Goat with the Wind Dairy

Goat with the Wind Dairy (2)

As you drive on the rocky and uneven road down to the Goat with the Wind (Halav im HaRuach) organic dairy, a solar-powered goat farm near the village of Yodfat in the Galilee region, you are taken back in time. I felt like I was in Biblical times, a shepherdess walking to visit my friends up the hill who sell amazing cheeses. The air was clean and fresh, and the view was breathtakingly beautiful which made me forget about all the stresses and normal day-to-day life.

Goat with the Wind Gate

Lunch with a View (1)

Amnon and Dalia, who studied cheesemaking in Italy, have made everything beautiful: the stone buildings, the restaurant kitchen, the treehouse-like dining rooms; even the barn for the goats has beautiful hand-painted doors that I wanted to take off their hinges and take home with me.

Content Goats with the Wind

Goats with the Wind

The goats look so happy and are so well taken care of that it makes you want to try the goat’s milk, cheeses and yogurt even more.

Goat with the Wind Dairy

Mr BT and our friends Cassia and Massimo stopped here for their dairy lunch. As we entered the restaurant, we were seated in our own little balcony that overlooked the area.

Goat with the Wind Dairy (1)

The table was decorated with Indian fabrics and we sat on small wicker stools. I loved the wooden plates and decorative place settings with the fragrant lavender.

Goat with the Wind Ricotta

Goat with the Wind Labane

They bring out a selection of all of their cheeses which are all delicious, but the real stars of the show are their ricotta, which is some of the best I have ever had in Israel, their labane, and their yogurt.

Goat with the Wind Eggplant Salad

Goat with the Wind Salad

And we all loved their salads, which were perfectly seasoned and showcased our fantastic vegetables here in Israel. The thing I loved was that not all of the salads had tomatoes in them because I am allergic to raw tomato. The lunch is all you can eat, so you can stuff yourself silly.

Goat with the Wind Dessert

The meal closed with this adorable presentation of a chocolate brownie and a nut tart.

Happy Goat with the Wind

I highly recommend a visit to the farm, and if you want to take some ricotta back home with you, make sure you pre-order it when you book a table. The farm welcomes volunteers to work on the farm who will perform tasks such as cleaning, gardening, feeding the animals, milking the goats, decorating or carpentry work.

Oh, and if you happen to need to use the loo, then don’t worry. It is in an outhouse, but with a real toilet and a sink to wash up. In fact, it is a rather beautiful outhouse.

By the way, Halav im HaRuach is pun on the Hebrew translation of the film title “Gone with the Wind”: Halaf im HaRuach.

Ein Kamonim Goat Farm


Amiram and Drora Obrutsky started the Ein Camonim goat farm in 1979. They took the name Ein Camonim from Ephraim Kishon’s book The Fox in the Chicken-Coop, which is about an aging Knesset member who is told to take time off after he collapses during a speech and finds himself in a backward Israeli village far from civilization.


Amiram Avrutzki got into the dairy business “by accident” when a friend asked him if he could look after a herd of goats because he was short of space. Drora, who didn’t want to waste the goats’ milk, started to make cheese from it. At first, she made the cheese in her kitchen and then she studied the art of cheese-making abroad.


Amiram started researching the different breeds of goats in other countries: he discovered a breed of Alpine goat that produces 1,000 litres of milk a year as opposed to  the 140 litres produced by the goats native to Israel. After dealing with a lot of bureaucratic red tape, Amiram was given permission to import Alpine goats from France, and he is now an expert who exchanges information with other goat breeders around the world.


Ein Kamonim was one of the first dairies in Israel to make boutique cheeses directly on the farm.


They produce about thirty different kinds of cheese, which are all made from the milk of their herd. All the milk is whole and pasteurized and all the ingredients are natural without preservatives or food coloring.

Ein_Kamonim_Cheese (1)

You can buy all of their cheeses and delicious goat’s yogurt in the dairy shop.


Don’t leave without bringing home a jar of their delicious fig and walnut jam, which goes well on top of most of their cheeses or slathered on buttered bread.


The best way to try all of their cheeses on offer is to dine al fresco at their beautiful restaurant


and enjoy their “all-you-can-eat” cheese platter,


which comes with a variety of salads, olives,

Ein_Kamonim_Salad_Bread_Lunch (1)

and a lovely basket of fresh whole grain rolls. It also includes a carafe of wine, water and homemade lemonade.

