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Arab-Israeli-run Abouelafia bakery in Jaffa. Photo by Ted Eytan, courtesy Creative Commons

The legendary Abouelafia bakery, an Arab-Israeli-run establishment that has been in operation since 1879 on Beit Eshel Street in Jaffa. Open twenty-four hours a day, it offers long bagels, many kinds of pita, sambusak stuffed with cheese, and savory sesame-studded bourekas.

Abouelafia bakery, open twenty-four hours a day, knows the good that can come of mixing peoples.

Located as it is on one of the busiest streets in Jaffa, streaming with tourists and locals, Abouelafia knows the good that can come of mixing peoples. (In the summer of 2014, as violence raged in Gaza, bakery workers wore T-shirts that read in Hebrew, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” and gave the shirts out free to anyone who came by.)

7 Yefet Street, Tel Aviv-Yafo

Jaffa’s Abouelafia Bakery: Peace through Bourekas

Photo courtesy Mount Zion Hotel

The Mount Zion Hotel, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem’s Old City, offers sumptuousness in a different flavor and an equally intriguing history. Erected by a British charitable organization in the 1880s, the building, which faces Mount Zion and looks over the sweeping Hinnom Valley, originally served as a hospital for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. It was taken over by the Turkish army during World War I and suffered severe damage in the 1920 earthquake. During Israel’s War of Independence, contact with Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter was possible only by means of a cable car running from a point on Mount Zion to a room in this hospital building. The cable car was used at night, carrying medicine and arms up to Mount Zion and the wounded back down to the hospital; by day, the cable was lowered to the ground so as not to be seen by the enemy. As with so many sites in Israel, the past is embedded deeply in every stone here.

As with so many sites in Israel, the past is embedded deeply in every stone here.

Today, the Mount Zion Hotel retains much of its Turkish flavor: there is a clear Ottoman-Moroccan aesthetic sensibility in the wildly patterned ceramic floors, stone walls and archways, colorful curtains and bedclothes, and the brightly tiled hamam, now a functioning Turkish bath and part of the hotel’s spa. And the Mount Zion serves one of the loveliest breakfasts in Israel: a groaning board of fruits, cheeses, vegetables, olives, baked goods, fish, omelets, breads, fresh juices. On this account alone, many guests wish they had more days here, in order to sample everything.

Mount Zion Hotel >

Photos courtesy Mount Zion Hotel


Jerusalem’s Mount Zion Hotel: Ottoman-Style Luxury

 Benedict Ben Yehuda poster advertising their midnight breakfast.

Nightclubs are mercurial things—they come and go with the wind—but there’s one thing you can count on in Tel Aviv-Yafo: the effervescence of the scene.

You might well find yourself dancing on a table . . . practically speaking, there is simply not enough room on the tiny crowded floor.

The clubs cover a full range, from the super-elegant—where a swish clientele drinks cava and complicated cocktails while nibbling on delicate hors d’oeuvres—to the poundingly high-decibel underground cavern, throbbing with bodies and sound. There are clubs where, upon entering, you might encounter the long legs and bare feet of a young woman dancing four feet above floor level on the bar, to jangly Middle Eastern hip-hop, and where—if you stick around long enough—you might well find yourself dancing on a table (practically speaking, there is simply not enough room on the tiny crowded floor).

DJs at some clubs spin disco music, to which a young and sweaty crowd pogos beneath scattered rays of colored light. And there are chill jazz venues where you can make a selection from a menu of single-malt whiskeys, and sip blissfully to recordings of jazz greats or live performances. Some rooftop clubs have outdoor seating areas lit by sparkling lights, where you can sit on comfy bright-colors sofas and puff at a hookah like an old pasha.

If you’re hungry at 2 a.m., visit a late-night gastropub and have (what else?) a bagel, served with zaatar and tahini. (These are not your New York bagels: in Israel, the bagels are extended oblongs, baked but not boiled, and far more filling than our little doughnut-shaped affairs.) Here, eaters and beer drinkers young and old chat and laugh, enjoying a much-needed break in their club crawl.

As the sky begins to lighten at the edges, you may be famished after your night of adventures. Tel Aviv-Yafo has a range of eateries that specialize in breakfast—including Benedict Ben Yehuda, where you can select your own combination of toppings for eggs, from asparagus to salmon to creamed spinach to (the decidedly un-kosher option) crisp bacon.

After your late night/early morning breakfast, you may ready for a nice long nap. Happily full and delightfully exhausted, you have seen the sun rise. It’s time to head home.

Benedict Ben Yehuda >

HaMaoz/Café Meira >


Nightclubs of Tel Aviv-Yafo, and Breakfast after Midnight

A guestroom at the Pina Barosh inn, Rosh Pina. Photo © and courtesy Cookie West 

The building that houses the Pina Barosh inn, perched on Rosh Pina’s HaKhalutzim Street, has been in the Friedman family since the 1870s; today, six generations along, the family continues here. Nili Friedman, who now owns and runs the inn, is a warm, effusive, and very welcoming hostess—she is, like many others in Rosh Pina, also an artist, and some of her paintings can be seen hanging on the walls of Pina Barosh’s seven charming guest rooms, most of which look out onto the broad green-and-gold Hula Valley. Some rooms have private outdoor hot tubs, in which guests can loll indulgently with a glass of wine and gaze out all the way across the valley to Mount Hermon.

