While in today’s globalised economy you can buy pretty much anything from any place using the internet, there are some things best experienced in their country of origin. From a potent and mysterious liquor to addictive peanut butter flavoured crisps, here are 11 things you can only (sort of) buy in Israel.
While the origins of numerous “Israeli” foods, such as falafel and hummus, are controvesial (as the infamous “hummus wars” attest to), sabich is a categorically Jewish Israeli delicacy. Brought to the country by Jewish immigrants from Iraq from the 1950s onwards, today it is one of the most popular Israeli street food dishes. Sabich is a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, chopped salad, hummus, tehina, and a drizzle of amba, a spicy mango sauce. The best spots in Tel Aviv for this delicious delicacy are Sabich Frishman and Sabich Tchernichevsky.
This potent and enigmatic Israeli liquor was created in 2012 by two brothers from the northern Israeli city of Haifa. It is characterised by its cloudy appearance and strong citrusy and gingery taste. Its effects, some drinkers claim, are a combination of being drunk and being high. Due to this, it was rumoured to contain kat (ghat), a plant that gives users similar sensations. Consumed either as a shot or with ice and sparkling water, Tubi 60 is a must buy when in Israel for anyone seeking a big night out!
These peanut butter flavoured crisps are a staple in family homes throughout Israel. Light and crunchy, Bamba is not only a delicious snack, but it is a medically beneficial one! A recent British study found that these addictive treats can prevent nut allergies when eaten by young children.
Israel is the only place in the world (excluding, curiously, Buenos Aires) where you can buy kosher McDonalds. For observant Jews from abroad who aren’t averse to indulging in the occasional fast food binge, then a meal at the hamburger giant is a must while in the Holy Land!
Krembo, which literally means “cream in it”, is a chocolate covered marshmallow treat and one of the most popular snacks in Israel. Around 50 million Israelis buy the snack every year, which is eaten predominantly during winter months. Vanilla is the most popular flavour, but mocha is also available. Get rid of some loose change and see what all the fuss is about!
Amba is a thick, mango pickle sauce that originates from Iraq. A popular condiment throughout Israel, amba is typically drizzled onto falafel or shawarma filled pita bread, or on savoury Iraqi delicacies such as kibbeh. HaTikvah Market in south Tel Aviv is one of the best places to buy homemade amba, but be warned – eating it will leave you smelling of it all day!
The last decade has seen a boom in Israel’s craft beer industry. Almost non-existent just ten years ago, today there are over 100 Israeli craft beers to choose from, and roughly 30 microbreweries. Epitomising this growth is the success of Beer Bazaar, a popular bar with 5 branches in Israel (4 in Tel Aviv, 1 in Jerusalem), where you can find a plethora of local craft beers from different Israeli microbreweries. If you don’t feel like going out, then worry not as Beer Bazaar also offer delivery services to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem!
Israel is home to a vibrant community of artists and creators, so it is no surprise you can find beautiful handmade arts and crafts in the Jewish state. Head to Nahalat Binyamin, a long street adjacent to Carmel Market in central Tel Aviv, where twice a week there’s an excellent arts and crafts market. You’ll find anything from beautiful handmade jewellery to quirky gifts and stunning prints from Israeli photographers. Alternatively, head north to the picturesque towns of Rosh Pina and Zichron Yaakov, where you’ll find numerous shops selling Israeli arts, crafts and other souvenirs.
See for yourself why Condé Nast Traveller ranked Israel as the third hottest wine destination for 2016. With over 200 boutique wineries throughout Israel, from Golan Heights Winery in the Golan region to Tishbi Winery in Binyamina, there is plenty of choice for wine connoisseurs. Misty Hills (red) by the Tzora winery in the Judean Hills, and Chardonnay (white) by Matar Winery in the Galilee region, were among the Israeli wines most highly rated by the venerable wine publication Wine Spectator in 2016.
Nestled minutes from Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, on a side alley off Allenby Street, is Halper’s Book Store. Here you can find a large selection of literature in numerous languages, including rare Israeli magazines as old as the state itself. These give a fascinating glimpse into the culture of the nascent Jewish state and are certainly interesting items to own. Rare Hebrew books and other collectors items can also be found at M. Pollak Books, on nearby King George Street.
Halper’s Book Store, Allenby St 87, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel, 03 629-9710
M. Pollak Books, 36 and 42 King George Street, Tel Aviv, Israel, 03-5288613 or 03-5281336
Wander through the shuk in Jerusalem’s Old City and you’ll find jewellery stores where you can get personalised Hebrew name necklaces made right in front of you. You’ll be hard pressed to find places doing the same anywhere outside of Israel, so be sure to buy one in the Holy Land – they make for great gifts. Just don’t forget to haggle!