Ein Kamonim Goat Farm and Restaurant
Acre-Safed Highway 85, between Hanania Intersection & Nahal Amud
Ein Camonim
Phone: 057-942-8691

A Moroccan Fantasy in Israel

I have been talking for the last several years about driving up to the north for the day and going to the Moroccan Fantasy (פנטזיה מרוקאית) store in Hatzor Haglilit to find a tagine. I have always joked that I must of have been Moroccan in a past life because I love Moroccan architecture and design, food and music.

Morocco Fantasy Store

Finally, Mr BT and I went there a few Fridays ago and when we first drove through the industrial zone and entered the parking area of the store, the front of the store didn’t look like anything special.


But then we looked to our right and gasped in delight at the sea of tagines,


tiled tables and sinks,


and beautiful planters.


The moment I walked in the store, I knew I was home. It fulfilled all our expectations and more.


The first place I gravitated to was the back of the store where they had beautiful hand-painted




and my personal favorite, hand-carved doors which I could picture as the entrance to our master bedroom.



The other thing that caught my eye were the beautiful light fixtures.


But after coming back down to earth, I focused on the real reason I came to the store, which was to buy a tagine that I could cook with. They have beautiful decorative tagines for serving, but you cannot use them for cooking.

Tagines (1)

When buying a tagine for cooking or serving, make sure they have a label on them that says “sans plomb”, which means “without lead”. And of course, always make sure you buy from a reputable dealer.


If you want to cook with a tagine in the traditional way, you can buy a stand for it and cook using wood or charcoal. I decided to forgo this for now, but will buy one in the future.


I came home with a rustic tagine perfect for making one of Paula Wolfert’s lovely recipes. But, I will be going back to buy doors, tiles, lamps….. Mr. BT’s bank manager had better watch out!

Moroccan Fantasy
Industrial Zone
Hatzor HaGlilit
Open: Sunday-Thursday 0800 – 1600
Friday 0800 – 1430
Telephone: 04-6800744 or 050-2766965

Spring Fair of Homemade Wines at Soreq Winery

This post is from last year. This year’s festival will be on Friday, 29 April from 1000 – 1600. Don’ t miss it.

Soreq Winery, one of the first boutique wineries in Israel, is situated between the Ayalon and Soreq valleys, in a region where wine was produced as early as 3,000 years ago. The Shacham family founded the Soreq winery in 1994. Nir Shaham is the vintner and his parents, Heli and Yossi, are the proprietors. They now produce 10,000 bottles a year from a 30-year-old vineyard as well as a younger vineyard planted on the nearby slopes of the Judean Hills. The winery produces wine from Merlot, Grenache, Petit Verdoux, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Shortly after opening their winery, Nir Shaham, gave courses on winemaking which developed into the Soreq School of Winemaking. This school is attended by amateurs and professionals who are interested in winemaking at home or for those whose dream is to open a boutique winery, which is becoming more and more fashionable in Israel. For the past several years, Soreq winery has organized a homemade wine fair in the spring that showcases their current and past students. Some of their well-known offspring are Avidan, Mond, Nachshon, and Kadesh Barnea wineries.

This year’s fair featured about 40 winemakers, most of whom made only red wines, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz, but there were a few brave souls that make white wines, dessert wines, and even one winemaker who made a decent rosé. One thing most of the home wineries have in common is that their products are not “technically” kosher, a process that costs more money than most of them can justify when the output is still small. Nevertheless, some of them produce wine that in practical terms is kosher, since they are religiously observant or traditional themselves and follow the rules of kashrut.

The enthusiasm of the winemakers was infectious and it made you want to try their wines that they have worked so hard on. Gytot Winery is a good example: Malkiel and Dina Hadari have been making wine for the past three years after Dina gave the Soreq Winery course as birthday present to her wine-loving husband. She told him, “You love drinking wine and talk about it all of the time, why don’t you try making it yourself.” They now have six oak barrels and all of the equipment they need to produce several thousand bottles of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This was my first time at the fair and I must say that I was quite impressed with the wines on offer, most of which I would buy and happily serve to guests at dinner. Actually, the real difficulty was deciding which were the best so that I could buy some without breaking the bank, even though the average price was about 70NIS (20USD) a bottle.

