A Mediterranean climate combined with nutrient-rich soil make the perfect conditions for year-round seasonally fresh raw foods in Israel. Whether you are looking for a healthy holiday destination or are simply ‘raw-curious’ about what to eat in Israel, Tel Aviv is a great place to start. On my recent trip to Israel, I was impressed not only by the availability of organic raw food but also amazed by the flavor of everything. Finally, cucumbers and oranges that have taste, wow!Depending on what time of year you visit Israel, you will find locally grown pomegranate, oranges, grapefruit, apricots, peaches, bananas, guava, watermelon, strawberries, cucumber, tomatoes and of course olives! When you arrive, a good place to start is the Carmel Market, or ‘Shuk Ha’Carmel,’ Tel Aviv’s largest fruit and vegetable market. While not organic, the market does have an abundance of fresh produce. I found the best thing to buy at this market is a freshly made juice. Be sure to walk to the bottom end of the market; at the top end you will get charged 20 ILS for a juice; keep walking down and the prices go down too…near the bottom half you will find a nice man on the right side who sells his juice for 10-12 ILS. Also at the lower end of the market, you will find one organic store on the left-hand side. It’s called Nizat Ha’duvdevan (Hebrew for “The Cherry Bud”). Look for the large cherries on the sign and the nice baskets containing dried fruits and nuts. All the prices there are fixed, but be sure to check your change…a few times I was given the wrong change, and it was not in my favor! Nizat Ha’duvdevan has other locations through Tel Aviv like the one near Rabin Square (which used to also have a raw food cafe but the cafe is no longer there). If you like olives, you may want to taste them at the Carmel Market, but don’t buy…they are not overly good and every vendor tried to over-charge me. A normal price for Kalamata olives is 40 ILS per kilo; here they will try to charge you 60-80 ILS per kilo! For the best olives, wait until Friday and go to the Organic Farmer’s market at Tel Aviv Port. The market is outside of the Shuk Hanamal and across from the Aroma Cafe. They have the best olives, and they always charged me the right price too! Try the lemon-infused green olives, or the black olives with fresh herbs, or the green olives with garlic – well, actually try any of them – they are all delicious! Yes, organic really does taste better! Another good store for buying organic fruits and vegetables is the Eden Teva store. They have several locations throughout Tel Aviv, including inside Rabin Square Mall and at Kfar Saba. This is a good place to find gluten-free products, organic produce and nutritional supplements. Look for the raw tahina made with sprouted sesame seeds…it’s in a glass jar and is stocked with the normal tahina. It comes from Ethiopia and it’s amazing! For eating out, Israel is a raw food paradise. Every restaurant has a salad on the menu, and usually the portions are very big! You can always get fresh lemon for dressing or ask for a side of tahina (sesame seed paste). If you want to try a nice organic restaurant, there is a great place just 20 minutes outside Tel Aviv in Hod Hasharon. It’s called Barzilay at the edge of Yarkona and Hod Hasharon. They have an indoor dining area as well as outdoor seating in their own organic gardens. This is a great place for a late brunch or a nice afternoon lunch so you can sit outside and enjoy the sun while eating your freshly picked veggies.
BLOG UPDATE: Meshek Barzilay Restaurant MOVED to Neve Tzedek. The new address is: 6 Ehad Ha’am st. Neve Tzedek, Jaffa 6514206, Israel and the website is http://www.meshekbarzilay.co.il (currently only in Hebrew). They are still making vegetarian, organic and vegan foods on their menu.
After all that delicious food, you may be in search of some detox. I checked out the colonic place at Tel Aviv Port called the Saker Institute. To be honest, I was not impressed by this place and felt that their focus was too much on selling more colonics and detox kits than actually taking care of the client. I recommend to eat some delicious organic dates – they usually help to get the bowel moving, spend your money on food, and book your colonic back at home.For a nice day trip out of Tel Aviv, consider visiting the vegetarian community at Amirim, a village in the north of Israel. It’s about a 1.5-2 hour drive from Tel Aviv and offers great views of the Sea of Galilee. The village is nice and quiet and a good place to stay for the night while exploring the northern region of Israel, but strangely enough it doesn’t boast any decent vegetarian or raw food restaurants, even though there is a community of raw foodists living there.
Back in Tel Aviv, you might be tempted to try some of Israel’s famous hummus. Head to 14 Shivtai Israel Street in Jaffa for the best hummus in Israel, at Abu-Hassan (Ali-Karavan). There is always a line, so be prepared to wait, and get there early because when the hummus is out, the restaurant closes. It’s best to get there between 10am and 2pm. While not raw, for vegans or vegetarians, trying a local hummus is a must for the full Israeli culinary experience.
If you’re planning to stay in Israel longer, check out some of the new vegan communities that are springing up everywhere and look for the new “Meatless Monday” options available on the menu in many restaurants in Tel Aviv. A great place to start is on Facebook with the VeganFriendly.co.il page. You can find vegan support rallies and different workshops and lectures on raw food and vegan living in Israel. (Simply copy and paste the Hebrew text into Google Translate to understand in your native language.)
Israel has so much to offer for raw food and anyone interested in healthy eating, so get out there and enjoy! Bete’avon or Bon Appetit!