More’. While falafel enjoys all the street food fame, its lesser known cousin – sabich – is not far behind. It is a glorious synergy between pita bread, egg, eggplant, vegetable salad, with humus tahini and amba.

Oved reveals that “People eat here from all over the world, and many ask about opening branches in the States. I tell ’em, “Forget it, it can’t be done!” They won’t be able to find the right ingredients and importing them will impair the quality.”

Oved offers a sound solution to their problem – Visit Israel often

While some might assert that hummus and falafel are essentially Arab dishes ‘adopted’ by Israelis, sabich is unarguably a local Israeli concoction. The core ingredients can be found in the traditional Shabbat-breakfast of Iraqi Jews, but the idea of putting them into a pita and eating them as a sandwich is purely Israeli. Apparently, the credit for this culinary achievement rests with one Sabich Halabi, an Iraqi immigrant who opened what is believed to be the first sabich stand in Ramat Gan in 1961.

One central quality sabich eatery is on the corner of Dizengoff Street and Frieshman Street simply called – Sabich Frishman. It is reputed to be the first place that locals recommend, and as one food critic wrote:

 “If lines and smell give any hint of quality, it’s hardly a surprise why.”

While many of these street food eateries are referred as “hole-in-the wall” establishments, one must not be put off – this is part of their charm, and often the less attractive on the outside, might be a cover-up for the best food in town. This is typical of Tel Aviv cuisine deception.

Another top Sabich establishment that comes highly recommended is Sabich Tchernichovsky whose food one food critic described, “rivals my grandmother’s.”

Could you ask for a better endorsement?

He continues:

“From the moment you walk in, you know you’re in good hands. Despite the ever-existent line, the employees take their time constructing each and every sabich.  Each ingredient is layered artfully in the perfect pita, providing the ideal combination of flavours in every bite.  The delicious eggplant is thin and crispy, packing a flavourful kick with its unique and unidentifiable seasoning.  It combines well with the soft creaminess of the boiled egg and pickled flavor of the amba.”  There is also the option of ordering your sabich with a cheese that “is both gentle and tart, balancing the smoky eggplant and flavourful egg yolk.”

Yemen On The Yarkon

Included in the long list of tantalizing Israeli delights, dishes necessitating salivating overseas visitors to board a plane is Jachnun, described as “heavenly Yemen pastry.”

While Jachnun is available at eateries across Tel Aviv, you may want to enjoy it in an absolutely authentic setting – its Yemenite Quarter.

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Yemenite Jachnun

A charming, twisting enclave of cobblestone streets, low-slung buildings and some of the best home cooking, Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter   – also known as  “Kerem HaTeimanim” or as locals call it “The Kerem” –  is one of the world’s last thriving communities of Yemenite Jews.

Described poignantly; as well as poetically by Debra Kamin in Fodor’sTravel as “a community with a stopped clock…. where stout grandmothers stir rich, cartilage-thick soups and gossiping neighbors gather in courtyards under the hush of flowering pink mulberry trees,” where better that to savor Yemenite cuisine and in particular Jachnun.

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Take A Jaunt For Jachnun. For authentic Yemenite street food cuisine venture to the colourful neighbourhood of Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter.

Left in a slow oven overnight, Jachnun  is prepared from dough  which is rolled out thinly, brushed with shortening (traditionally, clarified butter or samneh), and rolled up, similar to puff pastry.  turns a dark amber colour and has a slightly sweet taste. It is traditionally served with a crushed/grated tomato dip, hard boiled eggs, and the traditional hot sauce Zhug. The dough used for Jachnun is the same as that used for the Yemini flatbread – malawach.

Another delight, malawach resembles a thick pancake  consisting of thin layers of puff pastry brushed with oil and cooked flat in a frying pan.  It is traditionally served with hard-boiled eggs, Zhug – of course – and a crushed or grated tomato dip. For those who prefer a sweet taste, it is frequently served with honey.

A staple of  Yemenite Jews in Israel, it has become a favourite “Street Food” for all Israelis irrespective of background or ethnic origin.

 Best GPS – Your Nose!

No serious ‘explorer’ of Israeli street food can avoid a visit to Abulafia in Jaffa. It’s almost ‘universal’ popularity is best expressed by an overseas patron sounding more like a frequent ‘pilgrim’:

Here are your directions. (1) Board plane for Tel Aviv, (2) Clear immigration and customs, (3) Ask taxi driver to take you to Abulafia. You could tell him that it is in Jaffa, but he already knows.”

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Pastries For Peace. One blogger wrote that the iconic bakery ‘Abulafia’ in Jaffa “owned by an Israeli-Arab family and staffed by Jews, Christians, and Moslems, is a place where people of all religions both literally and metaphorically break bread together every day.”

Open 24-hours a day, this street-side bakery has been located at the same corner in Jaffa just south of the Jaffa clock tower since 1879, and there are always crowds ordering at the counter. It’s hard to walk past without stopping to order, the smells draw you in, and “once hooked, you’re an addict,” said one customer from Holon who was buying to take home a huge supply of fresh and flavored pitot, bagels, sambusak (stuffed pastry with mushrooms, egg and different cheeses), and a variety of sweet confectionary. “Was it for a party?” I curiously inquire.

