The Birthright Israel Effect
Disclaimer: This post was developed in sponsored partnership with Birthright Israel
I came to Israel for the first time on Birthright Israel five years ago. The effect that Birthright Israel had on me has shaped me into the person I am today. I am so fortunate that I got the chance to experience Israel again with Birthright Israel, however, this time it was on a specialized trip. This past trip, allowed me to see one of my favorite places through a culinary lens that I have never experienced before in just 5 days. This experience allowed me to have a more tangible and therefore meaningful connection to the country, and I am so fortunate to have gotten to experience it with Birthright Israel. Keep reading for a full recap of our time with Birthright Israel below!
Day 1- Jaffa
Five days of exploring and eating our way through Israel with my close friends, Lena of @EastCoastFeastCoast, Sami of @TheNaughtyFork and Justin of @DCFoodPorn meant lots of fun and food! The second we hopped off the plane at Ben Gurion airport, we headed straight to Jaffa, Tel Aviv where we had the chance to walk, eat and explore the path of the Old Jaffa Port. Old Jaffa Port was the ancient port of the city of Jaffa, out of which modern day Tel Aviv has grown. In recent years, Old Jaffa Port has been developed as a cultural attraction, where many of the old hangars have ben converted into versatile spaces. We had the chance to eat at the iconic Old Man & The Sea, which is right on the Jaffa Port. At Old Man & The Sea, you sit down and immediately get 18 different kinds of salads, warm oven baked pita breads, and lemonade. It was a meal like no other!
Jaffa Restaurant Recommendations:
– Abu Hassan Hummus
Day 2- Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a very special place to me, as it is one of the first places where I felt very connected to the land of Israel! Walking through the narrow paths of The Old City, it was amazing to experience new sites and learn new things about Jerusalem thanks to Birthright Israel. Our Birthright Israel leader, Mitch actually took us ‘on top’ of the Old City, where we were able to stand on the roof tops and see a breathtaking view of Jerusalem that I have never seen before. As well, we had a chance to visit the Western Wall, which is one of the holiest sites in the world for Jews. It is the closest retaining wall to the former temple on the Temple Mount. It was a truly special moment to experience with my close friends.
After touring the Old City, we went to the iconic Machne Yehuda Market. The Machne Yehuda Market, or shuk, is the largest market in Jeruslaem with over 250 vendors selling everything from fruit and vegetables to specialty foods. The market is a fascinating place to stroll and experience mouth-watering array of food, spices and ingredients! We had the chance to have a ‘taste of the Machne Yehuda Market’, as we tried many delicious foods like drum fish on pita, yaprach and pastel, Acharuli (boat shaped hachapuri with a filling inside and sunny side eggs on top), Marzipan rugalach, hummus, Malawach and so much more!
Jerusalem Restaurant Recommendations:
– Machne Yehuda restaurant
– Jachnun Bar
– Arbes Hummus
– Hachapuri House
Day 3 – Masada & Dead Sea
One of the most memorable experiences of the Birthright Israel trip was hiking up Masada for sunset! Built back in 30 BCE, Masada has an amazing history that has been kept alive through the centuries. As one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it was amazing to first handily witness Masada and it’s ancient fortress, which occupies a breathtaking plateau above the Dead Sea. After our hike up Masada and taking in the most magnificent views we headed over to a Bedouin village, where we had the chance to eat delicious Bedouin food in the Negev Desert. Bedouin cuisine is a variation of traditional Middle Eastern food with many unique blends of flavour! One of my favourite dishes of the day from the Bedouin Village was their delicious Shakshuka! Once we finished at the Bedouin Village, we had the chance to relax and visit the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Negev. The Dead Sea is part of the long border between Israel and Jordan, where you can actually see towering mountains from the Israel side. It was a jammed pack day with Birthright Israel, but truly a once in a lifetime experience!
Day 4- Dalit et Carmel Druze Village & Tzfat
Thanks to Birthright Israel, we had the chance to eat one of the best home cooked meals that I have ever had (sorry, mom)! We started our fourth day off with an authentic Druze meal in the heart of the Dalit el Carmel Druze village at Mona’s Kitchen. We ate authentic Druze food and had the chance to learn from Mona and hear about her and her husband’s story of life in Israel as Druze. One of the most important things they told us is that they open their home to all people, because they want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and welcomed into their home. It was a very meaningful and beautiful experience in Mona’s home and kitchen.
After eating authentic Druze food we headed over to the mystical city of Tzfat, which is a town high in the North of Israel and is considered to be one of the ‘four holy cities’. While walking through the beautiful cobblestone streets of Tzfat, we had the chance to try Lahuhe, which is a Yemenite crepe filled with different ingredients like fresh vegetables, cheese and egg. It is delicious! I personally really loved walking through Tzfat, as I believe that it is a place that gives Judaism and Jewish life color. On the way back from Tzfat, we got to try some of the best Knafeh that I have ever tasted at Alhalal. Knafeh is traditional Middle Eastern desserts made with unripen cheese that’s baked in shredded phyllo dough before being soaked in simple syrup. It is a delicacy that is worth every bite!
Day 5- Carmel Market, Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv! One of my favorite travel destinations within Israel and one of the most vibrant cities in the world! Our last day with Birthright Israel was very special, as we had the chance to explore the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv on a Friday morning. The Shuk on a Friday is the place you want to be, as everyone is preparing for Shabbat! Our Birthright Israel tour guide, Mitch took us off the beaten path of the Shuk, as we had the chance to try Shabbat food. Our first stop was for Kubaneh, which is traditional Yemenite bread. After, we had Romanian Kebabs, Burikas, and so much more! The Shuk Carmel has a diverse and dynamic culinary scene, with many different cultures and traditions! When walking through the Carmel Market, you will discover new flavors and ingredients, making it an experience like no other.
Tel Aviv Restaurant Recommendations:
– Port Said
– Bar Ochel
– Yom Tov
If you want to check out my top 5 brunch spots in Tel Aviv, head over to Birthright Israel’s page!
Five days with Birthright Israel with three of my closest friends was an experience that I will never forget! Thank you Birthright Israel for reminding me how incredible and special the land of Israel truly is. It was unbelievable to see one of my favorite places through a culinary lens that I have never experienced before. Birthright Israel allowed me to have a more tangible and meaningful connection to Israel. I am constantly reminding myself that there is something in Israel, something that cannot be heard or touched, but is somehow absorbed.