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hummus in Jerusalem

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was talking to someone at the airport, just after my arrival in Israel, who had asked me what I was doing in her country.

fried dough in syrup

When I told her I was there to learn about the cuisine – by eating it, her eyes lit up, and she said – “Whenever I leave Israel, after my family, the thing I miss the most is the food.” And after one week, I could see why. I was missing it, too, the moment I stepped off the plane and returned home. In fact, my home kitchen has become a mini hummus factory, churning out batch-after-batch of hummus. And it lasts just about as fast as I can scoop it onto pita bread.

falafelspice mixes
old jerusalemhummus

The incredible freshness of the foods was part of what made everything so tasty in Israel. And I’m from California, so I’m no stranger to pristine fruits and vegetables. The fish, because it’s so good, is often served raw – because it’s too good to cook. And it usually gets no treatment than some lemon juice, a few pickled onions, and a dab of white cheese (fromage blanc).

wailing wall in Jerusalem

People in Israel can be brash and opinionated, especially when it comes to food. I’m used to a bit of lively banter living in Paris, but mention a restaurant or a particular dish, and you’ll get a multitude of opinions, each one more “right” than the others.

Holy Land Antiques

I’m not a spiritual person, but you just need to walk the streets of Jerusalem, or step into a place of worship, and see how powerful the city is. People come from all over the wold for a variety of reasons (and surprisingly, not just for the hummus), and the history, the conflicts, and the force of it all hits you from every angle and alleyway in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem churchcross
grape leaveskneeling

Over a hundred cultures live in Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey, and some thirty-three languages are spoken.


Because it’s a nation of immigrants, like America, the immigrants brought their various cuisines, and in Israel, you find the foods of (and the influenced of) many different cultures; Iraqi, Lebanese, Turkish, Palestinian, Hungarian, North African, Georgian, Yemen..and yes, I even saw a few American and French places, which make up the eclectic cuisine of this country.


The ingredients available encompass all my favorite flavors – handfuls of fresh herbs are strewn liberally over salads, soft white cheeses are dolloped next to mounds of smoky, charred eggplant, onion seeds perk up a loaf of rich egg bread, and a drizzle of sweet/tart pomegranate molasses adds an elusive touch to a platter of chicken roasted on pita, with the bread soaking up the flavorful juices, ready to be torn apart with your hands – and devoured.


chocolate rugelach

When I travel, I like meeting bakers and chefs, because we’re all bound by the same resolve: to cook, and to feed. No matter what kitchen you step in to, or what bakers you meet, or what country you’re in, there is a certain kinship that’s earned from working long hours on your feet with the only reward being that you’ve made something beautiful and delicious.

pita vendor

Hebrew sign

We started in Jerusalem touring the old city, with a stop at the Mahane-Yehuda market. Markets are the best places to mingle with people, and watch them shop. And I could have spent a couple of days poking through all the kiosks.

Jerusalem market

This market is sensational, with bread vendors hurling pitas at shoppers, piles of shiny bagels and chocolate rugelach ready to take home, sticky dates everywhere (tastes are encouraged), freshly extruded pasta, piles of fresh cherries, pomegranates, and avocados heaped on tables, colorful sweets and confections, and women patiently sitting in the corner offering just-picked grape leaves for stuffing.

herbs and spicesfastest line
apples & cokebread

And lots of people wandering, surveying the stands before making their final choices.


You can buy beautiful cheeses at Basher, such as feta, labeneh, European cheeses, and cottage cheese, which is not just something that comes in a white plastic tub, but is a vital part of the diet in Israel. There was even a cottage cheese “war” several years ago, with the country erupting in protest over the rising price of this staple.

Israeli dairy productspita bread
cherry vendorpasta

(A while back I purchased a baguette in Paris and was stunned when the vendeuse told me it was €1,40. While if you don’t live in France, it’s hard to comprehend what the means, but things like cottage cheese in Israel, and baguettes in France, are part of the ‘cost of living’ – like gas is, in America. And price increases of everyday items affect people very much, financially and even emotionally.)

halvah boys

halvah in Jerusalem

My favorite place at the market was Halva Kingdom, with the unofficial “king” of halva, wearing a paper crown and handing out samples of the famed sesame paste.

nutty halvah coffee halvah

I never saw so many different kinds of halva, from one stubby mound flavored with Swiss chocolate, to another blended with coffee, and topped with a few beans.

halvah in Jerusalem market

Others were encrusted with nuts and dried fruit, and others were riddled with black sesame seeds.

