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Food Tel Aviv

Bnei Brak: A Glimpse into the Ultra-Orthodox World

Last month I joined a guided tour in Bnei Brak, the largest ultra-orthodox city in Israel. It’s right next door to Tel Aviv but feels miles away. Kids are walking alone in the streets, all the men are dressed in black and white, all the women wear skirts, and there are no coffee shops. Usually, secular people don’t go there unless they want to learn more about the Jewish ultra-orthodox community or taste the traditional Ashkenazi food. That is what we were doing on our tour.

The tour was led by Pini Gorelick, an orthodox Jew from the Hasidic dynasty of Chabad-Lubavitch. He doesn’t live in Bnei Brak but visits quite often. So, you can count on him to show you the most interesting places. He also has great stories to tell about the ultra-orthodox community. I booked the group tour in Hebrew, but you can try to book a private tour too. No matter how you plan to tour Bnei Brak, just make sure to come in modest clothing that will respect the place. By modest I mean long pants or skirts and sleeved shirts for the women, and long pants for the men.

We walked in the streets of Bnei Brak for four hours and talked about many aspects of the Jewish ultra-orthodox world. In this post, I’ll only touch a few.

Table of contents:

The history of Bnei Brak

Ashkenazi VS Sephardic Jews

The mikveh

Kosher internet

The difference between Rav and Rebbe

The obligation of giving

Matchmaking and marriage

Food!

The history of Bnei Brak:

We started our tour with a short overview of Bnei Brak. Today it is the largest ultra-orthodox city in Israel. It is also the 8th-most densely populated city in the world, with almost 28,000 people per square kilometer. But like many large cities in Israel, it started as an agricultural village.

It was established in 1924 by a group of religious Jewish people from Poland. They bought the land from an Arab family who lived in the nearby Al-Khayriyya village. The village was named Bnei Brak after an ancient city by the same name.

In the time of the Second Temple, ancient Bnei Brak was a Jewish city. After the First Jewish-Roman War, it became a center of Torah learning. Rabbi Akiva, one of the leading Jewish scholars, opened his yeshiva in Bnei Brak and taught many students there. A yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution focusing on the study of religious texts. The Haggadah of Passover mentions Bnei Brak as well: “It happened that Rabbis Eliezer, Joshua, Elazar ben Azaryah, Akiva and Tarfon were reclining at the seder table in Bnei Brak. They spent the whole night discussing the Exodus until their students came and said to them: “Rabbis, it is time for the recitation of the Shema.” The ruins of ancient Bnei Brak are found near the city, next to Mesubim (“reclining”) Junction.  

Bnei Brak was declared a city in 1950. From then on, it started expanding tremendously. When more and more people started arriving in the city, a question arose – should Bnei Brak continue as a religious-Zionist city or turn to an ultra-orthodox city? Eventually, the ultra-orthodox population dominated the city, and the other groups left to the surrounding cities.

The main street of Bnei Brak in 1928

Ashkenazi VS Sephardic Jews:

We walked on Rashi Street and stopped at the junction with Bertenura Street. Our guide pointed to the west and said: “See that huge building over there? That’s Ponevezh Yeshiva, the most famous yeshiva in the Lithuanian world. Sephardic Jews are not accepted there.”

Let’s leave the tour for a moment to talk about Sephardic Jews. To understand the different groups in the ultra-orthodox world, you first need to understand the difference between Ashkenazi Jews (which also include the Lithuanians) and Sephardic Jews. The difference is mainly connected to their historical origins. In the Middle Ages, “Ashkenaz” referred to the area along the Rhine River in Western Germany and Northern France. The Jews who lived there developed their own traditions and rites. Today, the term “Ashkenaz” has expanded to many parts of Europe. So, when we say Ashkenazi Jews, we mean Jews who have roots in those areas.  Sephardic means “Spain”, but Sephardic Jews are associated with many other countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of southeast Europe. For some reason, the Ashkenazi Jews saw themselves as superior to the Sephardic Jews, especially in the ultra-orthodox world.

