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Four Israeli Desserts with Strong Cultural Connections

4213599247_f6f1c12559_bBaklava Sampler (By stuart_spivack [CC BY SA 2.0], via flickr)

If you’re traveling in Israel and have a craving for an authentic Israeli dessert, you have a wide variety of choices to satisfy your sweet tooth!In fact, there are many desserts in Jewish culture that are not only delicious but have strong significance for the people of Israel. Thankfully, some of these sweet treats are even available worldwide.

The following list includes desserts that are appropriate for consumption in connection with Jewish religious ceremonies as well as treats that can be appropriate for everyday snacks.  Whether you’re in the mood for a pleasant pastry or a sugary sweet, all the following items have a strong cultural significance.


Krembo, the sweet memories of childhood
By ella [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Krembo is an incredibly sweet treat that is very popular with youngsters. This chocolate coated biscuit and marshmallow is also thought to be a comfort food for Israelis living outside their home country, especially in the United States. There are multiple flavors of commercially available Krembo, including banana and strawberry, although those don’t have a huge share in the market for this treat. Some say it is only sold during the winter months.

I wonder if they taste like thin mints
By slgc [CC BY 2.0], via flickr

Central to Passover, this unleavened bread is a symbol that begins the Seder meal. At this time Jewish individuals break a cake of matzah, which they call “the bread of affliction.” It is said that Jews in Egypt were commanded to eat matzah along with the paschal of lamb for the first Passover; Jewish historians say that the unleavened bread is a symbol of the haste that the Jews employed when they were liberated from Egypt- there was no time to let the bread rise before baking. The belief is that non-Jews enjoy Matzah more than Jews enjoy them because of its overconsumption during Passover. There are a variety of recipes that utilize matzah for a sweet or savory treat.
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Have you made your own before?
By Rachel Tayse [CC BY 2.0], via flickr

A traditional Jewish cookie, rugelach is cookie that is covered with nuts, raisins, sugar and cinnamon before shaping into a crescent. One variation is to roll the dough into a rectangle, covered with filling, then cut the pastry dough into circles. There are conflicting stories about where the name for this cookie comes from. Some say the rugelach cookie gets its name from the Yiddish term for royal – “rugel.” Another website,, reports that Rugelach is a Yiddish word that translates into “little twists” and that the cookie originated with Ashkenazi Jews who migrated to German-speaking countries.

Fresh, golden baklava

This pastry is extremely popular during the Jewish holidays; on Rosh Hashanah, pastry-makers substitute blanched almonds for walnuts in baklava (or baklawa). In Israel, this dessert is created with layers of phyllo pastry sheets, nuts, sweet butter, clove, sugar, cinnamon and then finished with a syrup containing orange and lemon rinds.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Fortunately, many of these Israeli foods and desserts are available in the United States. However, if you want to travel to Israel and try the authentic ones, contact Gil Travel and our expert travel agents here can help you create an itinerary to include delicious local fare while you explore the many sites.

More than Hummus and Rugelach: Israel’s Culinary Heritage

When people think of Israel’s food, it’s likely they think of hummus, rugelach or falafel. But there’s a wide range of Israeli dishes that celebrate the country’s culture and heritage.  If you’re looking for a way to create memories that will last and to expand your palate as well, consider immersing yourself in the foods of the region, like the ones described below.

Seven underrated Israeli dishes

In Israel, cholent, otherwise known as Jewish stew, is a slow-cooked meal that is extremely popular during Shabbat. In fact, the recipe was developed over the centuries to align with Jewish laws that prohibit cooking on the Sabbath. According to multiple sources, the dish boils on Friday before the Sabbath, and then is placed into a slow cooker or oven on low heat until the next day. Cholent typically includes meat, potatoes, beans and barley. However, Sephardic Jews often substitute rice for the beans and barley and chicken for the beef. They may also add whole eggs, shell included! Ashkenazi Jews often include a sausage casing or chicken neck skin stuffed with flour.
Jachnun is another dish created out of necessity to abide by Jewish laws regarding the Sabbath. It is a sweet bread from Yemen, typically served on the morning of Shabbat with a side of tomato dip. The rolled and baked dough is left to cook in a slow oven over night and when finished, has the flaky texture of a croissant. You may find this dish in Tel Aviv, at the Shuk HaCarmel.