Georgian bread

Aside from not buying as much as I could carry, I wish I was better at taking notes and writing everything down. But I was so wrapped up in eating everything that I could, the names (often in Hebrew or Arabic) escaped me, and I used my oily fingers to pry pieces of breads and just-baked rounds of dough apart, filled with eggs and oozing cheese, rather than getting the precise spelling right.

Gerogian breadGeorgian cheese bread
Georgian bread in Jerusalemin Old Jerusalem

But who can blame me (okay, I’m sure someone will..) when faced with beautiful, just-baked Georgian pastries at Khachapuri?

jumbo dates in Jerusalem

We packed into this tiny stand-up place and crunched on pickles (which are omnipresent in Israel) while we waited for the tiny kitchen to make our pastries, one filled with soft, oozing, cheese, and the other, Acharoly, a boat-shaped dough with cheese, butter, and a softly cooked egg floating in the middle, waiting to be broken and dipped into.

pitta with falafel

Two other great stops were Zalatimo’s and Abu Shukri, which Sarah, a local blogger who came along with us, says is the original since they never trademarked the name.

Hummus in Jerusalem

Although people in Israel can be are adamant that wherever you’ve gone to eat something, there’s somewhere better that you have or should’ve gone to, most seem to be in agreement that the hummus at Abu Shukri is pretty darned great. But I was happy when bowls of creamy-smooth hummus came forth, topped with a deep pool of olive oil and roasted pine nuts, and another with broad beans.

hummus with pine nutshummus in Jerusalem
 falafeljerusalem, Israel

Seriously, I could have eaten every single meal in Israel here and would have been happy, as long as they kept bringing out fluffy pita bread for dipping in, and lots of crisp-fried falafel balls.


But I didn’t see any desserts on the menu.

filo pastry with cheese

Heck, I don’t think they even have a menu.

Jerusalem pastry

Thankfully a short walk away is Zalatimo, in the old city of Jerusalem, where pastries called mutabak are made from hand-thrown wads of filo dough.

filo pastrycoffee with cardamom

I tried to capture the process with my camera, but it was so fast – and I was so fascinated by watching the fellow rolling and stretching the dough – that I couldn’t get it. However Yotam Ottolenghi visited the bakery for a documentary he did on the foods of Jerusalem (while doing research for an upcoming book), and it’s pretty amazing to watch the baker at work.

The generous square of mutabak is best washed down with small cups of especially strong coffee, flavored with cardamom seeds. Others, not in need of a jolt of caffeine, can opt for herbal infusions.


Janna Gur, in The Book of New Israeli Food, says “Strange as it may sound, Tel Aviv is a better place for coffee than most European capitals…” And drinking plenty of coffee all across Israel, I’d say that I have to agree. Especially in Tel Aviv, where we went next…

Jerusalem bagel

Related Links

Israeli Breakfast

Haj Kahil

Mahane-Yehuda Market in Jerusalem (Nami-Nami)

Sabbath Food in Israel (The English Can Cook)

The Making of Mutabak at Zalatino (The Kitchn)

Dairy Products at Yehuda Mahane Market (Herbivoracious)

Zipping Through Jerusalem with Food Bloggers (Food Bridge)

Machne Yehuda Market in Jerusalem (The Kitchn)

Jerusalem’s Shuk Mahane Yehuda (Penny De Los Santos)

Note: The trip was part of a hosted and guided visit to meet the food producers, chefs, and bakers of Israel, organized by Kinetis.



    • Chez Loulou

    What stunning images, I can see why you miss it! It all looks so delicious, especially that bread stuffed with eggs and cheese…wow!

    • thefrancofly

    David, what a delicious recap! I’ll start saving my centimes for a trip to Tel Aviv.

    By the way, I was a scouring this post for a hummus recipe. Please share one soon.

    • Johanna

    I’m sorry but it is really, really UNFAIR to throw these absolutely yummy pictures on us poor readers ;) :) I want all of it now and a lot of it! And I want nothing of the stuff I bought for dinners this week and that is waiting for me at home in the fridge.. But I will be a good girl and eat it, even though my heart will not be into it but dreaming of hummus and parsley salads and halva and pitas…
    Talking about pitas: you don’t happen to have a recipe for that kind of “chewy” yeast pita bread that looks exactly like the one you took photos of in this post (in the picture with the falafel in a bowl)? Some local kebab places are making it here, and I know most likely there is nothing more than flour, water, yeast and oil in it, but what makes it so different, yummy and most of all chewy, from other flatbreads? My attempts to recreate it were not really successfull…
    Hmmmm. having even more food fantasies now :)
    Have a great day and greatings from Germany!