Lithuanians VS Hasidim:

Our guide said that today, most Ashkenazi communities no longer reject Sephardic Jews. But still, there’s the Lithuanian community. They are still racist towards the Sephardic community. Following this racism, the religious political party of Shas was established as a Sephardic-Lithuanian movement. They wanted to give space to Sephardic Jews who were not accepted to Ashkenazi educational institutions.

Aside from the Lithuanians, there are also the Hasidim.  About 300 years ago, the Ashkenazi community in eastern Europe believed that the most important thing is to study Torah. Whoever wasn’t capable of studying was rejected from the community. In some places, there were even separate synagogues for students and the rest of the public. This ended when the Baal Shem Tov, one of the greatest Jewish mystics, founded the Hasidic movement. He said: “Everyone is equal in the community and is measured by his effort and not his success.” So, in the Hasidic communities, Sephardic Jews can be accepted as long as they show effort. The most accepting Hasidic dynasty is Chabad.  

The mikveh:

To the west of the junction stood a huge house. “This is the house of the Rebbe of the Machnovka dynasty,” our guide said. It’s a huge house because it’s also where the Rebbe meets his Hasidim, consults them, and eats Shabbat dinner with them. It’s also where he studies. And besides all that, there’s also a mikveh in the building. Most secular Jews are only aware of mikvehs for women, but there are also mikvehs for men, and this is one of them.

In Judaism, a person can be in two states – impure and pure. In the time of the Jewish Temples, there was more significance to the impurity and purity, because many actions could not be performed during impurity. According to Jewish law, women need to go to the mikveh before their marriage. After they are married, women get impure every time they have menstruation. But after the period, they can get pure again by immersing in the water of a mikveh. Until she does that, her husband is not allowed to touch her.

So, what exactly is a mikveh? It’s a bath used for Jewish ritual immersion to achieve purity. The water in the mikveh is natural water, that comes from rainwater or a natural spring. A mikveh can also be a natural lake, river, or sea. When you immerse in the water, you must be completely naked and with no objects that might interfere the contact with your skin.

Men in the mikveh:

So why do men go to the mikveh? Our guide explained that the Hasidic men go to the mikveh every day. Why every day? Because they must immerse in the mikveh after every night they had an ejaculation. Of course, they don’t have an ejaculation every night. But to avoid discomfort, the Hasidic movement decided that everyone will go to the mikveh every morning.

Unlike mikvehs for women, in a mikveh for men there is no privacy. All the men immerse in the same space and can see one another. Because they are all naked, it is inappropriate to talk about the Torah. Instead, they gossip and spread rumors. “The hottest news is spread in the mikveh,” our guide told us.   

Kosher internet:

When we say “Kosher” in the secular world, we talk about food. If the food is kosher, it means that it is compliant with the Jewish dietary laws. But in the ultra-orthodox world, “kosher” is a much wider term that can refer to clothing, the internet, phones. All those must be compliant with the Jewish laws.

We stopped by a Lemehadrin Kosher internet café. The ultra-orthodox houses don’t have computers. If you work in the computer field, you can ask your Rebbe for permission to have internet at home. In any case, the internet must be kosher. What does it mean? It means there’s a software that scans all the websites and blocks inappropriate and unmodest content. That includes photos of women, abusive language, and so on.

Whoever wants to stay on the safe side, can use Lemehadrin Kosher internet. That’s the most strictly kosher internet. The supplier of the internet only shows websites that were reviewed and approved. If someone wants their website to appear on the Lemehadrin Kosher internet, they need to go to the supplier and ask him to check their site. Who checks the websites? People who have left the ultra-orthodox community. On one hand, there’s no problem that they will see inappropriate content because they aren’t ultra-orthodox anymore. On the other hand, they came from the ultra-orthodox world, so they know what’s not allowed.

