Hungerlust: Israeli Cuisine Unites People From All Backgrounds

Shakshuka in Jerusalem
Shakshuka in Jerusalem | © Tal Sivan-Ziporin / Culture Trip
Amy Schulman

Food Editor

Israel’s eclectic mix of cultures, cuisines and people mirrors the myriad ingredients found in the country’s beloved breakfast dish, shakshuka. Jerusalem-born chef Atalya Ein Mor employs Israeli cuisine – and in particular shakshuka – to bring people together, providing a space for all kinds of folks to experience Israel’s diverse culture and cuisine.

A chef works to prepare shakshuka

Although the wealth of cuisine and diversity of dishes in Jerusalem are vast, for Atalya Ein Mor, there remains one dish that really evokes her understanding of Israel: shakshuka. The breakfast dish is a cross between a stew and a sauce. In the most ubiquitous version, tomatoes, peppers and onions are cooked down with a host of Middle Eastern spices (think cumin and paprika). As the sauce comes to a simmer, cooks will form small divots, then crack eggs straight in, letting the eggs poach long enough but not too long – so that the yellow still spills out when sliced into.

The popular dish is a cross between a stew and a soup

Shakshuka in Israel serves as a metaphor for the country

For Israelis, shakshuka endures as a poignant depiction of Israel’s story. Just as the dish is a blend of ingredients, Israel too is a confluence of immigrants, refugees and cultures, forming one diverse society. Although locals remain divided on how to best make the dish – everyone has their own recipe, their own spin – everyone can agree that breakfast in Israel without shakshuka is hardly breakfast at all.

For Israelis, shakshuka endures as a poignant depiction of Israel’s story

Atalya Ein Mor brings together locals and tourists alike to share Israeli cuisine

Ein Mor, a chef who grew up in Jerusalem, hosts strangers in her home for meals and runs cooking classes. During these meals, she will often serve shakshuka to big groups. She shops at the famed Machane Yehuda market – a pulsing market home to a kaleidoscope of fruits and vegetables, mountains of spices and the ephemeral smells of chocolate rugalach and sweet knafeh – gathering all the ingredients she needs to make the dish. With people circled around her dining-room table, she’ll set down silver pans – wisps of steam still billowing upward – of shakshuka, some bright red with tomatoes and peppers, others teeming with leafy green vegetables. Baskets of pita will grace the table, ready to soak up excess tomato sauce and runny eggs. For Ein Mor, this coming together over food endures as the best way to discover an entirely new culture while simultaneously becoming closer to one another.

Shakshuka is popular with locals and tourists alike

“It’s a really good opportunity for people to get to know other people when somebody’s cooking for you,” Ein Mor says. “It’s like he’s giving his heart for you and sharing all his culture, all his background, with you.”

Jerusalem cuisine out of the kitchen

With her extensive knowledge of the city, Ein Mor also leads tours throughout many of Jerusalem’s bustling markets. “I’m also doing quite a lot of culinary tours around Jerusalem markets just to show other cultures [found in the markets],” she says. “Sometimes people are afraid of [differences].”

The dish is often made by small stalls in the markets of the city

On these tours, Ein Mor guides small groups through the city’s buzzing markets brimming with colourful produce and small mom-and-pop food stands. She educates everyone on never-before-seen ingredients and unfamiliar dishes, providing the hungry with samples. It’s in these markets that Ein Mor finds unending culinary diversity.

A sesame seed Jerusalem bagel for sale in the market

Stops on her circuit might include a local bakery, where Ein Mor tears off pieces of a sesame-seed-flecked Jerusalem bagel – a puffy, golden-brown bread much longer and more oval than the more familiar puck-shaped variety – sprinkling its soft interior with a dusting of green za’atar. She’ll point out a falafel stand, which at first glance appears unremarkable. But what sets this stall’s falafel apart is the freshness. Rather than frying the chickpea-studded mix in advance, the shopkeeper waits until he gets an order before he plops spheres of the mix into a gargantuan vat of oil and then slips a handful of the crisp, crackly falafel into the mouth of a halved pita. Next, Ein Mor’s group might feast on hummus crowned with pine nuts, mopping the smooth chickpea dip with supple scraps of pita.

Hummus is another classic dish from this country
Shopping in the market

“I’m very happy to see the people I’m guiding enjoying the things they didn’t know just a few hours before we started the tour,” Ein Mor says.

When people are with Ein Mor, they’re coming together to break bread – whether that’s over shakshuka or digging at bowls of hummus – and unearth a new taste, a new cuisine, a new dish.

Sharing food together helps people become closer

“When you eat somebody’s food, when you sit together around the same table and eat together,” Ein Mor says, “you can really discover a whole new culture and get closer to each other.”

Explore some of the world’s most vibrant cities through local chefs and unique food with the full series of Hungerlust.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article