ancient & modern
Israel is a remarkable country to visit for those of us interested in food, culture, and history. The variety of experience is dizzying as is the contrast of ancient and modern! In this small geographical area we will engage with a full range of food production methods from ancient terraced plots surrounding Jerusalem to the most modern agricultural practices of seaweed production and agriculture in the desert. We will share food with cutting edge world class chefs, Orthodox Jews, Palestinians, Bedouins, and Druze. Through these experiences and the perspectives shared by local experts we’ve asked to join us, we will create an eye-opening and delicious experience of the diversity of food and life in Israel. It will be a trip that stimulates our minds and our taste buds.
Please Note ** this program begins on a Saturday but we recommend you arrive on Friday to adjust to the new time zone and to avoid any complication with Shabbat
This trip is designed for novice or experienced travelers who like to engage with a new place through the lens of food. We will explore the diverse foodways of the country and the cultures of which they are a part. History will be a part of our many encounters. We encourage open minds, adventurous spirits, and a deep passion for traditional foods and their modern-day developments in this highly political environment.
It is a an active trip without much break time, great for those of us who would like a fully engaging week. For personal exploration of the more traditional sites in Israel we encourage our guests to add a few days to their visit.
Our guests are adults of all ages who enjoy moderate walks and exploring. We keep the group small, 15-16 guest maximum. This tour will have one Zingerman’s host as your guide and one guide from our Israel partner. It also includes many local experts to bring even more richness and information to the experience.
Amazing food – almost all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We will enjoy traditional regional specialties made with local, fresh ingredients.
Behind-the-scenes visits with artisanal producers, local farmers, hands-on baking and cooking experiences.
One Zingerman’s tour host will be with you at all times. A local guide will be with us daily.
Our own private bus transportation.
Transfer from and to the airport.
Hotel accommodations for 7 nights.
What’s Not Included?
Airfare is not included
Alcoholic beverages that are not specifically included in the itinerary
Personal spending money
Tipping for the local guide and driver
What about accommodations?
We will be staying in 3 different hotels over the course of the tour in Jerusalem, Galilee, and Tel Aviv. They are all well appointed accommodations in prime locations.
We will meet up on the first day at noon in our hotel and we’ll be exploring until 10 pm! To orient we will start with an overview talk and conversation with food expert and writer Phyllis Glazer. Phyllis is a regular columnist at Menta Magazine and and has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, and Saveur magazine. She is the author of The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking (Harper Collins)
We will then join the Chefs for Peace on a tasting tour. Chefs for Peace is a non-profit, non-political organization founded in Jerusalem in November 2001 by a group of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim chefs committed to exploring cultural identity, diversity and coexistence through food. With them we will browse (and taste) in the market, participate in a cooking workshop, and together enjoy an early dinner.
We will then take some time to explore this remarkable city with a late afternoon walk along the Via Dolorosa, following the Stations of the Cross, that culminates inside the Holy Sepulcher Church. We will also tour the Western Wall Tunnels, a complex of underground chambers stretching back to First Temple times, through Roman and Crusader buildings.
We will end our day with drinks on the rooftop of the Notre Dame guest house, with a spectacular view of the Dome of the Rock, the Mount of Olives, and the Old City
We begin our day with history when we meet with Amanda Weiss, Director of the Bible Lands Museum, a unique institution where history comes to life. Our tour will revolve around food in the Bible and what archaeology is bringing to light about ancient eating habits. Then we’ll enjoy a walk through the ancient terraces of Sataf (just west of Jerusalem), which have been cultivated continuously for the last six thousand years. Today the site is an organic vegetable garden based on the ancient technique of terrace farming, with a herd of 170 goats, and an award-winning goat cheese dairy. We will meet the founder of the farm and enjoy a light lunch on site.
We cannot leave Jerusalem without connecting with the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish population who maintain their European "shtetl" heritage. We will meet with Ruthie Brichter, mother of 12 and expert baker, and prepare some traditional pastries over a discussion of the lifestyle of the community.
Dinner will be at the Machneyuda Restaurant, the shining light of the Jerusalem restaurant scene. Chef Assaf Granit has expanded to London, where his Palomar restaurant receives rave reviews.
We will also visit the Samaritan community on the top of Mt Gerizim. The Samaritan congregation is a remnant of the ancient kingdom of Israel and follows the customs of the Torah of Moses to the letter, to this very day. We’ll explore their customs and taste their food.
Israelis and Palestinians agree that the best tahini in the area is produced in Nablus. We will visit the tahini factory and tour the historic spice market and an ancient soap factory, and end up with a special lunch at a Women's Cooperative, the only slow food convivium inside the Palestinian territories. Bait al-Karama foresees the establishment of a social-cultural center run by women and managed according to a social enterprise business model, where food-related activities is the vehicle to develop regular income for the women involved as well as a means of sustaining a social and cultural meaningful program.
