Eating in the Holyland

If you look in general travel books, you will find information about the kinds of foods served in Israel and the West Bank. Here are some special comments to help you with the confusion of new foods and to give you a way to survive all the great food (and not gain weight). 

Breakfast is whatever is served where you stay overnight. Unlike American breakfast, it might include lunchmeats, humus, falafel (deep fried chick pea balls), pickles, olives, and warm pita bread. You are more likely to get tea than coffee. Forget your cereal.


Lunch can be a light or heavy meal. Local people seem to prefer the heavy meal at lunch. I prefer to save heavy food for the evening dinner but the rule is to decide when to heve your heavy meal and stick with it. A good lunch of street food includes shwarma (bread wrapped around meat, pickled vegetables, and tahini) or pieces of falafel and a hard cooked egg with bread. (Street food is safe) In a restaurant you could order a mezza (first course) of salads and dips with bread and forgo the main dish if this is not your main meal. 

Afternoon tea time might include tea, coffee, juice, lemonade and sweets. This is a meal not common in America, but highly recommended for this part of the world if dinner is late.


If dinner is your big meal, it will begin with mezza (salads, bread and dips). The main course usually includes meat or a substitute plus rice and vegetables. My favorite is maqluba, (meaning upside down) which includes chicken or lamb, rice and cauliflower. It is often flavored with spices that are hard to get in American grocery stores. Try Allspice to get a resemblance to the Middle East when you get home. Dessert is usually fruit. Sweets are only served afterward or during the afternoon.

Bread is always served everywhere and every time. It is considered sacred and leftover bread is put outside for the poor rather than thrown away. There is even a salad based on bread scraps called fattush.

Leaving Food Out For The Homeless
The West Has Made Its Mark
The West Has Made Its Mark

When ordering coffee, you will have a choice of American coffee or Arabic (Armenian, Greek, Palestinian, etc.) coffee. The latter should not have milk, but you will need to decide on lots of sugar, a little sugar, or mish succar (no sugar) before it is cooked. This coffee is made by boiling the ground beans several times in a small pot and it is strong but flavorful.

Ask locally about sweets, because there are special bakeries and very reputable companies for sweets. Everyone has favorites.

Most visitors drink bottled water although it is quite safe in major cities. You might want to drink bottled water just to be sure, especially in outlying areas.