Paleolithic in Tel Aviv

The Paleo open-air market lets you eat like a caveman.

Food at The Paleo open-air market (photo credit: YOSSI SHARP)
Food at The Paleo open-air market
(photo credit: YOSSI SHARP)
Do you like the idea of a nutritional regime based on protein – lots and lots of animal protein and fat? Some might shudder, but some might jump right in.
It’s the Paleolithic diet, a lifestyle originating in the US. The movement has been gathering momentum since The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain was published in 2002. Today, it’s the most searched diet on Google.
The Israeli Paleo community started out small – just a few people on a Facebook group who had brought the concept back from the US and Europe. But with the publication of a book by Dael Shalev explaining the Paleo diet in Hebrew, it has since attracted a large number of adherents, growing to the point where a Paleo open-air market has opened in Tel Aviv.
“Paleo isn’t a ‘trend,’” says Ohad Roth, the market’s founder. “It’s the first way humans ever ate.”
Roth, a 45-year-old former economist and capital market investor, found himself in a rut at age 40. He began looking for a different way to live.
“I was overweight, felt tired all the time, stuck in a place I didn’t like,” he recalls. “I realized that to feel better, I needed to lose weight and become fitter.”
He began reading whatever he could find on alternative diets: “I knew that conventional diets don’t work; you lose weight, then put it back on, up and down.”
The vegan and vegetarian ways of life didn’t appeal to him, as he was unwilling to give up eating meat. Then he came across a reference to the Paleo diet, which is based on the premise that the human metabolism hasn’t evolved since the Stone Age and that we are therefore adapted to eat only foods known to our hirsute ancestors.
In Paleo-lifestyle thinking, the modern Western diet, infused with sugar and loaded with carbohydrates, is responsible for the modern epidemics of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. True enough. But in addition, this disaster is orchestrated by the food industries in a conspiracy to keep the consumer buying ever more highly processed foods. There’s not much to dispute about the harm that high-fructose corn syrup and excess carbs cause, although the conspiracy theory might put some off. The most appropriate foods for mankind, then, would be meat, animal fat, a restricted list of oils, vegetables and fruit, no dairy and almost no grains. The one sweetener is honey, and of course no processed foods are allowed.
Roth was convinced. He claims that within a few months of eating Paleo style, he lost weight, a skin disorder cleared up, and dandruff that had plagued him for years vanished. A family friend who was impressed with Roth’s successful change converted to the Paleo way of eating, and lost 25 kg. in five-and-a-half months.
“Her doctor couldn’t believe how her high blood sugar and blood pressure returned to normal,” recounts Roth. “He even asked me to come in and speak to a group of other doctors about the diet.”
Eventually Roth left the world of finance and dedicated himself to open - ing the monthly “Paleo Shuk” in Tel Aviv’s Athletica Kala stadium – a venue where people can become acquainted with the Paleo way of life and buy the best of fresh artisanal foods.
There’s a surprisingly large selection of products. A stroll around the market reveals over 100 vendors and a tempting variety of foods. Lots of fresh, pickled, smoked and dried beef, as well as lamb, fish, five kinds of kosher sausages, and – placed farther away – pork (“We have religious customers; they just don’t go to the non-kosher stands,” says Roth). There are heirloom and rare vegetables. There are spices, boutique beers, wines, home-brewed whiskey and hard cider. There are baked goods, including Ethiopian injera bread and granola. On the self-indulgent side, there’s gluten-free pizza, chocolates, and even popsicles and Paleo ice cream. There’s artisanal cheese; it seems that while adherents to the Paleo way don’t drink milk, some do accept fermented dairy products.
In addition to foods plain and fancy, vendors sell high-grade charcoal, food dehydrators and other specialized tools for the modern Paleolithic cook. Roth says that most of his suppliers are small farmers. He takes pride in the boutique status of his suppliers, and in the fact that thanks to the Paleo Shuk, many artisans are now able to make a living from their hand-crafted products.
One of the market’s goals is getting the public exposed to the Paleo lifestyle.
“The Paleo diet saves lives,” maintains Roth, with the ring of zeal in his voice. “I have a strong sense of mission about educating the public regarding that. When you eat right and become fit, you can drop drugs that regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. You can avoid invasive surgeries. Over the course of time, most of my suppliers have gone over to the Paleo way of eating, just from being at the market and talking to people about it. But,” he warns, “I’m not a doctor and I don’t give medical advice.”
He and Shalev are in the process of building a website with online nutrition courses and cooking workshops, articles on the Paleo lifestyle by the movement’s gurus, and a shop.
There were over 5,000 visitors to last month’s market. Many come simply for a fun experience. Visitors can sit and enjoy ready-made biltong with a glass of beer, or buy take-away while music in the background tempts one to stay and socialize.
“Another of the market’s goals is to provide a place for the Paleo community to meet in real life, not only on Facebook,” says Roth. “But anyone who likes good food should come. You’ll find foods here that nobody else offers, at prices that are reasonable in the realm of hand-crafted products. And the music’s great. It’s a fun place to go on a Friday morning – bring the kids. Plus, we have 1,000 free parking spaces available, which no other market in Israel can offer.”
Whether you go for the Paleo way of life or not, the market’s a great place to pick up the best of hand-crafted Israeli foods. Not much wrong with that.
The next Paleo markets will take place on August 14 and September 4, at the Athletica Kala stadium in Tel Aviv’s Hadar Yosef neighborhood.
For more information on the Israel Paleo scene, you can visit Paleo Israel on Facebook, and for the Paleo market, you can visit the Facebook page Meat Paleo (both mostly in Hebrew). You can also contact Ohad Roth at or 052- 838-6262 (Roth speaks English)