    • Diane

    I have always wanted to go to Israel and after seeing these photos I want to go more than ever. Have a good week Diane

    • Janice

    Spectacular post. Thank you David, Great summary of your trip: the highlights, the photos, the flavours. Jerusalem is making it to the top of my travel list. And hummus to the top of the concoctions is my kitchen this week as there’s a fantastic Israeli cafe that’s popped up in Sydney with fabulous falafel. Next time you’re here, you should check it out: Cafe Shenkin. As always, muchas gracias!

    • Maureen

    I didn’t want this post to end. Fantastic photos. I think I’d go to Israel just for the hummus. :)

    • Maya

    Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem videos are great. Check out his visit to the Azura restaurant in Machne Yehuda:, who braise their meats and stews for hours and hours on “ptiliot” (tiny gas flames).

    His sidekick in the video, Sherry Anski, rules! She’s the Israeli version of Julia Child, only better.

    I should really try that Mutabak now. It looks like tastier, cheesier version of the Thai Rotti street stall pancake. It’s funny how the tastiest foods from all over the world are somehow interconnected. I mean, look at this Thai dude, rolling his dough the exact same way!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Maya: The whole Jerusalem program he did was great although unfortunately, it’s not available online outside of the UK (likely for rights reasons). Am missing my Israeli salad – right about now! : )

    • Jules

    Reading your posts on Israel have totally inspired me to make it my next holiday destination. Your photos were so yummy – I just did a post on a smoky eggplant dip inspired by your trip! I have been told by others that felafel’s in Israel are better than the ones at L’As du Falafel in Rue de Rosier so I’m fairly sure they’re going to blow my mind!

    • aji


    Why do you always make us hungry? Lol.

    Lovely post! I just made falafel yesterday. Now I want to make hummus!

    • charlotte au chocolat

    such gorgeous pictures! and so fun to see the city I grew up in from your perspective! such a treat.

    • frank

    Hi David,
    How funny that you post about hummus today. I did a quick post about the same thing yesterday!

    I like a bit of smoked paprika, and some cinnamon, if you can believe it. My daughter doesn’t like quite as much tahini as your recipe calls for. Let me know what you think if you get the chance!

    Always love your musings.

    • Kathy

    Once again gorgeous photos. Thank you David. I don’t think many people know about the tradition of food in this part of the world. I only recently discovered it. It’s only logical when you think of the agricultural production of the area, and in areas by the sea, of the seafood. When my granddaughter was little, and cooking with me from her perch on a chair, we used to say that cooking appealed to all the senses: it looks beautiful, smells wonderful, feels and tastes good in your mouth, and the sounds it makes when cooking are so evocative…and that was why we loved so much.

    • Mem

    Fantastic photos…eye-popping good! My taste buds are so ready!

    • Y

    Great post. I’ve been wanting to travel there ever since I saw a documentary about their tremendous food culture.

    • Cathg1g2

    Thank you, I have loved your Israel tales and food pics, I so want to go!

    • Nisrine

    Beautiful place with wonderful food. Wow! I would love to visit.

    • CHN

    What, you were in Jerusalem and you didn’t go to Sima’s??!!! Oy!!!


    • Briana Edelman

    That halva, those dates…the hummus!! Thank you for this post, David. I haven’t had the chance to make this trip yet and because of your photos and words I feel like I’ve been there. It will hold me over until I can get there, I hope it won’t be long and I can’t wait for my little one to see Israel.

    I feel like that about Paris, I start missing the food after about a week (I miss my family too, LOL!). The rich butters,the smells of the city (even the bad ones), the produce, walking the near emprty streets in the wee morning hours, the coffee, the markets, L’As du falafel, being able to sit at a cafe and lingering while I people watch… many things to miss. But I’m sure you’re used to all of those things.

    • Sharon

    I am an avid reader but have never commented before. But now I had to – I am in Israel right now, and have been following your posts. It is my favorite place, and especially for the food, and I am so thrilled to watch you discover it! It so happens I JUST posted about Jerusalem on my blog as well -
    I notice we took some of the same photos – of the halvah and the rugelach, and more (yours are better, naturally). Anyway, just wanted to say hi and so glad you enjoyed your trip!

    • Jade

    That video was awesome! Working with dough that thin … I’m just in awe of such skilled hands.

    • Matt

    So, David… I think recreating halwa might have to be a kitchen project for you in the future so you can show all of us and share your results… *nudge nudge wink wink*

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s nearly impossible to make halva like this because you need soapwart, and a very heavy-duty mixer to stir it all up. I’m sure you can find recipes online to make a facsimile at home, but it’s be a challenge to get similar results. But good luck!