“Nope, I have a big family with healthy appetites.”

And while in Jaffa, one must try the local bourekas, a puffed pastry introduced mainly by Jewish Bulgarian immigrants. Its filling is either white cheese, potato or mushrooms. While it’s as easy to find bourekas in Israel as it is to track down falafel, however, just like snowflakes, no two are alike. And like the quest for the best falafel, shwarma or sabich, bourekas-makers have their “to-die-for” customers.

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On The Ball. Known as the “Diego Maradona of Sabich”, Oved Daniel serves his world famous sabich.

Bourikas Leon’ on Oleh Zion Street is the oldest Bulgarian bakery in Jaffa. The owner Avi Cohen is a third-generation Bulgarian in Israel and the bakery, named after his father, was started by his ‘Grandma Julie’ who arrived in 1948 “and was the first to make the phyllo pastry that people would come from all over Israel to buy. This was even before she went into the bourekas business.”

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Tastes Divine. Heavenly little parcels of dough crisped with hot oil or melted butter and stuffed with any number of delicious savory ingredients, Bourekas are nothing short of edible perfection. Like Italy’s calzone, Spain’s empanada and India’s samosa, these nutritious and filling pastries are the perfect portable snack while browsing through Tel Aviv’s shuks (markets).

Is bourekas still such a popular food today?

“Absolutely,” answers Avi. “Each year we have more and more new customers while still keeping our local, loyal customer base. It’s funny,” he says, “many of the young people who come today for a bourekas are the children of my father’s customers and the grandchildren of customers ‘Grandma Julie’ served.”

Street Wise

While street food is generally labeled ‘fast food’, and assumed unhealthy, this is not necessarily the case in Israel, where Israelis tend to eat more turkey than red meat, and always accompanied by mounds of fresh salad. It’s practically unheard of to have a meal in Israel – whether at a restaurant or a sidewalk eatery – without lots of salad.

This is why cities like Tel Aviv are vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Most people might not know but Tel Aviv is considered to be the world’s VEGAN capital! There are over 400 vegan-friendly places in Tel Aviv and new ones popping up every week or so  that “vegan-friendly” means at least 25% of menu items are plant-based.

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Hot Off The Pan. Offering fresh Bourik at Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market.

While the Tel Aviv’s ‘Street Food’ scene, cannot escape the big-name international chains such as the hamburger behemoths, they however, do not dominate the market. They may allure their customers by illuminating their presence with big, bright colorful lights; still, they are no match still for the small, unassuming sidewalk eateries attracting their loyal customers by offering quality, wholesome Israeli street cuisine.

People in Tel Aviv certainly love their side-walk food.

Join ’em!

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Shuk’ing Time. Enjoying food on the walk in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel or Carmel Market. (Photo by Matthew Scott)

Dance Under Fire

The rhythms of life on the Israeli side of Gaza border

By David E. Kaplan

A planned dance performance on the Gazan border  reminds me of the Gulf War of 1991 when Iraq were raining Scud missiles down on Israel and maestro Zubin Mehta  raced back from New York to conduct concerts. “I had many obligations in New York that should have prevented me from coming, but I couldn’t imagine not being here,” he said at the time, while he was director of the New York Philharmonic.  He conducted full-house concerts keeping his gas mask nearly as close to him as his baton, “just in case!”

“Can you imagine,” he told this writer in an exclusive interview on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 2016 in Tel Aviv, “Scuds where dropping out of the sky, possibly with chemicals but this did not deter Israelis from wanting to hear classical music.”

It sent a powerful and poignant message not to the likes of Saddam Hussein – a waste of time – but to the people of Israel who were asserting, despite the dire situation, their grit and love of culture.

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In ‘Love Is Strong As Death’, the troupe also uses marching music evocative of the military to express national pride, the importance of serving in the army and how it ties with human desire for personal space. (Photo: Gal Dor)

Fast forward to the present and again that characteristic is being expressed by Liat Dror‘s Sderot-based dance company which is staging a performance on the Gazan border to express “our humanity” in the face of living under constant attack. “It’s my responsibility to put on a show even under rocket fire,” says a proud and defiant Liat, artistic director at the Sderot Adama Dance Company.

So, what is daily life like, living “Under Fire”?

Senior social work supervisor at Ben Gurion University in the Negev (BGU), Yehudit Spanglet is a  post-trauma specialist who established the Connections and Links Trauma Center, a mobile unit that frequently brings her to Sderot – a city under fire.

“Without question there are hundreds of people in Sderot and southern Israel who live in a state of continuous trauma. Not only from the rockets which fall, but also from the booms of the Iron Dome defense system; which thankfully intercepts most of the incoming rockets. The blasts which resound in the sky can continue to echo in a person’s ears long after the attack. Many victims of trauma live in fear, even during extended periods of ceasefire. Every time the siren wails and people have to run for cover, the trauma damage from previous attacks is reinforced.”