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Potato Latkes
By Megan Chromik [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

Latkes are traditionally served during Hanukkah, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy this dish year round! There are multiple variations on the traditional pancake recipe, both sweet and savory. Well known versions include potato latkes and cheese latkes. There are also some more out of the box recipes including corn and red pepper latkes, mushroom-pecan latkes, and even sweet potato latkes with cinnamon.
This gelatinous pudding is a very popular dish in Israeli kitchens. You’ll find it in the street markets and restaurants of Israel. There are several versions of this dish: a dairy-free version, a dairy version and a chocolate option. It is also known to have been often flavored with rosewater.
Matbucha is a dish of stewed tomatoes, red peppers, garlic and onions. In Israeli kitchens, cooks make their own adjustments to matbucha – adding a variety of vegetables and garnishes. This dish is often served as a dip for pita bread or vegetables.
This rice-like pasta was invented in the 1940s by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Being very popular amongst children, the pasta is often sold in ring, star and heart shapes. Variations are made from white flour, whole wheat and spelt flour. It is often prepared with onions and garlic or even meats and vegetables, and then fried. Yummy!

Beef and Lamb mixed Shawarma
By avlxyz [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr

Shawarma is shredded meat often served in a pita. Meats used in shawarma include lamb, chicken, turkey, beef or veal. This is a very popular street food, available at vendors in markets and tourist areas. The dish also includes shredded vegetables and condiments.

Which one of these delicacies are you hoping to try on your next trip to Israel?

Sarona: Tel Aviv’s Newest Cultural and Lifestyle Center

tel aviv city panorama metropolisTel Aviv Panorama  (By Ynhockey [CC BY-SA 3.0], via wikimedia commons)

Are you a traveler who loves to explore new places? We’re not just talking about areas that are new to you. No. We also mean areas that are newly discovered and developed.  If this sounds like you, then you may enjoy a trip to Tel Aviv’s newest attraction – the lifestyle center called the Sarona Complex.

A Historical Site

Located northeast of Jaffa, the 47-acre complex is one steeped in history. The area was first settled by a colony of German Templers, a group of German Protestants who were involved with the Lutheran Church but expelled in the mid 1800s due to their beliefs. Eventually, the colony was abandoned, making way for other cultures to take it over.

tel aviv sarona israel old

Sarona in the early 1900s
Public domain

The area was occupied by the British from 1917 until 1920; in 1941, the Nazis turned Sarona into a perimeter compound where they housed Germans. When Israel took over the area, the Templer buildings housed the first government buildings and national institutions of cultural significance.

Throughout the years, there have been efforts to preserve the area. For example, in the 1970s, there was a plan to demolish Sarona and rebuild – a group of individuals interested in preservation thwarted that attempt. In the 1990s, Tel Aviv saw The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites push to maintain and preserve Sarona.  In the past decade though, plans for new development and inclusion of history have prevailed, allowing new development of the area to move forward.

New Development and Change

old templar home sarona tel aviv jaffa israel vacation

An Old Templar House in Sarona
By CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The complex includes nearly a dozen high rise buildings- for a mix of commercial and residential use, circling hotels, shopping and a convention center. Even more significant is the center of all of that – 33 of the original Templer structures that visitors can explore. The Sarona Complex is a big part of the Tel Aviv of Tomorrow.

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Attractions in Sarona

There’s truly something for everyone – from the history buff to the shopping enthusiast; the music lover to the wine and art connoisseur. Visitors can see 33 Templer houses, shop in high end stores like Tommy Hilfiger and Fred Perry, or even peruse art galleries. Indulge in Israeli wine at Sarona’s Winery Square or enjoy music in the Musical Gardens. For those who seek a spa getaway, the complex is near six different spas.

The stunning complex is an interesting mix of modern life and sites that speak to Tel Aviv’s intriguing history – the Templer colony is 140+ years old. Within the boundaries of Sarona, visitors can explore a not-so-well-known culture and part of Tel Aviv’s history and see where some of the Jewish agricultural endeavors came from.

If you’re planning a trip to Israel, then Tel Aviv can’t be missed! While there, you may want to explore a lesser-known area, a hidden gem, if you will, then Sarona is the place for you! History, culture, attractions, shopping, it’s a great location to spend an afternoon or a day at leisure.

Need help planning an intellectually stimulating yet relaxing trip to Israel? Contact Gil Travel today and one of our expert agents will help you plan the perfect vacation.