And if you are worried about drinking too much on an empty stomach, there were also beautiful vegetarian tapas for sale from Maya Ben Tzvi, a caterer who specializes in healthy vegetarian gourmet dishes.

Some of the tapas were grilled portobello mushrooms with a dollop of tomato confit, topped with a miniature potato pancake, stuffed zucchini and eggplant, and bruschetta with various toppings, such as poached pears and Roquefort cheese. They were delicious.

And to close your meal, you could try a delicious and not too sweet Delicate Passionfruit liqueur from the Fishbein family farm at Ein Irron in the north of the country.

Next year, I hope there will be an even bigger selection of wines, especially including whites and rosés; but I better have a hearty breakfast first.

Soreq Winery Homemade Wine Fair
Entrance fee: 55NIS
Moshav Tal Shachar

Organic Farmers Market in Tel Aviv

Organic farming is nothing new in Israel, but given the fact that several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms have popped up over the last several years and regular supermarkets are pushing organic products, not to mention the Eden Teva supermarket chain, you would think that Israel has just been introduced to the organic way of life.

It is quite the contrary. In 1958, a group of people of various backgrounds decided to create a moshav based on a vegetarian, vegan, and organic lifestyle and ideology. The founders of Amirim were among the pioneers of the vegetarian movement in Israel. The Israel Bio-Organic Agricultural Association (Tuv Hassadeh) was founded in the late 1970s by an 84-year-old farmer, Mario Levy, from Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in the north of the country. It was quite difficult in the beginning to convince Israeli farmers to forego the use of pesticides, but now there are over 500 farmers who are members of the association and produce 13% of farm products in Israel.

Organic products and produce could always be found in the various health food stores in Tel Aviv, but now there is a dedicated famers market at HaTahana (The Train Station), the beautifully renovated Ottoman-period train station on the Tel Aviv-Yafo border. The Tel Aviv municipality and the Israel Bio-Organic Agricultural Association opened the farmers market as a joint project.

Every Friday, approximately 40 stalls with food growers and manufacturers, all certified members of the association, sell products such as cakes, dairy products, eggs, and of course beautiful seasonal fruits and vegetables.

The vendors at Shuk HaCarmel are always finding clever, but generally noisy, ways to advertise their products to the crowd of shoppers. The organic farmers market, by contrast, was relaxed, peaceful and unpushy.

At Orbanic, the attractive vendors smile and proudly talk about their produce, with passion in their eyes, and visible pleasure, the results of their hard work. Like on the face of Or Glicksman, who gives you a big beautiful smile when he describes his organic vegetables from his father’s farm on Kibbutz Gal-On in the southern part of the country.

And the cute guy from the Negev who was selling his sweet and juicy little mangoes and perfectly round cherry tomatoes.

There are vendors selling organic large-leafed purslane, from imported seedlings from France that are acclimated in hothouses at Kardesh Barnea in the Negev, and large shoots of lemongrass, waiting for a Vietnamese stir fry.

You can even take home the much sought after Aba Gil’s organic hummous, quiches, and brown rice pilaf. Their quiches are egg, wheat and dairy free.

And you can also take home romaine lettuce seedlings, which I bought for my garden along with 1 kg of spelt flour, 3 desert mangoes, a yellow and green striped pumpkin, olives marinated in red wine and herbs, and pickled baby eggplants.

Mario Levy must be smiling on his cloud as he looks down and sees how even in the big city, the movement that he helped start has achieved so much popularity.

Orbanic Farmers Market
2 Yehezkel Kaufmann Street
Tel Aviv
Open: Fridays, 0800-1500

Tulip Winery: not just a business

Tulip Winery Sign

Tulip Winery, located in Kfar Tikva (Village of Hope), was established in 2003 by the Itzhaki family. The youngest son, Roy Itzhaki, established the Tulip Winery with a family investment. “I come from a family that works in construction and real estate, and we are wine freaks,” he says. “Seven years ago, we visited a wine exhibition at the Scottish House, and we saw someone sell 1,000 bottles he made at home. I started doing some research and found out that for 15,000 NIS, you can make two barrels of wine at home. Because it’s a messy process, I told my parents, ‘Let’s rent a place.'”