    • Mary

    What a wonderful post. I hope you keep telling us about all the events of your trip — because your tales and photos are just so lovely. What a lovely gift. You are giving so much enjoyment. And so much inspiration. Thank you!!!!

    • Jane Ridolfi


    • Roseanne

    I was fascinated to see the man making murtabak. Having lived a year in Egypt, I was in love with something called fattir, which is exactly the same thing. I’ve searched unsuccessfully for it, but maybe I can find a recipe for murtabak! If you ever go to Egypt, you can find a place in the Khan a Kalili called The Egyptian Pancake House. This is what they serve there.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I think you need to master to rolling (and tossing) of the pastry, rather than searching for a recipe (it was just the dough with crumbled cheese, then sugar syrup over the top when it came out of the oven) – good luck with the dough!

    • Leslie

    I am so glad you found Halvah Kingdom at Mahane Yehuda!! That is the BEST Halvah in the world and the King is a cool guy.
    I’ve loved reading these posts from Israel. It’s so refreshing to hear about the culture, the food, the people…instead of the conflict. Visiting Israel puts the headlines in a different perspective. Thanks for sharing all of these wonderful stories.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, the king of Halva really is the king of the stuff. I couldn’t believe many different kinds were in his “kingdom”!

    • greta

    It’s only 7:30 AM here in San Francisco and I’m excited about this food. It will be my guide when I go to Israel, mainly Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in Sept. Can’t wait for your next posts.

    Thank you so much.

    • Slice of Mid-Life

    I enjoy all of your postings, but your series on Israel went above and beyond. Thanks for being such a keen observer and versatile writer, who can wax poetic about everything, including the kitchen sink! Israel has now moved to the top of my destination list, thanks to you and the talented contributors you included during your visit there. By the way, there may be a Lebovitzian cult here in Seattle. I mentioned to a friend that I was making your Israeli salad that night and she confessed her plans to do the same.

    • Patricia Shea

    Your posts from and about Israel have been just wonderful – the food looks glorious and the kind I could eat every day all day – seems naturally geared towards the vegetarian. Don’t blame you for your hummus addiction – eat a bowl for me and thank you for the visual deliciousness…Patricia

    • Sandy

    Oh my gosh…I’m so hungry now that I’m heading for a nearby Lebanese restaurant for some hummus and pita.

    • Jasanna

    I just ate breakfast and you made me hungry again!! :) That food looks astounding! I hope I can find a good place her in Des Moines in the U.S., to buy middle eastern food. I do love it!! :)

    • Sarah Carletti

    Everything looks amazing! Thanks for sharing your journey!

    • Adi

    loved it – felt like we were here all over again! everytime i need a DL boost – I’ll go back to this one :-)
    BTW – who’s beauifully colored nails are those with the falafel? LOL
    Miss u tons!

    • Ryan

    Great post and amazing photos. Thanks for sharing your experience! Might have to plan a trip soon.

    • Vanessa

    We have something like that in singapore too! at least it looks like it and the way of spreading the dough is pretty similar. Its served with sugar, or a variety of curries :)

    • Cheryl G.

    I have never seen such interesting looking food, the markets are amazing and so eye appealing, I am sure you wanted to try everything you saw I know I would. Thank you for the fabulous pictures and for the open window into such a beautiful culture with inspiring places to visit through your eyes.

    • Lee Poteet

    I have friends who go to Israel and Jerusalem frequently. Now I may have to go with them the next time. And what about food isn’t spiritual?

    • Karin

    Dear David, this post was just what i needed ! A sunny, virtual trip to the holy country while sitting in my room watching the everlasting rain pooring from the Amsterdam skies.

    • Lara

    I love this blog so much, so it’s really saying something that this is my favorite post. Interesting and beautiful!

    • Stu Borken

    What a beautiful blog issue, both the prose and the photography. Very emotionally charged with so much heart felt passion. Loved it.

    • elizabeth silver

    When are you giving a gastronomy tour of the food in the Holy Land? I will be the first to sign up. It brings back a lot of memories. Nothing compares to the food there!

    • Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    Amazing photos, thanks so much for sharing! A beautiful post.

    • Hillary

    The Israeli tourist board should have you on commission – there sure are a lot of us who want to visit after seeing your photos! (Also, they should offer tourists a free extra suitcase to bring back all these goodies…)

    • Cookie Maker

    It ALL looks incredibly appealing, but I am most drawn to the chocolate rugelach. Any way you could snag a recipe and share it? I, and the rest of the world, would be immensely grateful. . . .

