Seeing Jerusalem through the eyes of its visitors

Taking time to explore Israel.

TBEX participants take a group selfie as visiting American actor Corin Nemic (left) and Israeli actor Ishai Golan do the same, at the conference opening party at Cinema City (photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVICH)
TBEX participants take a group selfie as visiting American actor Corin Nemic (left) and Israeli actor Ishai Golan do the same, at the conference opening party at Cinema City
(photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVICH)
I was fortunate enough to attend the Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) International conference in Jerusalem last week, which is pretty much a conference for professional travelers.
Many of the 400 attendees manage to make a living out of writing about their travels. The sessions I attended included tips on how to monetize your blog, appeal to sponsors and improve your content to generate more followers.
My personal highlight of the conference – which was organized in partnership with the Jerusalem Conventions and Visitors Bureau, under the direction of the Jerusalem Development Authority – was meeting interesting people from all over the world and hearing their thoughts on Jerusalem. Some had been before, but for many it was their first time and as well as taking part in the tours and events that the conference organizers had arranged for them, they were taking time to explore Israel themselves.
As a food writer, I was of course curious to hear their impressions of Israeli cuisine, and their responses did not disappoint.
Rachel Heller of Rachel’s Ruminations, an American living in the Netherlands, said, “I loved the Tower of David Spectacular with its amazing artwork and beautiful music. As for food, I loved the ice-cream cookie sandwich at Cookie Cream on Ha’eshkol Street. And the hummus pretty much everywhere is delicious!” Christy Prosser from Manchester, New Hampshire, is a photojournalist at One Focus One World. She said “the best food experience has been walking through Mahaneh Yehuda Market and experiencing all the varieties of foods and sweets. Pizzeria Flora was a great small restaurant with a lot of conversations and a perfect pizza,” she said, which is high praise coming from an American.
Amy Trumpeter, a British blogger at, spoke about her first impressions of Israel: “I absolutely love the people, the cultural diversity, the food with all the falafel and the hummus. I loved halva, which I had never tried before. We keep going to the bakeries and getting the cheese pastries.”
Her fellow Brit Sharon Cracknell commented that the exchange rate is much weaker for British travelers, and therefore the cheapest food seems to be falafel. “My favorite was from a little kiosk in Tel Aviv near the crossroads of Dizengoff and Nordau.”
I ate lunch during the conference with Melissa and Arnold from the Philippine Tourism Board, who were both in Israel for the first time. Arnold commented that “All the food I have had on this trip, I have not tried before and it has all been delicious. I love all the different salads, herbs and the fresh fruits. I especially love the way the food is cooked and just love the bread here.”
Melissa said, “I had knafeh in Jericho, which was very delicious. In the Old City we had a huge drink of fresh pomegranate, grapefruit and orange juice, which we do not have in the Philippines.”
Arnold and Melissa asked my advice on which spices they should take back home with them, so I sent them in the direction of Pereg in Mahaneh Yehuda and told them to buy sumac, za’atar and some rice spice mixes.
Salonee Sanghvi Doshi from India writes a vegetarian travel blog, Foodalong. “I’m Hindu and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a place like Jerusalem that is such an important place for some of the major religions in the world. I was amazed at the vibrations from the city and it was fun getting lost in the Old City. I am vegetarian and I loved walking through Mahaneh Yehuda Market with all the open stalls hawking a variety of food by day and then transforming into a vibrant night scene with bars and music.”
Soumya Nambiar, another Indian blogger at Travel, Books and Food, said, “The best part of my trip to Jerusalem was the Tower of David night spectacular show. It was just amazing to see so many years of history through a light show and the setting was just perfect. I am a vegetarian and I am loving exploring the vegan food scene here in Jerusalem.”
Joanna Shebson, originally from Los Angeles, now lives in Jerusalem and runs the family–oriented tourism website Fun in Jerusalem.
She took part in one of the panels and commented, “As a local blogger I feel like an ambassador for the city of Jerusalem and Israel. It has been such an honor to host bloggers from around the world and to be a part of TBEX.”
I could not agree more with Shebson’s sentiment and my favorite interactions with the TBEX attendees was when they asked me where they should eat in the market and what food they should take home with them.