The internet cafe. One door for women, one door for men

The difference between Rav and Rebbe:

We wandered a bit in the streets of Bnei Brak and then stopped next to a synagogue on Rabenu Tam Street. Next to the synagogue was a room called House of Teaching. This is where our guide told us the difference between a Rav and a Rebbe.

The Rav teaches Halakha, which are the Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah. So, people come to him to ask what to do according to the religious laws. “But we are raised in a world full of protocols. Everything is written. So why do we need someone to ask about the laws?” our guide said, “It’s because some of the laws are connected to personal judgment. When there’s room for personal judgment, many people prefer that the Rav will use his judgment.” People believe that the Rav is wiser and has more experience, so it’s better that he’ll take the call.

The fact that there is personal judgment means that someone can go to one Rav, get an answer, and then go to another Rav and get a different answer on the same question. That’s why people choose which Rav to go to depending on what they want to hear. Sometimes, a Rav will even give a different answer to two different people on the same question.

The Rebbe, on the other hand, is not a teacher of Halakha. He is the spiritual leader of his community. His people come to him to ask daily life questions. For example, they ask if they should do a driving lesson, which profession to learn, what school to send their children to, and so on. Usually, the Rebbe is very charismatic and often considered a sage.

The obligation of giving:

During the tour, we visited the Rabbanit of the Machnovka dynasty, the wife of the Rebbe. She told us: “Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea get their water from the Jordan River. The difference between them is that the Sea of Galilee receives the water from the north and releases water from the south. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, only receives water. Maybe that is why the Sea of Galilee is so full of life and the Dead Sea so dead.”

Giving tzedakah:

While touring Bnei Brak, we discovered that giving is one of the most important things in ultra-orthodox life. “The people here always want to be the ones who give and not the ones who are needy. Sometimes they will buy less food just so they will have enough money to give charity. They’ll say: ‘My condition isn’t that bad. There are people who need this money more than me,'” said our guide.

We stood in the busy junction of Rashi Street and Rabbi Akiva Street. All around us, we could see charity boxes. Well, not exactly “charity” but rather “tzedakah boxes.” Unlike charity, which is usually done as a spontaneous act of goodwill, tzedakah is something you do because of ethical obligation. We learned that the ultra-orthodox give tzedakah every day, even a small sum. Most of them know the people behind each tzedakah box, so they know who they trust and put their money in the relevant box. 

A tzedakah box on the street

Opening gemachim:

We also learned about the gemachim (gemach in plural). In Hebrew, the word “gemach” is an acronym for the Jewish term “gemilut chasidim”, which means the giving of lovingkindness. Traditionally, a gemach was a money-lending fund, free of interest. Today, a gemach is a place where you can borrow useful items free of charge. And everyone can open a gemach. If you have a lot of household tools that you don’t use all the time, you can open a gemach for tools. People who need to fix something in their house don’t have to go buy a tool. They can simply come to you, take it for a while, and return it when they’re done.

Our guide told us that before the plastic dishes became common, one of the most needed gemachim were dishware gemachim. The ultra-orthodox families usually have many children, but sometimes they also host people from outside their family, and then they need more dishware. Instead of buying dozens of dishware, they can borrow some dishes, and return them after the meal. Some gemachim don’t even ask you to clean the dishes because they do it anyway.

How do you find the gemachim? In the phone book. “There is even a gemach for lost children,” our guide told us. “If you find a lost child on the street, you take him or her to the gemach, and the parents know to look for them there.”

Matchmaking and marriage:

Near the end of the tour, we stopped to talk about matchmaking and marriage. In Bnei Brak, there is no such thing as meeting your second half by chance. Every relationship begins with a matchmaker. During high school, the teenagers perform a DNA test through an organization, which keeps the results for the matchmaker. They never see the results. When the time comes, the matchmaker thinks of a match, contacts the organization, and checks if there is any genetic problem with the match.  If it’s ok, he or she goes to the parents to ask them if they think it’s a good idea. They don’t even ask the young couple.