    • Steve

    Totally dig the pastry with the cheese and runny egg yolk. I’m such an egg slut! Love the sight of fresh figs too.

    • Kristen at RMK life

    Gorgeous photos, David. They really capture Jerusalem’s life.

    • Sarah

    Normally I’m impressed by your writing and photos alike, but that photo of the sun pouring in through that ceiling? Magnificent. I’ve so enjoyed these posts. Thank you.

    • Nevine

    David, I am so enjoying your posts about Israel and its food. Being Egyptian, I’m not really likely to ever visit and your pictures and descriptions are fascinating. If more people took the time to understand and savor different cultures, the world would be a much nicer place. Thank you :)

    • Mira Dessy

    This was a fabulous photo journey back into the foods of Jerusalem, reminding me of why I want to go back for another visit (aside from visiting family). The sights, sounds, and smells of the food are something unforgettable.

    The fresh pitot from Abu Ghosh have made it virtually impossible to enjoy them quite so well back in the US. And there is nothing that compares to the falafel made fresh and hot. Thanks for such wonderful photographs and descriptions.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Nevine: I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt, and I suspect there’s a lot of great food there as well. I love Middle Eastern cuisine!

    Mira: I think I need to master falafel at home, because – like hummus – I can’t get enough of them…

    Adi: I don’t know whose nails those are…any guesses? ; )

    • ItalianGirlCooks

    An absolutely stunning display of pictures. A fabulous account of experiences. I love reading your blog, you set an example to the rest of us to do better. I always learn so much, but now I’m just plain hungry, and I must ry to make something from a few of these pictures. Thanks!

    • JennEm

    Great post and fab photos, David. Tks. Brought back memories of my visit to Jerusaleum and Israel a few years back. As a Mediterranean country, it has such wonderful produce and food products. I loved particularly all the fresh za’atar mixes and sumac and non-foodwise, the dead sea mud soaps were just incredible.

    I am a hummus lover and struggled for some time to discover how to get the authentic flavour balance of this dish. After poring over different recipe books, I finally found the method in A.Clifford Wrights compendium on Mediterranean food – A Mediterranean Feast (2000). His recipe gave the tip to add the crushed garlic, lemon and salt mixed together and not singly when adjusting the taste and to remove the chickpea husks so that the hummus becomes very light. I think Israelis may prefer the hummus with the skins – but I prefer it without for this reason. Did you try the hummus at Hummus Lina, an establishment in the old city not far from the Via Dolorosa that some swear have the best hummus in Jerusaleum?

    • Marie B.

    For a person who doesn’t claim to be spiritual, I wonder how you achieved that exceptional picture of the dome with the “LIGHT’ shining on you without it saying something special to you. Seems to me God loves you even if you only see Him in food.
    Thanks for a beautiful post.

    • Rhona

    I agree with Maureen… didn’t want this post to end! Beautiful in every way. Haven’t been there since the 80’s but you inspire me to go back. Funny, though, we just bought the exact juicer you pictured when we were in Paris last month and shlepped it back to California… why, I don’t know! Thanks for your wonderful blog, David.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Rhona and Maureen: I had a lot of pictures and decided to divide this up into two posts, and present Tel Aviv later (since my wrists were giving out uploading photos!)

    Marie B: It’s a very, very powerful place and just walking through the streets, and seeing the deep history of the city – and the people worshiping – was very profound.

    JennEM: There were (and are) so many places to go that I couldn’t hit all of them. In fact, my limit was four meals a day. Although I had plenty of treats to bring back to my hotel room, and discovered on the last day ‘falafel crisps’, those tiny, tasty fried strings of spicy falafel, and next time, I’m bringing an extra suitcase just to bring some of those home.

    • Debbie

    Hi David, what is the location of the photo you took with the light rays shining down? Gorgeous! Your stories make me want to go back asap…I lived there in the early 80’s…the markets were there … The picture of fresh figs brings back a lot of memories. There were hardly any decent restaurants back then. I guess it is definitely time to go back and enjoy all the changes? Thanks for a great series!

    • Pille @ Nami-Nami

    David, your speed of writing about our trip to Israel is impressive. I’m still digesting it all and going through my photos :)

    • Jane

    This is such a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing all the pics and the recap of your journey. I have always had a desire to visit, but had never really put it on my radar until I worked in an orthodox Jewish school and almost all seniors spend the year after graduation there. Most had already visited at one time or another and always told me the food was the best in the world and that I must come visit them. Your post has made me even more desirous of going! My husband has never really had the desire, but the Acharoly might persuade him, as he is a huge fan of eggs. I googled for a recipe for this dish, but could find nothing. Any tips on what kind of dough and cheese available in the US might create a similar dish? Thanks David!

