Israeli Food for the Holidays

As the Jewish holidays approach in September and October, so does one of the busiest tourist periods of the entire year. Here are a few pointers on food if it’s your first time to Israel:

  • Just go with it. Whatever it happens to be.
    • If you’re in Israel during the holidays for more than two nights, chances are you will be hosted by someone, either at their home or a restaurant of their choosing. Even if you end up with something in front of you that you don’t exactly recognize or understand, just give it a try. It will probably be fairly delicious.
  • Don’t ask for recommendations from waiters at restaurants.
    • The waiter will either put the question back on you (“Well, it depends, what do you like?”) or will recommend the entire menu. If you can read, just pick something without assistance.
  • Beware degrees of kosher.
    • This is a particular issue in Jerusalem, where certain parts of the city have groupings of kosher restaurants (as in almost everywhere). The more strictly kosher, the less inventive and flavorful the food tends to be. It can even veer toward unpalatable, though it depends on the establishment.
  • Don’t assume it’s proper to bring something to dinner.
    • If you’re a guest at someone’s home, take care about grabbing a bottle of wine as a contribution. If it’s not kosher and the hosts keep kosher, the bottle will leave the same way it came–unopened.
  • Remember that traditions vary.
    • Every household does each holiday in their own way, depending on how religious they are, so follow the lead of your hosts. Sukkot tends to have the most festive atmosphere across the board.
  • Restaurants won’t keep normal hours.
    • The holidays in Israel are a tricky time for eating out, as many restaurants will keep unusual hours based around the holiday schedule. Regardless of what it says in your travel guide book or what your local friends think–call ahead.
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