Kfar Tikva, which is close to the Itzhaki’s home, was already established as a long-term home for people with special needs, and had a small, experimental winery for its working residents. “The village had financial difficulties at the time, and they were trying to privatize a few of the occupational departments,” recalls Itzhaki. “I went to see it and they told me the winery was for sale. So I discussed with the family and we decided to buy it.”

Tulip Winery’s vineyards are located at Kfar Yuval and below Keren ben Zimra, in the North, where they grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes. They have also have vineyards in the Judean Hills near Jerusalem at Moshav Matta and Karmei Yosef where they grow Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes.

Tulip Winery Exterior

Tulip Winery employs Kfar Tikva residents in harvesting, bottling, and packaging the wine as well as welcoming guests in the visitors’ center. The winery also promotes joint activities with Kfar Tikva, including the sale of crafts made by the community members. During the holidays the winery offers holiday gift packages that include artworks created by the members, with revenues donated directly to Kfar Tikva and its members.

Michal Negrin Tulip Winery Bottles

Notwithstanding the emphasis on contributing to the community, Tulip Winery’s main goal is to produce top quality wine that not only tastes good but also looks good in the bottle: for example, one series had labels designed by the well-known Israeli jewellery and fashion designer Michal Negrin. Even the normal series pay serious attention to the aesthetics of their labels in order to catch the buyers’ eye, something that is now typical of Israeli boutique wineries.

Tulip Wines

The range of grapes that Tulip uses is a little more varied than most Israeli boutique wineries: only a few others, for example, have a Cabernet Franc, a grape that produces wines with a powerful and chunky taste that is difficult to balance. But what’s perhaps more unusual is that in a country where the climate and soil — and habit — make red wine far more popular than white (and where rosé is mainly very new), this winery has also developed what it calls White Tulip, a blend of Gewürtztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc that combines the fruitiness of both varieties without the natural sweetness of the Gewürtztraminer and so is suitable both as an aperitif and for drinking throughout a meal.

Tulip Winery Interior

The irony is that although Itzhaki calls himself and his family ‘wine freaks,’ their whole enthusiasm for wine started out of ignorance: his father was dining at a top restaurant in Paris, he told Israeli daily Haaretz in a profile article, and aroused the staff’s disdain by ordering beer. The result was that father Itzhak was given a swift education in drinking wine with gourmet food, and then passed on his newly-acquired knowledge to Roy and the rest of the family. But from the establishment of the winery in 2003, success didn’t take long to arrive: they already received silver medals at the Finger Lake competition in the USA for their 2004 Syrah Reserve and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; the 2005 vintages of the same wines were recommended by international guru Robert Parker in the Wine Spectator. Virtue, it appears, does get rewarded, at least when accompanied by skill.

Tulip Winery’s Visitors Center
Open every Friday 10:00-13:00 and every Saturday 11:00-16:00
Now Kosher (as of end of 2010)

Best Ice Cream Shops in Israel (Part 2) – Vaniglia and Shaked

Vaniglia Gelateria

Brothers Nitzan and Itay Rogozinski opened their first branch of the Vaniglia ice cream boutique in 2001 at Basel Square in Tel Aviv. Anything that goes into the ice cream is made on the premises, from cheesecake to poppy seed cake. They use pistachio paste from Sicily, truffle oil from Umbria, orange flower petals from Turkey, camomile flowers from Egypt, tonka beans from Guinea and vanilla from Madagascar; to mention but a few.

Vaniglia in a Cup

Vaniglia offers a nice selection of sorbets with a very high percentage of fruit (over 70%). The dairy ice creams are delicious too, and they are also producing a new line of 100% organic ice creams made with rice milk or soy milk, and a line that is sugar-free.

I visited the new Hod HaSharon branch that is located in a cute little “house” that was built for the ice cream shop. It might look small from the outside, but this branch offers a good selection, such as the following highly recommended flavors:

  • Yogurt with orange flower water, Sicilian pistachios and apricot compote
  • Yogurt with honey and pine nuts
  • Plum sorbet
  • Valharona chocolate with an infusion of cocoa beans and chocolate crunch
  • Sicilian pistachio
  • Coconut
  • Mango sorbet
  • Blackberry sorbet
  • Oh, just try them all!!!