    • Sharyn Dimmick

    Some beautiful photos here, David. I want some of that coffee-infused halvah — now! (There’s still time for a late second breakfast). Will you experiment and teach us how to make it?

    • Sharyn Dimmick

    Oops. Now I’ve read your earlier comment about the difficulty of making halva at home and I say — fake it! Not all of us will get to Israel in this lifetime. Get to work!

    • sharondc

    just wow.

    • Shira

    Wonderful write up David. I’m feeling very homesick and very hungry right now!

    • Melissa

    Lovely post, David! Your Georgian egg-filled pastry is technically an adzaruli khachapuri. It is meant to be boat-shaped, and is my favorite kind! I seek it out whenever I go to Russia–haven’t made it to Georgia yet!

    Note: if you are ever interested in learning about Georgian food, I’d recommend _The Georgian Feast_ by Darra Goldstein. It’s a fantastic read.

    • Charlie


    I sure hope you have a recipe for each of your pictures!

    Have a Joyful Day :~D


    • Artsnark

    thanks for sharing your tasty tour in such lovely detail….now I need to go make lunch :)

    • Stephanie

    I just added Israel to my list of places to visit :)

    • annie

    David, your posts on Israel have made me quite determined to plan a trip there. The food and breads look amazing, and the clip you posted on the Mutabak actually brought tears to my eyes, to see something done so masterfully and in such humble surroundings. Beautiful!
    If you are playing with falafel recipes, try this one… it’s my very favorite right now, different with the green peas, but quite delicious. Cheers!

    • Lynnée

    Thank you David! Great post – wonderful photos.

    • Shut Up & Cook

    For years I didn’t like hummus. People would exclaim about how awesome it was, how healthy, what a miracle food it was, how they loved the new garlic variety from Trader Joes..I just didn’t get it. But then my friend’s mom, who is Middle Eastern, made me hummus from scratch and I have never been able to go back.

    Sounds like a wonderful trip and so lovely to have great photos to tell the story as well.

    • Freda Cameron

    What a great story and photos! You’ve brought back so many memories for me of my trip to Jerusalem.

    Thank you!

    • Elle

    Thank you for the filo/matabek video! I’ve always wondered and now I know – looks much better than factory made – naturally!

    • Gary

    You have the best blog

    • Nevine

    Ahlan bik fi masr, David (welcome to Egypt) – you definitely have a friend here :)

    • Rada

    David, thank you for your post and this beautifully captured image of khachapuri! It looks so authentic! This was a staple food for us students decades ago on summer trips to Georgia and Abkhazia. For years I’ve been dreaming of it. Just last fall I visited Israel and spent a few days in Jerusalem… only if I would have known… Thank you for sharing!

    • The Fingal Foodie

    It looks like you had an amazing journey. I’ve always wanted to visit Israel and I really hope that I’ll get a chance in the future to try some of the beautiful food you experienced.

    • claudine215

    My first trip to Israel in 1970 holds fond memories of a halavah that is CRISP and made of layers of sesame stuff…and “Iraqui bread” which came from ovens in Tel Aviv and wrapped in newspaper. I think I’m the only US teenager who GAINED weight in Israel, even working on a kibbutz! Many, many thanks for fond memories and thoughts of new ones.

    • Sara

    Wow, David. Your writing is so expressive, I feel as though I were there. Except that I missed out on eating all the gorgeous food! Please post a recipe for hummus when you can.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      There is a recipe on the site, which is linked to in the post.

    • Michele Garcia

    It is inspiring to see how simple and fresh and amazing the food is in Israel, in such an ancient and historical place. I have loved reading your posts and seeing the pictures of the food, which include some of my favorite flavors, too. Thank you for documenting and sharing this experience!

    • Leslie Bonner

    Someone mentioned they have always wanted to go to Israel and, after your postings, wanted to go more than ever whereas I never had much interest in going but your posts have inspired me to include it on my list of places to visit.

    My husband loves Halva but neither of us knew there were so many choices in flavors and toppings.

    I made the Tahini cookies a couple of days ago and they were really good. Their crumbly texture was similar to my favorite peanut butter cookies but it was nice to have something different.

    • Debbi Weiss

    Oh…the Israeli hummous…nothing like it! The garlic! The lemon! I can taste and smell it right now. I have 2 sisters who live there, and one makes an outstanding roasted tomato hummous.

    Also, did you notice how many fresh beautiful vegetables they eat (and serve at hotel breakfasts?).

    I have but one request….how about finding an amazing rugelach recipe for us David??

