US gastronomists get a taste of Israel on culinary tour

A star-studded delegation of food writers, restaurateurs and other menu mavens are visiting this week.

March 16, 2010 05:16
2 minute read.
Celebrity chef Yisrael Aharoni leads a delegation

aharoni shuk hakarmel 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)


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A star-studded delegation of food writers, restaurateurs and other menu mavens are visiting this week, as part of an initiative to bring the sights, smells and tastes of Israel’s melting-pot kitchen to a wider audience.

Organized by the America-Israel Friendship League in coordination with the Foreign Ministry, the “Culinary Press Delegation to Israel” will tour marketplaces, fine restaurants and boutique farms, in what organizers hope will change misconceptions of the country.

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Zavi Apfelbaum from the ministry said the trip was part of a “wider desire on the part of the Foreign Ministry to communicate wider views of Israel and Israelis, not connected to the conflict.”

The ministry’s research found that in many places, especially in the United States, people had a hard time relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and programs like the culinary delegation could provide “a holistic understanding of Israelis and their DNA, so that when the issue of the [Arab-Israeli] conflict comes up, they can relate to Israelis on a human level and gain a greater understanding,” he said.

Apfelbaum said the culinary project had “no connection whatsoever” to the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s “Masbirim” program, which seeks to enlist everyday Israelis in advocacy abroad.

The culinary luminaries include Joan Nathan, author of the much-acclaimed Jewish Cooking in America; celebrated Washington restaurateur Mark H. Furstenberg; Food Arts magazine writer Beverly Stephen; writer and blogger Leah Koenig; writer Thomas Head; and Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker Roger Sherman.

The gastro-delegates were led on Monday’s tour of Tel Aviv sites by celebrity chef Yisrael Aharoni. Winding through the spice stores of the Lewinsky Market and the fruit stalls and produce stands of the Carmel Market, Aharoni pointed out the array of products that, he said, illustrated the unique, multicultural mosaic that was the Israeli kitchen.

Taking pictures with passersby, Aharoni said he had led many tours like this one.

“Everyone has their misconceptions and stereotypes, and when I lead tours like these, I love to see people’s misconceptions about Israeli food and the Israeli kitchen fall apart,” he said.

“There is a variety in Israel that no other country has,” he went on. “No other country has this many types of cultures reflected in the kitchen of their majority population.”

Nathan, noting that this was her first time on a trip to Israel of this nature, said that such visits were very positive in that they “open up the world. People who haven’t been to Israel can see what it is about and what it has to offer.”

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