After the matchmaker comes to the parents, they usually hire a private investigator specializing in matchmaking inquiries. The investigator knows who to ask and how to ask to get all the information they need about the potential spouse. They ask about beauty, character, genetics, their family… Everything. If the parents are happy with the results of the investigation, they organize a meeting between the couple.

The couple sits together in a room and gets about 20 minutes to talk privately. Then, the father of the potential bride comes in and asks: “Well, ok?” If they say it’s ok, everyone comes into the room and bless the couple: “Mazal tov! Mazal tov!” which means “congratulations.” This means they’re going to be engaged. This is how things go in some of the stricter Hasidic dynasties. In others, they might get a few more meetings before they need to decide, but not more than 4-5 meetings. Anyway, “You don’t marry the one you fell in love with. You fall in love with the one you married,” our guide said.

Food!

All along the tour, we got to taste some of the delicacies of the Ashkenazi community of Bnei Brak. Because no cultural tour is complete without a taste of the local food!

Kugel:

Our first food stop was at Muchan U’mezuman Restaurant at 17 Chason Ish Street. There, we stopped to taste kugel, a kind of pudding made either from egg noodles or mashed potatoes. We got to taste both variations. It is a very popular dish during Shabbat because you can keep it on the heating surface from Friday evening. Some said that it was a bit spicy, but I felt it was a bit sweet. Anyway, it was my favorite dish!

Kugel from egg noodles and mashed potatoes

Galareta and gefilte fish:

Next, we stopped at Deliketes at 92 Rabbi Akiva Street. There, the highlight dishes were gefilte fish and galareta, also known as “calves’ foot jelly.” I know gefilte fish from my grandmother’s house, so it was familiar, but have never tasted galareta before. It looked like jelly but had such an awful taste that I just couldn’t eat it. The other people in the group ate it without any problems, so maybe my taste buds are too sensitive.

The galareta is made from the feet bones of calves or chickens. In times of shortage, families from eastern Europe used every bit of the meat, and that’s how the galareta was born. They cooked the bones for long hours on a small flame, added salt, pepper, and garlic, and waited for the bones to soften. After they softened, they grounded and crashed them, and placed them aside to cool down. While cooling down, the smashed bones turn to jelly.

The brownish jelly is the galareta

Gefilte fish are grounded fish balls usually made from carp. They were also invented in eastern Europe, where the majority of Jews were poor. On Shabbat, it is a religious commandment to eat meat, poultry, or fish. Because the fish were cheaper than the alternatives, many families chose to eat them during Shabbat dinner. To get the most out of the fish, they grounded and made fish balls out of it.

Both the galareta and the gefilte fish are popular Shabbat and holiday dishes. Personally, we eat gefilte fish every Passover.

Sliced gefilte fish and salads

Cholent:

Our last stop was at Shloimi’le on 4 HaRav Shach Street. This kiosk is located right next to a 24/7 synagogue. It has everything you can imagine, from cakes and pastries, through sandwiches, to cooked food. We came there to taste the cholent, also known as hamin. It is one of the most popular Shabbat morning dishes amongst many Jewish groups.

The basic ingredients include potatoes, beans, barley, and meat. But because Shloimi’le is a dairy kiosk, there was no meat in our cholent. The ingredients are put into a big pot on Friday, before the Shabbat begins, and are simmered overnight in a slow oven. Usually, they are simmered for about 12 hours. The slow overnight cooking strengthens and blends the flavors and produces the great taste of the traditional cholent.

Those were the main points of the tour. We finished with a warm dish of cholent, happy and insighted.

The pot of cholent in the kiosk

Have more questions about Jewish people in Israel?

Read my post – Jews in Israel: 8 Questions You Might Ask.

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If you liked this post or found it useful, I would really appreciate a like, a share and a comment (:

If you have any questions about travel in Israel, feel free to contact me at lior@backpackisrael.com.