Vaniglia has several locations:

22a Eshtori Hafarchi Street (off Basel Street)
Tel Aviv

98 Ibn Gvirol Street
Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

18 Derech Ramatayim
Hod HaSharon

Shaked Gelateria

Shaked Gelateria (pronounced Sha-Ked) was originally started as a pizzeria in the leafy town of Ramat Gan, just next to Tel Aviv, then turned into a cafe, and eventually branched out into homemade ice creams. Today, Shaked also has a branch in the entertainment zone of the old Tel Aviv Port, which is also a cafe, even though it is better known for its ice cream (something which obviously appeals to the patrons of the toy shop strategically located next door).

Shaked in a Cup

Shaked offers some interesting flavors of ice cream, such Kremschnitt, sabra (prickly pear) sorbet, olive oil and za’aatar (hyssop), tehina and humous. They also produced a special for the World Cup, which is no longer available: beer ice cream with sunflower seeds! Unfortunately, they didn’t have some of these flavors on offer when I visited the Tel Aviv Port location, but I do recommend the following:

  • Frutti di Bosco (Forest Fruits)
  • Chocolate sorbet
  • Cheesecake
  • Mango
  • Limoncello

Shaked Gelateria has two locations:

Hangar 7, Tel Aviv Port
Tel Aviv

40 Aluf David
Ramat Gan

Best Bourekas in Israel

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The food-culture diversity in Israel was born from the influx of immigrants from around the world. And because of this, certain foods have become “Israeli” dishes. It doesn’t mean that we now own these dishes like some would have you believe, but we have grown to love them just like their countrymen who brought their beloved recipes with them. Everyone likes to bring the flavours of home with them where ever they may roam.

Turkish and Balkan Jews who came to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s brought their country’s rich Ottoman recipes of long ago. One of these popular foods is the bureka (in Israel), börek (in Turkey), and byurek (in Bulgaria).In Israel, bourekas are typically served with a hard-boiled egg, a Jewish idea that has now become an Israeli custom. In Jewish communities, such as in Turkey, Bulgaria and Iraq, bourekas were served for a late breakfast on Shabbat, when the men returned from prayer in the synagogue, and the hard-boiled eggs that had been cooked in a slow oven, below the hamin, were a natural accompaniment. Sometimes the larger bourekas are split in half and filled with a little salad and a hard-boiled egg.

These flaky pastries were invented in Central Asia by nomadic Turks and became a popular element of Ottoman cuisine.

According to Ayla Algar’s book, Classical Turkish Cooking:

Börek was an established part of Ottoman cuisine by the time of the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. At least two varieties of it were prepared for Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The position of chief börek maker in the palace kitchens was always an important one. Numerous apprentices labored under his watchful eye rolling out the dough on huge marble slabs. Evliya Çelebi (1611-1682), a Turkish traveler who journeyed through the territory of the Ottoman Empire and neighboring lands over a period of forty years, tells us that Istanbul in his time had no fewer than 4,000 börek shops — interestingly enough, a figure four times higher than he gives for baker’s shops.

Here are some of the best bourekas shops in Israel. Is your favorite one of these or do you have another favorite?

Leon and Son

Julie Cohen and her family came from Bulgaria in 1948 and set up a phyllo production to make a living. They were the first and only people who did this in Jaffo. They used to stretch the phyllo on their beds. People would come from all over Israel to buy their phyllo and people still flock to their store for their delicious pastries. Leon, her son, joined the business, and then Leon’s son’s Avi and Eli.

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Leon and Son’s Turkish Bourekas shop in Jaffo sells a variety of Turkish and Balkan savory and sweet treats. Make sure you try a selection of their bourekas. Take home their baklava which is not too sweet, and the long pastries filled with sweet cheese and raisins. The truth is, you will have a hard time walking out without buying everything. And for the skilled baker, you can buy fresh phyllo and kadaief to make your own treats.

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Leon and Sons Bourekas
17 Olei Tzion Street, Jaffo
(03) 683-3123

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Moshe Pinchas is a third generation Turkish-Israeli who follows a tradition set by his maternal grandfather, who sold bourekas in Istanbul. In Yehud, a town southeast of Tel Aviv with many Turkish immigrants, he doesn’t do the baking himself, but has two Turkish bakers who come in early every morning: one of them, master baker Mehmet Kazelrak, has been doing it nearly all of his life after leaving school at the age of eight to apprentice with a master baker in city of Urfa, in southeastern Anatolia, famous for the birthplace of Abraham.