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Living On The Edge. A rocket fired from Gaza directly hit a factory in the industrial zone of the southern Israeli city of Sderot, causing it to catch on fire. The fire led to further explosions inside the factory. (Photo credit: Edit Israel/Flash90)

She cites a visit to Sderot when the city came under attack, and outside on a street, “a woman stood paralyzed, staring up at the sky. Her neck had frozen in fright when the warning siren sounded. Before she could reach a bomb shelter, the missiles of the Iron Dome exploded, seemingly over her head. Her husband didn’t want to take her to the hospital in Ashkelon, so we slowly walked her home with her head still gazing up toward heaven. When she was back in her house, after speaking with her for half an hour, her neck muscles loosened and finally her body relaxed.”

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From Sderot To Paris. Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal are the co-founders and directors of Sderot ADAMA Dance Center and the creative choreographers and managers of ADAMA Dance Company. They began dancing together at the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company workshop in Kibbutz Ga’aton. Their first original piece, “Two-Room Apartment,” won first place at the international “Biennale” choreography competition in Paris. They describe their choreographic style as a unique Israeli combination of movement, theater and contemporary dance.

Caught In Crossfire

In defiance of this situation of unrelenting danger for Israelis living near the Gaza border, a dance troupe from the Sderot Adama Dance Company will be staging a performance to emphasize what it is like to be caught in the crossfire – not only of aerial missiles but of “duty, humanity and the importance of the self.”

Liat and her partner Nir Ben Gal, say their new show titled “Love Is Strong as Death” will convey what it means to dance under rocket fire and create art under the thunderous sounds of air-raid sirens and the pounding booms of the missiles.

“Life near the Gaza Strip.” says Liat, “is constantly presenting us with difficult questions regarding the value of art when it’s not exhibited in a museum or safely appreciated in an air-conditioned theater hall.”

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Spicy Sderot. Adama dance company, under artistic directors Liat Dror & Nir Ben Gal launches “All’arrabbiata – a silent heart in a noisy world”. All’arrabbiata means ‘angry salsa’ in Italian. Says Liat, “Hot & spicy tomato with tangy onion salsa….The spiciness doesn’t dominate the overall flavor, but certainly makes itself felt.”

The dance company’s latest work  balances the situation of national pride and the need to personally defend one’s people – hence the inclusion of martial music in the musical score –  but also the human desire for personal space.

“This meeting between the two is very real in my everyday life in the studio,” reveals Liat. It began with her experiences serving in the IDF (Israel Defense Force) “and continued with the very difficult experience of being a parent to soldiers.”

She says the show tackles the real-life questions “of choosing love over war, of dealing with a complex reality and of accepting others – be it a spouse, a neighbour, or someone with opposing political views.”

She asserts that life in Sderot always highlights these questions and “keeps me on constant alert.”

While dance instructors anywhere else in the world might be concerned over issues of students facing personal problems or being ill, Dror is anxious:

Will we be able to rehearse? Will we get to finish that rehearsal or will the rocket sirens go off? After all, it’s my responsibility to put on a show even under rocket fire.”

She says the troupe uses recordings of “live music from past performances,” including “laughter from the audience, the creaking of the chairs and the sounds of breathing by those present.” To Liat, “it’s a form of correspondence, both with our past, and with its relevance to what’s going on right now in Israel, Sderot, or any place where the gaps are greater than the chance for peace.”

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Good Vibes. Zubin Mehta conducts a concert in 1977 at the opening ceremony of the “Good Fence” on the Israeli-Lebanese border. (photo by David Rubinger)

Music To Our Ears

When Israel was at war in Southern Lebanon in 1982, Zubin Mehta brought the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra a few kilometers across the border into a Lebanese tobacco field. “We erected a stage under a tent and played for a group of local Lebanese citizens.” After the concert, said Mehta, “the concertgoers rushed the stage to hug the musicians.”

Reflecting years later, “How I would love to see that sight again today,” said the Maestro, “of Arabs and Jews hugging each other. I’m a positive thinker. I know that day will come.”

 

 

* Featured Image: From ‘Love is strong as death’ (Photo: Gal Dor)

Easy To Digest

Israel went to the polls on Tuesday the 17th September.  It was the second election in 2019 and when Israelis woke the next morning, they were uncertain what they woke up to and if they were sure, it was distasteful.

Far more palatable than the news was the breakfast, frequently voted one of the healthiest in the world.

By David E. Kaplan

“Oh, your Israeli breakfasts are the best!”

How often do we hear this praise from visitors abroad? It’s often the first notion that comes to mind when they think of Israeli cuisine. In a world today conscious of “what we eat”, the Israeli breakfast has earned the reputation of meeting the concerns of health and diet far more than its counterparts abroad, with its emphasis on seasonal fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and dairy products renowned for its tasty variety as well as low fat content.

Most top hotel chefs in Israel will tell you: “A traditional Israeli breakfast is fresh, healthy and wholesome; this is why it’s so popular with our overseas visitors who are not only looking for a substantial meal to begin the day but a healthy one.”

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“Good Morning, Israel”. Best wat to greet the day – an Israeli breakfast.