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And plan a great trip to Israel using my app – Travel Israel by Travelkosh for Android and iOS

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Food Jerusalem

My Favorite Budget Places to Eat in Jerusalem

I love to eat and luckily, Jerusalem is full of great restaurants. In this post I would like to share with you my favorite budget restaurants in Jerusalem, most of them even open on Shabbat! They offer delicious things to eat at prices that range from around 10 ILS to around 30 ILS, which is about 3 to 8 USD. Ready? Let’s start with a short video about Israeli street food by Israel (not shot in Jerusalem, but still quite good), so you can see how some of the food looks like (the photo in the heading was taken from Pixabay. I don’t usually take photos of my food…):

And now… Here’s my list of favorite budget places to eat in Jerusalem:

Aricha Sabich (in Hebrew: אריכא סביח)

Let’s start with my most favorite. This little restaurant on Agripas Street, on the other side of the road from Machane Yehuda Market, is where you can get super tasty Sabich for just around 20 ILS. Sabich is a traditional Iraqi Jewish dish. It’s a pita stuffed with fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs. On top of those you can add to the pita whatever you want – tahini sauce, salad, amba, spicy sauce and chopped parsley.

The place doesn’t have many tables, but if the place is busy you can always take the Sabich as take-away, as it comes in a pita. The service is fantastic. They take your order first and then ask you what you want in your pita. It takes just a few minutes to get your Sabich and then the only thing left is to eat and enjoy!

Check out their Facebook page here.

Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday from 9:30AM to 11PM, Friday from 9:30AM to 2PM. Saturday closed.

Address: 83 Agripas Street, in the Machane Yehuda Market area.

The entrance to Aricha Sabich Jerusalem
The counter

Jahnun Bar (in Hebrew: ג’חנון בר)

Another great place to eat is Jahnun Bar. I usually go to their branch in Machane Yehuda, but they also have a branch on Hillel Street, which is open also on Shabbat (the one in Machane Yehuda isn’t). In Jahnun Bar you can taste some dishes from the Jewish Yemenite cuisine.

The Jahnun is made of rolled up dough and a lot of butter and is traditionally served with a tomato dip, hard-boiled eggs and skhug, which is a hot sauce used by the Yemenites. In Jahnun Bar they sell delicious jahnuns for just about 20-25 ILS.

They also sell malawach, which is a kind of flatbread, brushed with oil and cooked flat in a frying pan. You can ask whatever fillings for it, and they will wrap it up for you. It costs around 25 ILS. Their service is also fantastic and you can take it as a takeaway or stay to eat it in the market, which also as a great vibe.

Another dish they offer is the Shakshuka, which isn’t Yemenite originated. It’s a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, garlic and spices, and is a very popular dish for breakfast in Israel. I’ve tasted the jahnun and the malawach and can recommend them very much! I still need to go taste the shakshuka, but suppose it’s also great.

Check out their Facebook page here.

Opening Hours: The one on Hillel Street is open 24 hours a day.

Address: In Machane Yehuda Market – 30 HaEgoz Street. Outside the market – 28 Hillel Street.

Jahnun Bar in Machane Yehuda Market

Hummus Lina (in Hebrew: חומוס לינא)

You’ve probably wondered where you can get great hummus in Jerusalem. There are a lot of hummus places in the city, but the one I recommend most is Hummus Lina in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. First of all, unlike other places in the Old City, Hummus Lina has a menu with prices, so it would be hard to work on you and sell you something at a higher price than it actually is (which sometimes happens in other places). Other than that, Hummus Lina has wonderful hummus and also very tasty falafel balls. A plate will falafel balls will cost you around 10 ILS and a plate of hummus – around 20 ILS. There’s hummus with fava beans, hummus with hummus beans or hummus with pine nuts.

Hummus Lina have plenty of room to sit and enjoy your food. The place is a family business that started about 60 years ago, and it seems like they have a winning recipe!

Check out their Facebook page here.

Opening Hours: Every day from 8AM to 4PM.

Address: 42 Al Khanka Street.