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Turkish Delicacies is a meat and dairy shop that makes bourekas stuffed with cheese, potato, and spinach and also make Turkish water börek (su böreği), which is stuffed with spinach or cheese.

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Make sure you try the Anatolian pide, which is shaped like a torpedo and stuffed with cheese, spinach and topped with an egg that is “soft-cooked” when it bakes.

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They also make lahmacun (pronounced lahmajoun), a flat pide that is covered with a spicy lamb filling, Anatolian pide stuffed with lamb filling, and pide stuffed with vegetables. Don’t leave here without trying at least one pide and one boureka, and be sure to take home several pieces of kadaief stuffed with walnuts.

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Turkish Delicacies
10 Zvi Yishai Street, Yehud

Photo by Sarah Melamed

The small stand of the Original Turkish Bourekas is in the heart of the Ramle market. Haim Kulo’s father, who immigrated from Istanbul, started selling these flaky and mouthwatering delicious pastries in 1957. Today the third generation is proudly selling their bourekas. The “original” also has branches in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem, but the original wagon and the old-fashioned lemonade siphon make those bourekas taste that much better.

Photo by Sarah Melamed

Original Turkish Bourekas
3 Jabotinsky Street, Ramle
(08) 925-5911

In a neglected municipal market built in the 1950s, is a boureka shop that is hidden in an alley behind a blue tarp. You would never imagine that you would find some of the best spinach bourekas in Israel among the crumbling buildings. The Hazan family uses an heirloom spinach called Galilee spinach (sbanach) to make these delicious treats. Sbanach, which you can buy at the shuk, are vibrant green leaves that make an appealing and flavorful addition to salads, and hold up well when cooked. Be sure to try the bourekas with an eggplant filling that is slow-cooked instead of being grilled.

Hazan Bourekas
Ashkenazi Market, Ashkenazi Street, Yehud
A few doors down from the fruit and vegetable stand. Look for the blue tarp.
(03) 536-1649

Honey for a Sweet Year, and a Fruitful One Too

Bee sculpture

A guest post from my other half, Mr. BT:

One of the great pleasures of living in Israel is the country’s agricultural riches, something that already led to the Land of Israel being described in the Bible as eretz zavat chalav u’dvash – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ The milk in this description was probably more from sheep and goats than cows; and the ‘honey’ was almost certainly the sweet syrup of the dates that grow all over the country, not bee honey. Nevertheless, the historical image of honey as an integral part of the country’s agricultural tradition remains strong within Jewish culture, and especially so at this time of year, the early autumn, when we celebrate Rosh Hashana, the New Year.

Like Pesach in the springtime, when Jewish tradition dictates that we place on the Seder table, and eat, certain foods with symbolic religious significance, we put on the Rosh Hashana table foods with symbolic importance. But unlike the Seder, where we eat bitter herbs and unleavened matza to remind ourselves of the Children of Israel’s suffering as slaves in Egypt before the Exodus, and hasty exit without having time to let our dough rise, the symbols on the Rosh Hashana table are all about the sweetness and success we wish upon ourselves for the coming year.

Of all the culinary symbols – which according to tradition include pomegranates, a fish, courgettes, and carrots – the most important, and the ones most associated with the festival, are apples and honey. We sprinkle honey on the challah or other festival bread to express our hope for a sweet year, instead of the salt that is traditionally used on Shabbat; we eat slices of apple dipped in honey as well; and the blessings over all these foods reflect our desire for success, fertility and sweetness. And of course, we keep on using honey during the following three weeks of festival period to reinforce the message.

Honey Making Factory

It’s not only the honey itself that it important in Jewish culture. The honeybee, too, has a special significance in Jewish history: the name of the Biblical prophetess and judge Dvora (Deborah) – the Jewish people’s only woman leader until Golda Meir, and a pretty feisty leader in her own right – means ‘bee,’ and her name is still popular among Jewish and non-Jewish girls alike.

