When I immigrated to Haifa six years ago at the age of fifty nine, I was concerned about learning a new language, making friends, adjusting to a new culture and eating properly. Food was almost certainly my primary source of anxiety.

 

My fears were quickly removed. Israel has most American cuisine and much more to offer citizens and visitors. Bagel is a household name and in this day and age most Americans find that bagel and cream cheese is almost as common as mum and apple pie. Bagels and cream cheese are standing dining fares in many Israeli cafes. Smoked salmon is available but somewhat more difficult to find. Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King and Dominoes are an integral part of Israeli society. For those of us who can’t live without a Big Mac or Pizza Hut, don’t worry-be happy! Whilst the Hebrew language may date back five thousand years, the most universal words in this land seem to be ‘Shalom’ and ‘Pizza please’!

One of the wonderful things about living in a multicultural society like Israel is that there are many distinctive types of menus on offer. It is also common to sit at an eatery and to share dinner and conversation with people from a myriad of backgrounds in several languages. I am sitting at my favorite cafe, the Kapiot, listening to fellow diners conversing in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Russian. The cafe is located in the Mercaz or center neighborhood or our city. The Baha’i Gardens is located a few hundred meters from here. Therefore, the neighborhood is filled with upscale hotels, a complete variety of restaurant choices, and numerous food stores.

The Israeli diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, salads, and dairy products. The staples of the Israeli diet are humus, falafel, and Israeli salad. Humus and falafel are chickpea products. Humus is a paste like form of chickpea usually eaten with pita bread. Falafel is chickpea formed into small balls, fried, and eaten in a pita bread as a sandwich. Both are eaten with or without vegetables and several possible sauces. Israeli salad is a combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parsley, served with Israeli salad dressing, a combination of salt, lemon and olive oil. These culinary treats are now enjoyed throughout the world.

Israelis enjoy a barbecue at least once a month. Lamb kebab, chicken breasts, beef flanks, and shawarma or roasted lamb are the favorite meat choices. Yes! Israelis like a cold beer, a glass of wine, and even Jack Daniels. The balmy climate and abundance of parks allow Haifa residents to enjoy their outings throughout much of the year.

Haifa is a sea front community that offers you the choice of dining in modern western style malls or traditional culinary spots. We have a taiyelet or boardwalk lined with cafes and food stands. There is dining on the seashore with the Mediterranean as an aesthetic backdrop. Due to the nature of the Israeli diet, food costs are often lower than in the United States. American style grocery stores abound in Israel, as do small local shops and the shuks or outdoor markets. The larger grocery stores do carry American canned and packaged products such as Oreos and Campbell’s soup. They also offer non-grocery items such as health care products, beauty aids and clothing. Most stores and restaurants in Israel accept major credit cards although some accept only those issued in Israel. Most Tourist Bureaus offer a comprehensive list of local dining.

 

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