The entrance to Hummus Lina in the Old City

Hummus Ben Sira (in Hebrew: חומוס בן סירא)

Although Hummus Lina is great, it’s not Kosher. So if you want to eat Kosher hummus, I recommend you leave the Old City and start eating towards Hummus Ben Sira. This hummus restaurant is Kosher and located just a few steps away from the Mamilla Mall.

Their hummus is very-very good, especially when they add meat to it. But you can also get hummus with fava beans, hummus with hummus beans, hummus with mushrooms and hummus with cauliflower. The hummus costs around 15-25 ILS, depending on which type you choose. The other things on the menu are – in my point of view – less successful. And another thing you should keep in mind is that the service here is usually very-very-very slow.

Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday from 11AM to 4AM (the next day), Friday from 11AM to an hour before Shabbat, Saturday from an hour after Shabbat to 4AM (the next day).

Address: 3 Ben Sira Street.

Just behind the car – that’s Hummus Ben Sira
The inside of Hummus Ben Sira

Pasta Basta (in Hebrew: פסטה בסטה)

Pasta Basta is my favorite budget food chain in Israel. It serves fresh pasta. It’s not an Israeli food, but it’s delicious, fresh and on a budget! Jerusalem’s Pasta Basta is located at the end of Machane Yehuda Market and has plenty of places to sit. The menu consists of pasta types, pasta sauces and toppings. What you need to do is form your perfect pasta dish by choosing your favorite pasta type, sauce and toppings. If you choose to eat without toppings, the maximum amount you’ll pay will be 31 ILS and the minimum amount – 23 ILS. The pasta is ready within minutes from your order and the only thing left is just to enjoy your meal. I’ve never been disappointed!

Check out their Facebook page here.

Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday from 11AM to midnight, Friday from 10AM to an hour and a half before Shabbat. Saturday closed.

Address: Tut Alley 8, Machane Yehuda Market.

Pasta Basta in Machane Yehuda Market

Jafar Sweets:

There’s no better way to finish a culinary post than with some sweets. A friend of mine took me to Jafar Sweets in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City a few years ago and I’ve been returning to this place for sweets ever since. The place is named after Mohammad Jafar, who opened it in 1951.

If you’re passing by, you should definitely try their sweet and super tasty kanafeh. Kanafeh is a traditional Arab dessert made from pastry or dough soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and layered with melted cheese. Another type of sweet they sell is baklava, a pastry made of layers of filo, which are filled with chopped nuts, held together with honey or sweet syrup.

Jaffar Sweets is a huge place with plenty of places to sit and great service. On each table there’s a water pitcher if you’d like to drink between the sweet bites.

Opening Hours: From early morning until late.

Address: 40 Beit HaBad Street, in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

The entrance to Jafar Sweets in the Muslim Quarter

And a Bit Above the Budget:

At the beginning of the post I said that the restaurants I’ll talk about offer meals which are under 30 ILS. If you don’t mind going a bit above the budget, I highly recommend checking out Knaf in the Machane Yehuda Market, just across from Jahnun Bar. This place brings a twist to the original kanafeh, a kadaif pastry filled with melted cheese. Instead of cheese, they fill the kanafeh with meat (or with a vegan filling). And it is delicious! It costs 38 ILS for a meat filling and more for a vegan filling. Although it’s super yummy, I wouldn’t call it a meal because the portion is quite small. If you’re hungry, you would probably need to buy something additional after this.

Knaf at Machane Yehuda Market

And if you’re not interested in budget places at all, you can try out the famous Azura restaurant or the excellent Mano BaShouk, which are both located in the market and offer mid-range prices.

Hope you’ll have a yummy stay!

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More posts you might find useful:

Top Free Things to do in Jerusalem

Free Things to do in Jerusalem Old City

Shabbat in Jerusalem: What’s Open?


Do you have any recommendations on budget places to eat in Jerusalem? Tell me in the comments or send me a message through my Facebook page.

If you liked this post or found it useful, I’d really appreciate a like, share or comment from you (:

Also, feel free to follow this blog and like my Facebook Page – Backpack Israel.