So before feasting your eyes on the sights, set your sights on a wholesome Israeli breakfast

Fresh from the Fields

The origin of the traditional Israeli breakfast is imbedded in this young nation’s recent past and tied to its rural landscape. To avoid much of the hot day’s sun, Israel’s pioneer farmers on the kibbutzim (collective agricultural settlements) would go out into the fields way before the crack of dawn, and then after a good few hours of toiling, return to the chadar ochel (communal dining hall) for a hearty breakfast. What awaited these hard-working laborers with raving appetites were usually fluffy omelets or boiled eggs, fresh salads made with cucumbers and sweet tomatoes, hummus, eggplant, salad, pita and other breads and homemade jams. Little did they realise at the time that with each mouthful, they were forging a nation’s cuisine!

A recent publication went so far as to refer “the Jewish state’s contribution to world cuisine” was none other than the “Israeli breakfast”.

Genesis

Rich in history, the Israeli breakfast was born in poorer times. In the pre-and early days of the State, the kibbutz breakfast meant a hard roll and a scoop of leben — a liquidy and sour Mideast yogurt. But kibbutz agricultural laborers needed a heartier start to their day, so the communal village’s kitchens began putting out a spread with whatever they had on hand, such as fresh vegetables, fresh juice, eggs, bread, milk and other dairy products.

It was a simple meal but compared to what most folks living in the cities and towns ate at that time, it was a meal ‘fit for a king’.

Feeding a young nation was an arduous task.

The years between 1948 – the year of independence – and 1951, witnessed the largest immigration ever to reach the shores of modern Israel. Some 688,000 immigrants came to Israel during the country’s first three and a half years at an average of close to 200,000 a year. As approximately 650,000 Jews lived in Israel at the time of the establishment of the state, this meant in effect a doubling of the Jewish population. It also meant a lot of mouths to feed in a state saddled with security concerns and a struggling economy. The availability of produce was limited, and food was rationed. These were the days of the Tzena (Hebrew for “austerity”) and citizens received coupons for food.

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State In Distress. Soon after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the country found itself lacking in both food and foreign currency and the government introduced measures to control and oversee distribution of necessary resources to ensure equal and ample rations for all Israeli citizens. Tel Aviv residents standing in line to buy food rations in 1954.

Life under austerity was not easy. The Ministry of Rationing and Supply created a “basket” of basic products, such as sugar, oil, bread and margarine, which could be purchased only in authorized stores.

Coupon books allocated the type and amount of food to be consumed and people stood in line for hours to obtain with no guarantee that the produce was available.

A child of an immigrant recalls that when his parents immigrated to Israel from Poland after World War II, the family was allotted one egg a week. Half-jokingly he records that “I was a little upset when my baby brother was born, because I was no longer given that precious egg!” There was literally, a ‘new kid on the block’ and “my brother needed the egg more than me.”

And he was not egg’aggerating!

The situation was so dire that when someone from the city was invited to the kibbutz for a visit, it was considered a vacation – not only because it was a chance to escape ‘the madding crowd’ of the city, but because the offering was better and bountiful.

From ‘King’ to Kibbutznik

However, by the mid-1950s, “what was once a typical kibbutz breakfast had emerged into a traditional Israel breakfast served in hotels the length and breadth of the country,” explained former South African Arnie Freedman, a veteran member of Kibbutz Yizreel in central Israel near Afula. As Israel’s hotel industry developed, it turned to the kibbutz for inspiration for breakfast. There was good reason – If the reference to kibbutz food had once been “fit for a king”, the phrase had morphed into “fit for a kibbutznik” and the image of the kibbutz had impacted upon Israeli culture beyond its socialist ideology into the realm of cuisine.

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Body And Soul. Kibbutz pioneers would go off the work early and then return to the communal dining room for a hearty, wholesome breakfast.

While many kibbutzim today no longer have a communal dining room, this is not the case with Kibbutz Yizreel which remains traditional in every respect, “including our sumptuous daily breakfast,” says Arnie.

Before returning to work, the members were streaming in, taking trays and helping themselves from the buffet. There was a variety of cereals, yogurts, scrambled and boiled eggs, breads rolls, fish, a variety of cheeses, hummus, tehina and all different kinds of salads and fresh fruit, all picked from the kibbutz.  An hour later, well satiated, they were well ready to return to getting back on their tractor, climbing a ladder to pick oranges or sitting at their computers at Maytronics, the kibbutz’s highly-successful manufacturer of robotic swimming-pool cleaning equipment.

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The Young And The Hungry. Youngers tucking in to a typical Israeli breakfast in the communal dining room at Kibbutz Sde Nehemia in the Upper Galilee.

Where’s the beef?

Any seasoned traveler to Israel is familiar with the major difference between an Israeli breakfast and those elsewhere in the world – No meat.

In accordance with the Jewish laws of Kashrut (keeping kosher), meat and dairy ingredients are never served together in a meal. The Israeli breakfast is thus a dairy meal, and a variety of cheeses are offered. Fish is considered pareve and so is permitted, and herring is frequently served.

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Healthy And Wholesome. Breakfast at Yotvata Kosher (Dairy) Restaurant in Tel Aviv

Other smoked or pickled fish dishes are also common, including tuna and salmon.