    • Rachel

    I really have been enjoying these posts. Everything looks so delicious! As a lover of all things food and Middle East, I think it’s worth pointing out that you refer to Palestinians as immigrants. I don’t think Palestinians (Muslims, Christians or pre-1948 Jews) would consider themselves immigrants. I only say this because I think they should get some serious props for inventing so much of that delicious food, on that land, centuries ago.

    Yes, the food is a mix of all the cultures that live there – those who have immigrated and others who have (and do) live there, which makes it exciting and varied. -dl

    • ranchodeluxe

    Sheer food porn … well done!

    • Sarah

    It is such a pleasure to read your posts. I realize that I so enjoy your love of all the foods that I love so much!

    Halva is the taste of my childhood- my grandparents would always have a hunk around! In Brooklyn there was a neighborhood that sold many middle eastern foods that was like a little slice of heaven- not quite like the King, though…

    The nuts, hummus, dates, dried fruits, breads, eggplant, and oh the figs!! What a beautiful photo!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Lori

    I have really enjoyed reading your posts on your trip to Israel. My husband & I lived there for a year and have been back multiple times. We miss the wonderful food…nothing like warm pita right out of the oven…and the hummus…the figs & dates….the spices…oh my!

    Someone asked about the pic with the light rays….looks like inside the Church of the
    Holy Sepulchre to us.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog and awesome pics…keep ’em coming!

    • Katrina

    Murtabak in Singapore is similar, but filled with mutton, beef, chicken or sardine and eaten with a lentil gravy (dahl) or a curry.
    It’s best washed down with teh halia (sweet ginger tea with milk).

    • Joseph

    David, any luck getting a recipe for falafel. Since its one of your favorites you must have something tucked away somewhere…
    It’s my favorite too…
    Many thanks

    • Judy (Godwin) from Overland Park KS

    I love your blog; your photos are wonderful and you get across to the reader very well the feeling and taste of the foods you try. Thanks for the time and energy you put into the blog.

    I went to Israel in the late 70’s, and had only been outside the U.S. to Canada prior to that. I hadn’t really been very keen to go until my husband threw in London and Paris as well for a few days, but I loved Israel! It was the first time I knew the people in the country could see me as the foreigner. It was culture shock over and over, starting in the El Al terminal in New York, and then landing in Tel Aviv with soldiers carrying machine guns in the airport! I was really disappointed that women couldn’t go to the Wailing Wall, as I was really fascinated with it. I’d go back in a flash, except I don’t know that anywhere in the Middle East is safe to go to these days. I suppose Israel is safer than most any other country there, because of their continual vigilance.

    I’ve been reading your ‘Ready for Dessert’ cookbook from the library, and decided I had to have it, so I ordered it today.

    • Yvonne

    Best posts ever. Thanks David.

    • Holly

    You have made me want 3 things. To visit Israel, try havla, and make hummus and pita bread tonight. Such a wonderful experience, thank you for sharing it!

    • Francesca

    So beautiful Photos! Do you know any good recipe to make pasta filo? I can’t find it where I live. It’s a so versatile dough, for salt and sweet tasteful recipe with wonderful texture. Thanks!

    • Yosefa

    This post made my mouth water! Luckily, I already have a date to go out to dinner with a friend tonight, and I already live in Israel! How convenient :-)

    • Lynne

    best. blog. ever.

    • Steph

    Amazing photos! I’m hungry now!

    • Deborah Stratmann

    I forgot about cardamom seeds in strong coffee.
    Memories rushing back.


    • Fran

    some of the most saliva evoking photos ever David. And now for some recipes please!

    • Diana

    Oh wow, this post just made me so hungry! What an amazing trip. Good thing you have such great pictures as memories. Thanks!

    • sarah

    wow! the georgian pastries look amazing! during my time in europe I mostly concentrated on southern european foods, but i feel like I totally missed out on so much more, esp. eastern european food and culture….

    • Jenn

    €1,40 for a baguette? Yikes, that is high. Last time I was in Paris (granted, 2006, but still) it was €0,80.

    Echoing the multitude of previous comments – beautiful photos, stomach growling, headed to the kitchen for some hummus right now.

    • Dani

    Oh wow. That halva looks amazing… I’ve never actually tried it before but now I think I must.

    • Jessica

    All of your recent recipes from Israel have been so inspiring and delicious, not that everyone of your recipes I have tried hasn’t been immediately devoured. Can you recommend a good one for halva? Thanks!

    • Estelle

    Gorgeous photos, outstanding writing. I am so happy you intend to go back.
    Perhaps a trip to Isreal with your blog people could be arranged? what do you think?