We will continue to Burqin, to visit an important organic cooperative for farmers, producing olive oil, and visit a Palestinian commercial enterprise that provides premium agricultural goods produced by networks of smallholder groups in Palestine.
Later in the afternoon, we will travel to Galilee enjoy a roast goat dinner at a ranch, with the theme of “farm to table” local produce and wines and then we will check-in at our hotel.
This day will provide a perfect example of the wide-ranging food experiences possible in this small but rich country. We will tour the organic farm that belongs to our hotel, visit a Kibbutz (communal farm community), and participate in a cooking workshop and meal in the home of a Druze family. After lunch we’ll travel to Akko and tour the historic old city, which features structures from the Crusader and Ottoman periods.
Dinner will be at the famed Uri Buri restaurant in Akko. Uri Yirmias, explorer, salt of the earth
and self-taught and experienced chef is the owner, offering for the past 20 years different kinds of intelligently prepared fresh fish and seafood dishes, served with more than 100 different
kinds of fine Israeli wines. We will be joined by Evan Fallenberg, writer and translator, who will lead us through this experience.
On our way from Galilee to Tel Aviv we will engage with the decidedly non-urban lives of the Bedouin community of northern Israel. We will hear about the Bedouin heritage and way of life, their affinity to nature, and about the changes that have occurred in recent years in their community. Following the talk, we will enjoy a traditional Bedouin feast!
Next we will have two agricultural experiences. First we’ll visit a medicinal herb farm at Bethlehem Ha Glili, and then we’ll learn about seaweed cultivation in Michmoret – 'Seakura', an Israeli seaweed company established in 2006, is considered a world leader in developing, harvesting, and manufacturing the leafy algae.
We’ll move on to Tel Aviv and settle into our hotel before enjoying an upscale modern dinner at one of Tel Aviv’s foremost restaurants. We will choose our venue closer to our actual trip because the restaurant scene in Tel Aviv is fluid and ever-changing. After dinner, for those of us who enjoy nightlife and whiskey, we have an optional visit to The Whiskey Bar Museum. It combines a bar and a whiskey museum and is located in a Templar cellar in Sarona, where a 19th century winery used to operate, and until a decade ago was used by the Mossad (Israeli national intelligence agency).
Based in Tel Aviv, we now have access to southern Israel and the wonders of agriculture in the desert. We’ll visit the Agricultural Research Organization, which is responsible for most of the agricultural research conducted in Israel as part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. More than 200 PhD scientists and 300 engineers and technicians work to improve fruit and vegetable quality, shelf life, and develop new strains of plants.
We move on to winemaking at last (and at one of the best wineries in the country!) In 1999, Professor Ben Ami Bravdo and his former student Professors Oded Shoseyov, both faculty members of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, decided to establish the Karmei Yosef Winery producing Bravdo wines. Meet with Prof. Shosayev, currently researching biotechnology and processes in the vineyard and the winery that affect wine quality.
After our serious study we’ll enjoy lunch in Ofakim at Osi's -- Osi Lankri is a chef and a resident of Ofakim, a small town west of Beer Sheva. Her delicious cuisine reflects her Moroccan and Iraqi roots.
We’ll then return to Tel Aviv, for a culinary tour of the Bnei Brak neighborhood. Every Thursday night, Bnei Brak undergoes a cooking frenzy in preparations for the Sabbath.
We will accompany Israeli food expert Janna Gur through Tel Aviv's Levinsky (spices) Carmel (fruit and vegetables), and Nahlat Binyamin (arts and crafts) markets. Janna is an Israeli food writer, editor and cookbook author and an expert on Israeli and Jewish cuisine. We’ll continue through Old Jaffa (the ancient port from which Jonah set sail towards his fateful encounter with the whale), and then tour Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv's first neighborhood and today a mecca for galleries, cafes, and people watching.
Finally, we’ll return to hotel for relaxing and packing, and late afternoon check out. There will be time here for shopping. Our farewell meal will be at House Number Three in Jaffa, a private culinary hosting and cooking school in the Old City of Jaffa. Layla and her husband Hamoudi host guests in their antique Ottoman house, combining ideas like coexistence and tolerance. While Hamoudi is busy cooking the next course in the kitchen, guests get to hear explanations about the various dishes, the stories behind them, and about the wonderful house structure and its history.
After dinner we will be taken to the airport for our departures to accommodate the late night flight schedules of the airlines.
**One thing to note: this itinerary is the current plan, and things may change. We will make every effort to provide the tours and experiences that are described. However, the nature of an ever changing city means that plans may change at the last minute. Also, you always have the option of skipping a particular excursion, but please note that we will be unable to make refunds for any missed meals or other events.