And check out my budget walking tour – Hidden Sites of the Old City.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Eilat Food

The Thai Corner in Eilat – Super Friendly

It was a chilly night. I just arrived from Jerusalem and was driving to my parents’ home when my phone rang. A friend I haven’t seen for a long time asked if I wanted to meet and eat somewhere. I said – “Why not. Where do you want to eat?”

That’s how I got to know The Thai Corner (הפינה התאילנדית).

This cute little place, divided to a Thai stall and a suchi restaurant, is located across the road from the Central Bus Station in Eilat. You can’t see it from the street, because it’s hidden behind some trees and bushes, at the back of the square.

The staff at the counter smiled at us when we showed up, asked how we are doing and what we want to order. My friend is a vegan. She had loads of options on the menu, and they were all reasonably priced. I found a lot of options, too. I wasn’t planning to order any meat anyway, but if you’re planning on something meaty, you’ll find plenty of options. All reasonably priced. I don’t remember anything over 50-60 Shekels, and most things are around the 40 Shekels.

After we ordered, we chose to sit outside. All the waiters asked us if we’re sure we want to do that. “Are you sure you don’t want to sit inside? It’s really cold outside,” they said, and we didn’t believe them. But after a few minutes we understood what they were talking about. Nevertheless, we stayed outside.

The meals arrived within a few minutes. They were made of the spot. My noodles were excellent and the portion was perfect! If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, yummy place, that provides people not only with meat options, but also with vegeterian and vegan options, make your way to The Thai Corner. Perfect, quiet place!

Where? City Center Plaza 8, in front of the Central Bus Station.

Opening Hours: Sundays until Thursdays from 9:00 to 21:00.

Prices: $-$$

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Have any questions about Israel? Feel free to post in the comments or send a message on Facebook.

You’re also free to look in my website – www.backpackisrael.com .

Yours,

Lior (:

Categories
Food Haifa

Tasting Wadi Nisnas

Today I want to tell you about Wadi Nisnas, a small neighborhood in downtown Haifa, which is the main city in Northern Israel.

The residents of the neighborhood are Arab Christians and Muslims, living side by side, in peace with each other. In the past the neighborhood also had a lot of Jewish residents in it, but for some reason they left, which is a real pity.

I visited Wadi Nisnas a few days after the fire stopped flaming through Haifa. If you haven’t heard, Israel was on fire last month, literally. Fire burst in many locations across the country, all at once. In Haifa, more than 500 houses were burnt down. Many believe that the Israeli Arabs inflamed the country. So… When I came to Wadi Nisnas with a group of people, they were wondering if there even could be a co-existence between the Jewish and Muslim people living in Israel. Because Wadi Nisnas is all about co-existence.

Near the entrance to the neighborhood sits a very special institution called “Beit Agefen” (“The House of the Grapevine”). It’s a Arab Jewish cultural center in Haifa, that is creating dialogue between the two groups through art and culture. There are doing a super important job!

But I want to tell you less about the co-existence (although it’s interesting) and more about the food, because if you visit Wadi Nisnas, you should definitely try the food.

First Stop – Mama Pita:

If you like pizza, you should stop by “Mama Pita”, a great family-run pizzeria. I recommend you order a pizza with hyssop (“Zaatar” in Hebrew). It’s delicious! And cheap!! You can find the place on Alenbi 57, Haifa. It’s open from 7:30 in the morning to 15:00 in the afternoon. The owners and workers believe that it’s not all about the business, and that they need some time with their family and for themselves. That’s why the don’t work until very late.

Some of Mama Pita’s Delicious Pizzas

Second Stop – Pastry Shop of the West (קונדיטוריית המזרח) 

If you like sweets, this is a great place for you! Sadly, they sell the sweets per kilograms, which means that if you’re not planning to share it with others, I suppose you won’t need so much. But I do recommend you try the fantastic, sweet and fresh tamarind (“Tamar Indi” in Hebrew) beverage, which costs only 3 Shekels per cup. I’ve never drank such a wonderful drink, which also has a wonderful aroma of roses. Highly recommended! You can find the place on Alenbi 34. It’s open from 7:30 until late.