Egg dishes are almost universal, which may be pre-cooked or cooked to order. The Middle Eastern egg dish shakshouka, a spicy North African concoction of eggs poached in a tomato-pepper-onion sauce is a common choice. However, Jewish food writer and historian Gil Marks told ISRAEL21c that this iconic dish “is actually a latecomer to the already laden Israeli breakfast table.” The classic must-haves, he says, “are scrambled or hardboiled eggs, a variety of chopped vegetable salads, porridge, cheeses, fresh breads, plain and flavored yogurts, fruit and granola, washed down with fresh juice and/or coffee or tea.”

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Top Ten. The bountiful buffets that have made the “Israeli breakfast” famous among tourists usually include shakshouka, a spicy North African concoction of eggs poached in a tomato-pepper-onion sauce. So it was no surprise that Lonely Planet included the shakshouka at Jerusalem’s Tmol Shilshom café on its recent Top 10 list of the world’s best breakfasts.

Other Middle Eastern dishes may include Israeli salad, hummus, tehina, baba ghanoush and the strained yogurt called labaneh.

While Hummus – the much loved, humble chickpea dip – is a vital part of the cuisine throughout the Middle East, in Israel, it may be served at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times – it’s iconic.

No less iconic are the fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, radishes, onions, shredded carrots and a variety of olives – both black and green.

Enjoying an Israeli breakfast is one of the pleasures of a visit to Israel. Apart from the hotels, restaurants and small cafés will all offer one version or another of this famous feast.

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Table For Two. Enjoy an Israeli breakfast overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Some places serve it throughout the day, so you can even have one for lunch or even diner.

Like Israeli salad, this breakfast is not locally called an “Israeli breakfast”. In restaurants and cafés it’s sometimes named after the establishment, or it is just called “breakfast”. But if you see a breakfast on the menu offering eggs, coffee/tea, salad, cheeses and juice – rest assured, it’s an Israeli breakfast!

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Irresistible! Israeli breakfast is a rite of passage for those visiting Israel.

Mouthful of Myths

The most popular day to eat an Israeli breakfast at a restaurant is on a Friday morning but as one American tourist once quipped: “Finding a table is like trying to catch the last flight out of Saigon!”

It is common counsel that if you eat an “Israeli breakfast” you might not need to eat lunch. However, this is one bit of counsel this writer is unlikely to chew on! Breakfast is breakfast and lunch is lunch and too many active hours separate the two.

If it is one o’clock then it is time for an Israeli lunch – it is different to an Israeli breakfast but that is another story!

Bon Appétit! or as we say in Hebrew:

Betayavon.

 

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Pleasure On The Patio. Begin the day with a nutritious Israeli breakfast.

Take A Ride On the Wild Side

Paradise for some, hell for others – Tel Aviv’s electric scooter craze

By David E. Kaplan

You cannot escape them!

 Walk down any street in Tel Aviv, and you’re most likely to be overtaken – not to mention overrun – by electric scooters. For many pedestrians – from young parents pushing prams to seniors strolling with extra care – a common opinionated exclamation:

 “They’re a menace!”

Some may animatedly add an expletive before the word: “MENACE”!

Not so, says Yair who the writer briefly interviewed at a traffic light along Tel Aviv’s famed Dizengoff Street. “It’s a pain taking the car, getting stuck in traffic and then hassling to find parking; you can waste half your day!”

Adjacent to him on her scooter was his wife, Lucy, appearing notably pregnant.

Facing the reality that soon there will be three in the family,  “I suspect this might all change very soon,” said Lucy with an all-knowing maternal smile.

For the most part, residents in Tel Aviv, are embracing electric scooters and their smart-phone rental systems, using them to zip along avoiding the heavy traffic. Tourists are catching on too.

“Julie, where have I caught you,” I asked my friend visiting from abroad. “On the way to the beach on a hired electric scooter,” she replied.

A few years ago, I would have been surprised – maybe even shocked.

Not today!

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Movers & Shakers. As electric scooters take over the world, Tel Aviv stands first in line.

It’s a lot quicker and cheaper than the alternatives such as a bus or taxi. “It’s so convenient and accessible” all users agree. The app on the phone informs where the nearest available scooter is located.

“It’s so easy; I go to the beach, I stop there, I use the app and that’s all. Also, its fun.”

Tel Aviv lends itself to this trend.

Tel Aviv had already adjusted to the two-wheel trend building bike lanes all around the city. The city has approximately 70km of marked bike lanes. Some of them are on sidewalks in the city and some are outside the city center, in the neighborhoods and parks.

The sunny weather, flat landscape and constant traffic jams make the scooters an appealing option.

There are now around 7,500 electric scooters available, in addition to the thousands of bicycles and electric bikes already on the streets.

Doing It My Way

The industrial designer who started it all is Nimrod Sapir, responsible for Inokim, the lightweight, folding electric scooter brand that’s taken Tel Aviv, and much of Israel, by storm. In Japanese “Inokim” means “speed” and Sapir is a guy on the move – and in a hurry!

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A Quickie. Inokim’s Quick-3 e-scooter can be folded in three seconds. Photo: courtesy

As he told ISRAEL21c “I’m always cycling, rollerblading, roller-skating. It’s a personal thing for me; I always want to get to places quickly.”

