Exploring Holy Land Tastes: A Culinary Trip to Israel
Hotspots in Israel for the Culinary Tourist
Tourists of all religions have traditionally flocked to Israel to visit holy sites, experience Kibbutz life and hike the beautiful scenery on foot. Over the past few years, the country has seen a large rise of tourists who come specifically to eat their way through the country - and with good reason: Israeli food is spectacularly delicious, and there is much more to enjoy than the traditional falafel and hummus. By joining a culinary trip of Birthright Israel, you can discover the beauty of this country while satisfying your foodie needs. However, if you cannot join a Birthright Israel culinary trip, here are a few other ways to explore the culinary scene in Israel.a
Expose Yourself to a Different Jerusalem
Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world, so while you are here, how about learning a bit about the food as well? Amechaye, a culinary tourism company founded by Iris Saraf-Reinharts, a former restaurant manager and world traveler, offers home hospitality and a variety of Jerusalem-based tours. One of her most popular tours takes you through the Old City, where you can enjoy shrak, barazik, fresh tahini, Turkish pastries and Lebanese goods. The ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim offers traditional Ashkenazi food such as cholent, blintzes and herring.
Since no trip to Israel is complete without hummus, hummus workshops have become very popular among tourists who want to take a taste of Israel home. Since the only thing better than hummus is making it yourself, so be sure to join one of the many hummus workshops in Jerusalem - some even come with dinner.
After eating all day, explore Jerusalem’s nightlife through a pub crawl. Pubs are a great way to relax and meet the locals, listen to their music and taste their food. Israeli pubs are known for having a large selection of snack foods and full-fledged meals, and you can often find fries (a legitimate snack) and schnitzel on the same pub menu.
Experience a Different Tel Aviv
If Jerusalem is the top destination for religious sites, Tel Aviv is the must-visit city that never sleeps. Orly Ziv, a clinical nutritionist and native Tel Avivian, founded Cook in Israel, which delightfully introduces you to the city’s different cultures through various ethnic foods.
Founded by former attorney and yoga instructor Inbal Baum, Delicious Israel's Eat Tel Aviv walking tour leads participants from Jaffa Port to the Carmel Market, tasting their way through the history of the city. This tour guides you through the Jaffa Flea Market, the picturesque neighborhood of Neve Tzedek and the Yemenite quarter, where you will experience a range of local delicacies, from street food to modern gastronomy.
Discover the Galilee Through Your Tastebuds
The Galilee, in the northern part of Israel, is known for its award-winning wines, but the culinary tourism industry is booming among both locals and tourists. Galileat offers a wide variety of cooking workshops with Muslim, Druze and Christian hosts, all of which exemplify the wide religious background of the region. They also offer an “off the beaten track” food tour of the Galilee, including wineries, dairies and olive presses that only locals would be able to find. Perhaps the most interesting tour is the foraging tour where the host teaches you which green plants and edible or medicinal and how to pick them.
Explore Israeli Culture Through Its Markets
No visit to Israel is complete without experiencing local markets. Mahane Yahuda in Jerusalem is one of the top destinations in Jerusalem, and renovations over the past few years have transformed it into a top-notch location for foodies. Pollychef, which takes visitors on a flavorful walk through the popular shuk, is lead by Polly, a veteran chef from Jerusalem, whose goal is to give you an unforgettable tour of the restaurants, stands and shops of the market. By talking to stand owners and hearing their stories, you can learn more about the various backgrounds that make up Israel than anywhere else.
Tali Friedman, a veteran chef, also offers culinary tours of Mahane Yehudah. She teaches how to select the best produce and meat, takes you to a fromagerie to taste a variety of cheeses and then returns with all of the fresh groceries where you will cook your own meal.
Cook In Israel’s Carmel Market tour explores the hidden gems of the market that even most locals haven’t ever seen. After teaching participants how to select fresh food at the market, she takes you back to her home where she teaches you how to make local ethnic food such as Moroccan fish and fatoush salad, an experience that culminates in a dinner with her family.
Cultivate the Negev
The Negev is the southern part of Israel which comprises 60% of the land, but only 8% of the country’s population. In recent years, the Negev has become a popular destination for foodies and wine-lovers alike, as it offers boutique wineries and exemplary food. Just as the Negev itself is underdeveloped when compared to the rest of the country, very few groups offer culinary tours in the Negev, though you can find wine tours by other companies, such as My Israel Wine Tours. An overnight tour, here you will visit local hot springs, as well as explore the UNESCO incense route and visit a Nabatean ruin.
Culinary tourism in Israel is booming and continues to grow year after year, and organizations are continuously offering new and exciting tours of the country. Tours are offered in both English and Hebrew, as these tours are also frequented by Israelis. For more information about how you can apply, visit our birthright registration page.