Mornings at Pina Barosh will likely find you sitting at the inn’s wide, stone-columned outdoor dining room, overlooking the Hula Valley.

Mornings at Pina Barosh will likely find you sitting at the inn’s wide, stone-columned outdoor dining room—warmed in cooler months with a blazing fire in a central fireplace—and looking out at this astonishing view. Here are served magnificent, many-dish breakfasts, including homemade cheeses, fig jam, breads, tapenades, tahini, fresh eggs and yogurts, and the requisite Israeli salads—such a satisfying, nourishing, and gorgeous way to start the day. Nili’s daughter, Shiri, trained as a chef in France and New York, and runs the excellent Shiri Bistro here that also serves lunch and dinner, applying her refined culinary approach to the bounty of local produce and other ingredients.

Pina Barosh >

Reviving the Spirit at Pina Barosh Inn

Happy customers at the Sa’id hummus shop, Akko. Photo by and © Vision Studio 

At Sa’id hummus shop in Akko, there is always a line to get in, but things move quickly, as the establishment specializes in only three perfect dishes, which are always ready for the table: hummus, foul (a rough mash of warm fava beans and spices), and mashawsha (a still rougher mash of warm chickpeas and spices), served in small hillocks on the plate and liberally drizzled with rich, dark olive oil, along with pickles, onions, vegetables, and a hot pile of freshly baked pita.

Sa’id specializes in only three perfect dishes, which are always ready for the table: hummus, foul, and mashawsha.

Guests sit at shared tables, eat quickly, and watch the process in the kitchen: vast pots of chickpeas and favas being systematically cooked, drained, mashed, spiced, and served. At Sa’id, the daily service ends abruptly when they run out of hummus, which is often in the early afternoon.

Sa’id Hummus >


Akko's Sa’id Hummus Shop

Shakshuka sizzles in a skillet. Photo by and © Vision Studio

Shakshuka is an Israeli staple that is now showing up on menus around the world—eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, often spicily cooked up with onions, hot peppers, cumin, and any number of other ingredients, from spinach to wild mushrooms, and served piping hot in individual skillets, with (absolutely necessary) hunks of good bread for sopping. Like many things in this region, the dish’s origins are a subject of impassioned debate: shakshuka may come from an Arabic slang word for “mixed up,” or from chakchouka, a Berber vegetable ragout. The dish may come from Morocco, Libya, or Tunisia, or perhaps from Turkey—some food historians date its origins to the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, spicily cooked up with onions, peppers, cumin, and any number of other ingredients, and served piping hot, with hunks of good bread for sopping.

Many agree, however, that the best place for the dish in Israel is located in the heart of Jaffa, at an eatery unambiguously named Dr. Shakshuka on Beit Eshel Street. It is distinguished by the smell of fiery-hot peppers sizzling, its abrupt but friendly waiters, and the old copper kerosene stoves dangling from the high stone ceiling. The kitchen at Dr. Shakshuka is worth a look: there, dozens of small skillets are lined up, awaiting their turn to be filled with rich tomato sauce and clattered onto the fire, and pallets of eggs are ready to be poached in the hot red medium. Shakshuka: wherever the word comes from, to many happy guests it means “I am in Israel.”

Dr. Shakshuka > 


Shakshuka: An Israeli Staple

Beresheet Hotel's savory Israeli breakfast. Photo by vera46, courtesy Creative Commons

Many hotels in Israel offer magnificently extravagant breakfast buffets, where guests can assemble their own combination of elements and go back to sample more should they have room to do so. Consider for example the lavish spreads at Rosh Pina’s beautiful Pina Barosh inn and at Mizpe Hayamim, at the Beresheet Hotel, and at Tel Aviv’s Manta Ray (where diners at breakfast look out at the Mediterranean). For more, see the film The New Cuisine of Israel/Mizpe Hayamim: A Retreat for Body and Soul).

Many hotels in Israel offer magnificently extravagant breakfast buffets.

Coffee is essential to breakfast, and it’s excellent most everywhere in Israel. (This is one of the few countries where the Starbucks franchise did not succeed: all six Israeli Starbucks branches closed their doors in 2003.) Coffee is taken throughout the day, when anyone needs a pleasant jolt in the form of deliciously rich, dark, and potent caffeine, straight-up in the form of powerful espresso or softened with steamed milk and sweetened with raw sugar. 

Shiri Bistro at Pina Barosh >

Resources: Beresheet Hotel >

Manta Ray >

Mizpe Hayamim >

A Lavish Start to the Day: The Hotel Breakfast

Savory Israeli Breakfast. Photo by Or Hiltch, courtesy Creative Commons

Breakfast in Israel usually consists of a variety of small dishes in any combination: chopped-vegetable salads, tahini, hummus, baba ghanoush, pita, smoked or marinated fish, pickled vegetables, cheeses, yogurt or labneh, olives, eggs, fruits, marmalades, butter, and so on. It is a celebration of the tangle of cultures that exist in Israel—at peace, at least here on a tray full of little mezze plates.

Breakfast in Israel usually consists in a variety of small dishes: a celebration of the tangle of cultures that exists here.

The country’s lavish multi-plate breakfasts originated partly from kibbutz life, where dining halls served (and some still do) a substantial morning meal to members headed off to a day of physical labor.

Be sure never to pass up an Israeli breakfast which Israelis have reconceived as a varied and deeply satisfying start to the day.

The Savory Israeli Breakfast