Turned-on by the electric scooter way back in 1999, “still with the old batteries and antiquated motors,” he became hell-bent on creating a better product, and launched his first electric scooter in 2011 under the brand name MyWay. This was before moving on to partner with Israeli entrepreneur Kfir Ben Shushan in 2014, changing the brand name to Inokim and driving up sales.

Today, the folding e-scooter is shaping the future of urban transport.

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Easy Rider. On the way to work in a suit, this rider holds his folded Israeli Inokim electric scooter at a railway station.

The two other main brands currently operating in Tel Aviv are US Bird and German Wind.

Bird recently announced that about 250,000 people have used its app-based, dockless e-scooter-sharing service in Tel Aviv for more than two million rides since August 2018.

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On The Boardwalk. Popular way to enjoy Tel Aviv’s scenic promenade adjacent to the Mediterranean is by electric scooter.

Bird Israel general manager Yaniv Rivlin says, “Israel was selected by the company’s managers as one of the first targets for expansion outside the US.”

Ben Shuhan is not deterred by the many competitors in the market. “Demand is much higher than supply, and we think it will increase. This is a supplementary transportation solution that more and more people are adopting. Today, the problem is finding an available or charged e-scooter for riding, especially near the railway stations, which are the places with the highest demand. Among the competition, it’s hard to find an e-scooter fit to ride in the afternoon. There’s room for more players.”

Why have electric scooters become so popular?

Sapir emphasizes “You need no skills – it’s easy to use, easy to ride, easy to get from place to place.”

This is why, he contends that scooters are still leading over other electric mobility options such as electric bikes and hoverboards.

Furthermore, “None of them are as safe as an electric scooter, where you hold a bar in your hands. That gives you a very great feeling of comfort and safety.”

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On Track. Inokim electric scooter inventor Nimrod Sapir rides one of his creations on a railway platform in Tel Aviv.

Solution Not The Problem

Asked by, Globes that with Israeli sidewalks becoming increasingly crowded, whether the trend is sustainable in the long term, Ben Shushan replied:

We’re trying to form as many partnerships as we can with several mayors. The municipalities can also profit and realize that we’re the solution, not the problem. In any case, we’ll work strictly according to regulations, so we also reached agreements with 500 businesses, including 150 parking lots in Tel Aviv, that we can use as stations for renting if we can’t leave them spread around the public space.”

To the question whether  renting detracts from marketing e-scooters for sale, Ben Shushan, replied not at all.

“Since our competitors entered the market, our sales have grown by 30%. Awareness of e-scooters has only increased. Here, too, it’s a win-win situation for us.”

“We want to be in every big city in the world, focusing on businesspeople for transportation in downtown areas. You can carry it with you on the train or bus, or you can put it in your trunk and park your car outside the city for far less.”

Designed in Israel, Inokim electric scooters, are sold in 15 countries as a smart green solution for mobility in large cities.

Sapir has won several industry awards as the first electric scooter designer to overcome the tradeoff between performance and weight: Inokim scooters are not only attractive and robust but also quick-folding and lightweight.

“That’s why we stand out,” he told ISRAEL21c.

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Electrifying. This young Tel Avivian is going places on her electric scooter.

Streetwise

Apart from the three obvious factors for the electric scooter’s popularity in Tel Aviv:

  • easy parking
  • quick arrival at destination
  • ideal climate

Sapir adds that the electric scooter is a perfect fit with the Israeli mindset. “Israelis are lazy about walking, always in a hurry and always trying to do too many things at the same time” – the ideal

candidate. And then, when you further add to this cauldron of personality traits that “Israelis are also very fast to adopt technologies or new trends,” it goes a long way to explain why electric scooters are so prominent on the country’s urban roads.

Its impact on city life is immense, Sapir notes.

“First of all,” he says, “I’d like to think it is reducing the four-wheeled cars in the city, and I believe it has. You can imagine that all the users of these electric scooters gave up other ways of transportation.”

Secondly, he’d like to believe that some people have even given up their private cars thanks to the scooters, “which they can easily fold up and carry on the train or bus and take to the office.”

The popularity, he contends, leads to the third observation, and that is the age ranges of users.

Before, I would say it was 30 to 45, but now there’s no limit,” he says.

Young people use it; old people use it — there’s really no limit.”

What’s the inventors favorite scooter route in the city?

“The tayelet from Tel Aviv Port to Jaffa. I always take my visitors there,” he says, referring to the city’s seaside promenade.

“It’s very unique,” he adds. “You have the city on your left and the beach on your right.”

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Upward Mobility. Popular way to enjoy Tel Aviv’s scenic promenade adjacent to the Mediterranean is by electric scooter.

In The Family Way

At a beachside restaurant, the writer coincidentally bumps into again Yair and Lucy enjoying a lavish lunch. Beside their table laden with food are parked unobtrusively their two electric scooters.

Methinks in a few months’ time, when they may be back at the restaurant, adjacent to the table will be in place of the two scooters – one baby pram!

 

She Came, She Saw, She Conquered

J-Lo Made Israel’s Summer Sizzle Some More

By David E. Kaplan

If Helen of Troy is mythically remembered as “The face that launched 1000 ships”, then Jennifer Lopez’s  short stint in Israel boasts an even more impressive outreach.