Do try to find a place that sells kanafeh for a reasonable price! It’s a sweet pastry that I highly recommend tasting!

The Tamar Hindi Drink – Best Drink Ever!

Third Stop – Falafel!

There are many places to eat falafel in Wadi Nisnas. I recommend eating in one of two places: “Falafel Ha’zkenim” (פלאפל הזקנים, “The Old People’s Falafel”) or “Falafel Micheal” (פלאפל מישל), which is right in front of the other falafel place. Falafel is a deep fried ball made of ground chickpeas or fava beans. I recommend you ask for some tahini on top.

Falafel Ha’zkenim is located on The Wadi 18 Street and is open from 8:00 until 20:00.

Falafel Micheal is loated right in front of the other falafel.

Inside Falafel Micheal with Micheal

That’s all for now! Hope you have a great trip in Wadi Nisnas when you come here!


Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. Busy with my studies and such. But I haven’t forgotten you all! Hope to post again soon.

Yours,

Lior

Categories
Food Tel Aviv

“The Best Falafel in Tel Aviv”

I’m not a big fan of falafel, but people here love it. Two days ago I met a young girl who is part of an interesting program named “אחי ישראלי” (or in translation to English: “My Brother is Israeli”). I can tell a lot of interesting stories about our meeting, which took place thanks to CoachSurfing, but today I would like to concentrate on the falafel side of the story.

The truth is, we didn’t talk a lot about falafel. We just talked a bit about my website, Backpack Israel, amongst other things, and then she said that I should recommend a specific falafel place in Tel Aviv, located on King George Street. “They sell the greatest falafel I’ve ever tasted, and it’s only 6 shekels for a meal!” she said. But when I looked on the Internet for a falafel place on that street, I found a lot of results.

“There’s no way I’m going to find your falafel place!” I said.

She said she’ll search for it for me and after a few minutes she found the place. “Falafel Ratzon,” she said, “That’s the one.”

Then she took a peice of tissue paper and wrote the details down on it:

“Falafel Ratzon

King George 17

Tel Aviv”

So if you want to taste one of the best falafels in Tel Aviv, you should make your way to Ratzon’s. 6 Shekels is without a doubt a superb price! Enjoy.

Opening Hours: Sundays to Thursdays from 10:00 to 20:00, Fridays from 10:00 to 15:00.

Visit Falafel Ratzon’s Facebook page – here.

Categories
Eilat Food

The First Ice Cream Parlor in Eilat

There’s always something new to discover. Today I visited the first ice cream parlor in Eilat, “Pini Lek”, which was opened in the city in 1958. I’ve been living in Eilat for around eight years now and haen’t been to this parlor… It’s located near Mor Centre (מרכז מור), a small commercial centre on Eilot Road, about a 15 minutes’ walk from the touristic downtown city.

It’s a very small parlor, with a few round tables and chairs. You can pick from an average number of flavors and there are also some options for vegans and people who don’t like a lot of sugar in their ice cream. But what makes this parlor special is its special cones. Homemade cones, brought to you in a cup. It looks like a flower. Very strange sight, but delicious. I ordered the special cone, a scoop of cookies ice cream and a scoop of cherry ice cream.

What did I like about this place?

* It’s small and quiet. The parlor does sit on a main road, but not in the touristic side of the city, so not many cars drive by. My friend and I enjoyed a great ice cream and because there wasn’t much noise around, had no problem chatting.

* The ice cream is tasty. Unlike other ice creams, that can taste quite badly, this ice cream was great!

* The price is great! You pay according to weight, so the more your ice cream weights, the more you pay. I paid only 11 shekels for my ice cream (2 scoops). Ice creams usually cost 18 shekels +.

* The ice cream seller was very nice and friendly. 

So if you fancy a good ice cream in Eilat, make your way to this special place, “Pini Lek”. Every Eilati will know how to point you there. Now I do, too.