    Thank you again for all that you do to bring the flavors of the world to us in ever loving living color.


    • naomi

    I never imagined Israel was like this – thank you for showing its vibrancy.

    • nantucketdaffodil

    The crispy fried falafel looks amazing. Great photography!

    • Mallory

    All I want right now are those falafel. I am addicted to falafel!

    • Ann

    Thank you for sharing your trip with us…. The pastry is incredible!

    • Dinushika

    David, all I can say is, Israel, here I come!

    • Annika

    Great photos and great post, thank you!

    • Deborah

    I have lived in Jerusalem for 17 years now – loving your posts. I’m currently pregnant and nauseous and thus unable to eat all the good food we have here – can’t wait to start eating it all again! Just fyi – the cottage cheese ‘war’ wasn’t a few years ago, it was just last year, 2011.

    • Handmade in Israel

    Your photos are outstanding and you describe everything so beautifully! I am so pleased you enjoyed your visit. Mahane Yehuda “shuk” is the best, isn’t it?

    • erin

    That was an absolute treat to read and see.

    Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m glad you had such a marvellous time!

    • melissa

    it’s interesting that we have murtabak in Malaysia too, with the exact same spelling. and exact same method of preparation. ours how some how evolved to include such stuffings as canned sardines, plain butter and sugar, eggs and onions as well as spicy minced meat! i believe it has it’s origins in india and somehow found its’ way to the middle east and parts of south east asia.

    • Tobie

    I’ve been enjoying all of your posts about Israel. I go to Jerusalem each winter to visit with my son and his family. He lives in Nach La’ot which is right next to Mahane Yehuda. I am there every day and never tire of looking around the shuk. It’s very interesting how it’s been changing each year.
    Thank you for these posts-December doesn’t seem such a long time while I read them.

    • kim

    I NEED to get myself to Jerusalem. I eat hummus almost everyday for lunch. I mean, everyDAY! And I never get sick of it. However, I don’t like fried foods, so falafels never appeared to me like others. Question – would it be controversial if I asked the kitchen to ‘omit’ the pool of olive oil over the hummus? I find that too heavy and of course, caloric to eat up spoonful of oil (albeit the heart healthy kind).

    • Karen Brown

    What a wonderful post. I had no idea that Israel had such a varied ( and delicious-looking) cuisine. I predict that this will not be your last visit, as your passion for the food and the people who made the food shines through in your writing. I will have to pre-order the new Ottolenghi book, Jerusalem to explore Israeli cuisine further, but until then, I’m going to be on the hunt for a recipe for that pastry with the egg and cheese in it. Do you think it might be a borek? Or would one of your readers be able to name it for me? Cheers, karen

    • Alyce Morgan

    Thanks. I’m not sure I’ll ever get there. If I could be there and take photos, these would be the things I would pursue. Blessings, Alyce

    • Elizabeth Bennett

    Are you done with the food pictures from Israel? Because I’m really not sure I can take much more. This year’s travel monies are already allocated.

    • Merisi in Vienna

    thank you for this beautiful and poignant post!
    I had to come here repeatedly, to take it all in. Immensely enriching!

    • 4feet2mouths

    Your post is inspiring. I’m now adding Isreal to my long list of countries to visit.

    • APARNA Somani

    Hi. Been an avid reader for ages. I remember some point in the past you had put up blogs on san francisco. Could you please send me links. Am going to drop off my daughter to university and thought we could catch up with some good food whilst there. Thanks a million.

    • Violet


    You have an amazing talent for blending words and photos; everything seems so palpable!

    • Narf7

    I am speechless at how beautiful everything looks and how delicious! Perhaps it’s the war torn nature of this ancient Biblical land that gives the people the desire to eat amazing food…the old saying “life is too short for bad wine” comes to mind. Thank you SO much for sharing this amazing degustory adventure with us, especially those of us languishing in the middle of winter and waiting fallow for the first signs of spring and I am heading off to search for some of these amazing recipes…I know what my cuisine of choice is going to be for summer 2012…

    • Morgan Robinson


    Great post!! The pictures are beautiful. I went to Jerusalem a few weeks ago as well and loved it! Totally different from anywhere else I’d ever been. Oh man that Israeli hummus and falafel!!! It’s the best, right?! Did you happen to get any secret, ancient recipes?! ;-)

    • Tim Vidra

    Just beautiful we also of late have been on a homemade hummus kick! We actually just made a roasted eggplant chickpea version.

    • Nikki

    Israel has never been on my list of to do foodie places – until now. Excellent blog David, thanks.


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