As Ynetnews.com reported:

A thousand ambassadors would not have been able to improve Israel’s image in the eyes of the world the way Jennifer Lopez, who has over 100 million followers on social media, has done during her five day visit to the Holy Land as part of her concert tour.”

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Alluring Anatomy. J-Lo stuns nearly 60,000 fans in Yarkon Park, Tel Aviv.

The ‘contoursof Israel’s strategic thinking were instantly outmatched by Jennifer Lopez’s ‘contours’, as the “slayer of red carpets”   disembarked from her El Al flight wearing a leopard-print crop top and matching leggings. She was happy to be in Israel – her first visit – and wanted the world to know it. Unlike other artists of J-Lo’s stature, she didn’t make it hard for photographers, or media in general, to get a hold of her.

And get a hold of her, Israelis did.

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Riveting & Revealing. J-Lo going full throttle in Tel Aviv.

The Bronx-born actress, singer, dancer, fashion designer, producer and businesswoman who turned 50 on July 24, began her international “It’s My Party” tour on August 1 in Tel Aviv.  And what an open-air party it turned out  to be in Yarkon Park – nearly 60,000 fans!

Earlier, Lopez had intimately shared on Instagram her feelings towards her fiancé  – former baseball star Alex Rodriguez, known as A-Rod –  with a heartfelt caption:

“… you are one of a kind, my hurricane…”

This would also describe J-Lo on stage at Yarkon Park – “one of a kind” and “hurricane”.

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A Knock Out. Jennifer Lopez knocks it out of HaYarkon Park, Tel Aviv. (photo credit: EREZ OZIR)

Experiencing a Lopez concert is extraordinary. Each number comes with its own theatrical act with riveting choreographed dances, props of all imagination and stunning costumes. This mother of two was in and out of costumes throughout her 90-minute performance that ranged from a one-legged body suit for the opener “Medicine” to a shocking red salsa-style gown in honor of the late Selena Quintanilla (for which Lopez starred in the 1997 biopic Selena) and then to glimmering gold heeled boots that ran up the thigh, to a final electric green bodysuit.

And that didn’t even cover it all. In fact, the less ‘covered’, the more welcomed! Cracking jokes on stage, she teased that her one-legged jumper only showed off part of her bottom.

Actually, getting to the “bottom” of it, J-Lo was making a statement.

While efforts were made to sabotage her tour to Israel – nothing too unusual – she would have none of it. Her manager, Benny Medina, assertively expressed that made a headline in one newspaper:

“There Was Nothing That Was Gonna Stop Us from Being in Israel”. 

“Party” Poopers

Despite  social media appeals from BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) activists to cancel her “It’s My Party” tour to Tel Aviv, Medina told Israel’s Channel 12, “Nothing was going to stop”  Jennifer Lopez’s party in Israel.

BDS’s failed fiendish efforts included a July the 5th letter to Lopez urging the singer to boycott Israel arguing:

Tel Aviv, where you are about to perform, is used as a tool for marketing the State of Israel as a ‘cool’ and ‘cultured’ democracy, while hiding a brutal history of colonisation, even that of the city itself.”

Like foul laundry that it was, it didn’t wash!

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters frequently pressures artists to not perform in Israel and to boycott the Jewish state. Experiencing declining success, such efforts with J-Lo also proved  “water off a duck’s back!

Only a few months earlier, David Draiman, frontman for the heavy metal band Disturbedsaid in a May 30 Facebook video on the band’s fan page:

The very notion that Waters and the rest of his Nazi comrades decide that this is the way to go ahead and foster change is absolute lunacy and idiocy. It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s only based on hatred of a culture and of a people in a society that has been demonized unjustifiably since the beginning of time.”

To easy understand J-Lo’s position, is to have read an earlier interview when she asserted:

I have no patience for anything that’s not real. Just no bulls–t.”

“We feel you, girl,” replied the interviewer, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

And if Israeli fans thought they couldn’t love J-Lo any more than they already did, the singer gave every reason to love her more.

She told the Tel Aviv crowd she loved them multiple times and even had an upfront on-stage whisper with a fan translated in Hebrew for all to hear. Fans screamed in delight.

Her message for the night resonated:

You are capable of accomplishing anything you want, so long as you believe.”

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Superstars On Super Beach. J-Lo, A-Rod and kids on Tel Aviv beach.

Israel is a country of believers, but its people are also family-oriented  and so J-Lo connected even more with her audience when she turned the concert into a “family affair”.

How so?

Lopez’s fiancée Alex Rodriguez who was in the crowd appeared on the big screen during the event; Lopez’s daughter, Emme, made an on-stage appearance singing a brief duet with her mother and her 11-year-old twin – who appeared bashful at first – hit a couple of impressive notes to show she too has the Making of her Mom.

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Exploring Jerusalem. Jennifer Lopez visits the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 2, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Day After

The next day, after wowing 57,000 fans in Tel Aviv, J-Lo, A-Rod and their kids visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall. It was Friday and bustling with people. A video posted on social media showed the singer amongst  the jostling crowd, touching the stones at the holy site and whispering in the ears of her children.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez kept his social media followers up to date.

