Many of us keep a “bucket list” of things to do and places to travel in our lifetimes. Ireland had been on our list as a travel destination for decades.
When our son moved there for work a couple of years ago with his wife and their two daughters, not surprisingly Ireland moved right to the top of the list. We’ve now traveled to the Emerald Isle twice in the last two years.
However, our most recent trip was very different from the first one for two main reasons: They are the introduction of non-stop flights from Tel Aviv to Dublin and the recent opening of Ireland’s first kosher restaurant in 50 years.
In March, El Al began flying three flights a week direct from Ben-Gurion to Dublin Airport. It’s no longer necessary to change planes in Europe. This is especially helpful when traveling with young children.
A couple of weeks later, the first kosher restaurant in more than half a century opened in Dublin. It’s called Deli 613 and is operated by Chabad of Ireland. It’s a meat restaurant with some parve and even vegan options available.
They serve a wonderful salt beef sandwich (a crowd favorite) as well as Israeli dishes such as falafel, shwarma, and hummus. Those who like traditional Jewish foods can always order lox on a bagel (no cream cheese), chopped liver with onions, and even a potato latke.
The restaurant also happens to be the Chabad House of Ireland. If you’re looking for a delicious Shabbat meal cooked by Deli 613’s chefs, sign up on the Chabad Ireland website. A little over a half-hour walk away is Ireland’s only Orthodox synagogue, the Dublin Hebrew Congregation. It’s a small but very warm community welcoming out-of-town guests both on Friday night and Saturday morning.
The Shabbat service during the day is followed by a small kiddush open to all. You can even arrange to stay at a nearby hotel, which makes special arrangements for observant guests, such as a mechanical key and a manual door for entering and exiting the building. Just know that there is no “eruv” in Dublin.
Dublin is a wonderful city for sightseeing. The best way to get around is by purchasing a Leap Card, which is similar to our Rav-Kav card. These can be initially bought at many local news agents, and you can always add on money at a later time.
For many tourists, the first stop is the world-famous Book of Kells at Trinity College. Afterwards, make sure to see the Long Room of the Old Library. Please note that all of the books have been removed temporarily so that they can refurbish the bookshelves.
If Irish history is your thing, then your next stop should be Dublinia, described as a “living history of Viking and Medieval Dublin.” You get to walk where Vikings walked before and then step into Medieval Dublin.
Most of us learned in our world history courses about the Irish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1852. More than 1 million people died while another million emigrated to avoid starvation. By 1855 another million fled the country. Many sailed to Scotland, Canada, and the United States.
An exact replica of one of these boats, the Jeanie Johnston, can be found just minutes away from the Irish Emigration Museum. The tour of the ship is both educational as well as entertaining, filled with the many stories of these desperate passengers just trying to escape to a safer place. You can purchase a combo ticket, which includes admission to both the ship as well as the museum, also known as the EPIC.
The EPIC is a unique experience that both remembers the millions of Irish men and women who emigrated over the years and then celebrates the contributions of the estimated 60 million descendants with Irish blood to the world (history, culture, sports, etc.).
They’re very proud to claim the Herzog family, including the second chief rabbi of Israel plus two of our presidents, as Irishmen. I also never really thought of The Beatles as an Irish rock band although I did learn that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison were all of Irish descent.
I hope that we don’t ever open a yerida museum in Israel, celebrating the contributions that Israelis have made throughout the world. Imagine checking out the Gal Gadot exhibit at such a venue.
For more recent Irish history, visit the General Post Office, which was the center of the Easter Uprising in 1916. Learn how a group of men and women wanted to bring about change while Ireland was still under British rule.
After the rebellion failed, just two weeks later 14 of their leaders were executed at the Kilmainham Gaol. A few years after that, Ireland suffered through a 10-month civil war where brother fought brother in the army of the Provisional Government of Ireland versus the Irish Republican Army.
Provisional prisoners were executed by government soldiers at this same jail. It makes you think what would have happened in 1948 after the Altalena was attacked by the IDF if Menachem Begin had not told his Irgun fighters to lay down their arms.
Fun in Dublin
OKAY, ENOUGH seriousness. What about the fun side of the Irish capital?
Dublin is a great place to drink alcoholic beverages made locally as well as to hear authentic Irish music. One must visit the pubs, including the Brazen Head, “Ireland’s Oldest Pub,” as well as Darkey Kellys. Both places offer lots to drink plus wonderful Irish singalongs.
For more music experiences, make sure to try out the Irish Dance Party at Merchants Arch Bar. My wife and I had a fun afternoon learning some basic Irish dances (not enough to audition for the cast of Riverdance), singing along to numerous Irish musical classics such as Molly Malone plus watching a spectacular show featuring professional Irish dancers.
In the evening we did a traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl. This program is led by two professional musicians who perform tunes and songs while telling the story of Irish music.
Enough about the music! What about the drink?
The most-visited tourist attraction in Ireland is the Guinness Storehouse, the home of Ireland’s iconic beer. Entry includes a self-guided tour of the brewery as well as a stop at the Guinness beer tasting rooms.
If you’re into harder liquors, make sure to visit the Jameson Distillery. A stop there includes a fully guided tour plus some comparative whiskey tasting. Please don’t drive after stopping at either of these attractions and be careful when crossing the street. Remember that the traffic in Ireland will be coming from the other direction, just like in the United Kingdom.
Lots of people have asked if we found Irish people to be antisemitic. In the more than three weeks I spent in Ireland, I wore a kippa at all times and never once had a negative experience. I found the people to be very friendly and upon seeing my kippa, some shared stories of sisters who had worked for a year on a kibbutz or brothers who had served with UNIFIL in Lebanon while taking fun military leaves in various Israeli cities.
Although the Irish government itself is quite critical of our country, the people whom I met didn’t seem to have any problems with us. As the Irish see themselves as victims of British oppression, they seem to gravitate towards the underdog, thus in our case sympathizing with the Palestinians.
The first time we traveled to Ireland was just after the Russians invaded Ukraine. There were probably more Ukrainian flags flying in Dublin than in Kyiv.
I can’t wait to go back to Ireland again. Maybe I’ll even meet you in one of the pubs? We’ll clap along to an Irish jig and each order a pint. The drinks are on me!
The writer is a musician and educator living in Jerusalem with his wife, children, and grandchildren. It should be noted that he wasn’t anybody’s guest and paid for everything.