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Golden Girl In City Of Gold. With the Jerusalem’s Old City in the background, Jennifer Lopez and A-rod on a camel. (Photo: Instagram)

In a clip posted to Instagram the previous day, A-Rod showed JLo and himself looking around at the Mediterranean from the balcony of their Tel Aviv hotel room. The clip is embellished with a heart at the top and the words, “The mother land Israel” next to an Israeli flag and exclamation points, then the words:

First time I’m here. I’m in love!! #energyoffthecharts!!”

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We Love Tel Aviv. J-Lo from her hotel balcony in Tel Aviv.

The following day the celebrated couple’s message from the Western Wall  to their millions of followers around the world:

Jerusalem, you are unforgettable. What a perfect finale to our first trip to this beautiful land.”

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“Jerusalem, you are unforgettable. What a perfect finale to our first trip to this beautiful land.” (Alex Rodriguez‏Verified account @AROD FollowFollow @AROD More)

Moscow On The Yarkon

J-Lo has come and gone. Well not quite. She has come but she not quite gone for she has left an endearing and enduring message of love and understanding.

But not only, for she has taken some of ‘lively’ Israel with her!

So impressed was J-Lo with Israeli singer Maor Rayri’s performance during her opening act in Tel Aviv, she invited him to perform as part of her upcoming Moscow concert. The Israeli singer – known as ADL – recently gained world-wide attention after he performed with American rapper Snoop Dogg and Columbian singer Maluma (Juan Arias).

She Came, She Saw, She Conquered taking away some Israeli spoils.

Good luck to her.

Happy Birthday J-Lo.

 

 

A Tale of Two Photographs

By Gina Jacobson

It was election day in Israel and that meant that we got the day off. No school and no work, so once my husband and I had voted, we gathered the kids, hopped on a train and went into Tel Aviv to visit the Eretz Israel Museum.

 

We wandered around looking at the various exhibits and then we came across the David Rubinger, I Captured the Truth, 1947-1997 exhibit. Being a photography nerd, my husband was fascinated and spent a bit more time in the exhibit than the kids or me. So, we headed outside and sat on a bench to wait for him.

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David Rubinger (1924-2017)

The photographer, David Rubinger, who won the 1997 Israel Prize in Communication and died in 2017 was one of a small selected group of photographers whose works are etched on local and international memory. His career began at the end of the enlisted “Zionist photography” period, that dominated the local photography scene until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. His iconic picture of the three soldiers at the Western Wall is an image that is seared in the collective consciousness of Jews around the world. It is a symbol of hope and our shared connections. His photographs have recorded some of the most important and poignant moments in Israeli history.

Rubinger took his photos with analogue reflex cameras, in other words, he never saw the image at the moment it was photographed, and this exhibition was a journey into his memories.

Once the husband was done, he headed out of the exhibit and seeing us sitting together, stopped to take a photo of us.

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David Rubinger’s iconic photograph of paratroopers at the Western Wall during the liberation of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, June 1967.

As he took the photo, the usher for the exhibit came rushing out, ‘No, no, no, you cannot take a picture there!’ She exclaimed (in Hebrew). My husband, who has been shouted at before for taking photos where he was not allowed to, started looking for a no picture sign. ‘No’, she said again. ‘You cannot take a picture here, that wall, that wall is old and ugly!’

She then pointed across the courtyard, ‘That is where you must take a picture!’ She was pointing at a shady spot with a colourful flower bed.

‘Here. Here is a pretty wall covered in Jerusalem stone, and look at these beautiful flowers. This is where you must take a photo!’

And so, slightly bemused, we proceeded to let her direct us to sit in front of the pretty wall and pretty flowers.

‘No!’ She cried again. ‘Abba (dad), must be in the photo too!’ while taking my husband’s camera out his hands and directing him to sit with us.

She even laid her uniform jacket on the bricks for the children to sit on while shuffling us around to best show off the pretty blooms.

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After a few misfires with the camera, and my 11-year-old popping up to show her what to press, she snapped a beautiful family photo of us, and the pretty Jerusalem stone wall and the pretty flowers.

We thanked her and she told us that she had planted those flowers herself and was very proud of them. We also had a conversation about where we came from, ‘Oh, you are not tourists, why did you make aliyah? How long have you been here? How are you settling in?’

She told us that she is also an immigrant, from Uzbekistan, and that she came to Israel many years ago. She then took our map and showed us the best exhibits for the children to enjoy and wished us well before going back to the photography exhibit.

It may not have been an iconic picture that captured Israeli history, but it was a picture that recorded Israel’s present.  This is a country whose diverse population is reflective of those who have been here since the birth of the state and those who for a variety of reasons have chosen to come home. Capturing the simple delights of a family outing after a democratic election, speaks about the optimism that encapsulates Israel. It also creates a lasting memory of all the country has endured and its unpredictable but hopefully bright future.

We had a wonderful day, voting, exploring the history of our country and generally relaxing, but the best part of the day for me, was a photo, with my family, in front of some gorgeous flowers!

 

 

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Gina Jacobson is a mom, a wife, a dreamer. She hates mornings and loves coffee and when she’s not reading, she’s writing.