Simon's Honey Shop

It’s hardly a surprise, then, that when Baroness Tapuzina and I go shopping during the whole month before Rosh Hashana, every supermarket, grocery and stall in the shopping malls is crammed with jars of honey waiting to be consumed during the holiday period, and all of it locally produced. But, like pretty well everything else in Israeli food culture today, we have a tremendous variety of honey: from eucalyptus blossoms, thistle, clover, citrus, avocado and more. Not only that, but on top of the mass-market labels, there is a good variety of artisanal honey from small producers all over Israel.

To celebrate this wealth, the Baroness and I decided to visit a couple of local producers during the annual honey festival shortly before Rosh Hashana, both to taste a good selection, and to learn more about the Israeli honey industry.

Simon's Bee Farm Shop

Our first stop was at the shop of Simon’s Bee Farm in Kfar Sirkin, a moshav (agricultural village) just on the edge of highly urban Petach Tikva. Simon’s is special for two things in particular: one is that they sell all the output from their hives, which are scattered around most of the country, whereas most Israeli beekeepers sell at least part of their output to large companies, in particular the Yad Mordekhai label (originally owned entirely by the kibbutz of that name, but now owned by the Strauss food conglomerate). The other is that they have ten different varietals, including a honey that comes mainly from onion flowers, one from avocado and mango blossoms, and a Jordan Hills honey that the bees gather from avocado and lychee blossoms. Although we’re familiar with most of the other types, we had never tried these three before: I liked the onion honey more than the Baroness did (she found the oniony flavour off-putting), but we agreed that the other two were delicious, and bought a jar of each one.

Orna Simon

Unlike in the United States, where honey is usually pasteurised and therefore remains clear and liquid, Orna Simon explained to us that none of the Simon’s honey is pasteurised, so some of it becomes thick and even crystallises in the jar. But she says that for many of their customers, especially the Russian immigrants, this is a sign of high quality.

Bee Keeper's Outfits

From Kfar Sirkin, we went on to another moshav not far from our own called Tsofit (we do have beehives on the moshav where we live, but their output isn’t sold in the village). Here at Tsofit, beekeeper Yanay Sachs has a small factory at the back of his house, not only to produce and package the honey from his hives, but also to educate Israeli children about bees and honey.

Honey Comb

Yanay showed us a very cute film (made mainly for children) about beekeeping and how honey is extracted from the hives, and then took us on a tour of the production facilities. Here, the beeswax seals covering the hexagonal cells in each frame are scraped off with a broad mechanical knife, so that the honey can flow out into a separator (where any solid bits of dead bees are removed) and then to large storage containers, from which the jars are filled.

Yanai Sachs

Yanay doesn’t have the same wide selection of varietals as the Simon family bee farm, but he says that in the case of honey, as opposed to wine grapes, talking about varietals “is a bluff, because the bees fly to all the flowers within a range of three kilometres, and you don’t know where they’ve been.” A former head of the national beekeepers council, he also dismisses other beekeepers’ marketing of organic honey as a gimmick, saying that “organic honey is no more organic than anything else.”

Honey Extractor

However valid Yanay Sachs’ comments may be, we Israelis certainly like our honey: some 400-500 beekeepers around the country, of whom 100 are full-time professionals, own 90,000 hives, each one of which produces 30-40kg of honey every year. But this isn’t all for the sake of satisfying the national sweet tooth. Agriculture is still a central part of Israeli life just as it was part of the history of the Jewish people going back more than 3,500 years, and all the honey that Israelis consume during Rosh Hashana, and the rest of the year, is just a by-product of the bees’ real work: pollinating the country’s crops and ensuring the country’s multi-billion-dollar agricultural sector continues to produce all our wonderful food.

Trains and Balkan Water Börek

I used to love to go to the train station in my hometown. My father would take us there every once in a while to see the trains and we would always try to get there early so he could put a penny on the rails and have the train run over them. As soon as the train was safely out of harm’s way, he would retrieve the misshapen pennies for us to take home as souvenirs of our adventure.

So when I found out that the Tel Aviv municipality had painstakingly renovated an Ottoman-era train station, now unoriginally called HaTahana (The Station) near Neve Tzedek, I couldn’t wait to go and see it. And I must say, they did a beautiful job with the restoration.

The train station was inaugurated in 1892 and was the first railway line in the Middle East. The rail line went from Jaffa to Jerusalem and the length of the journey took 3-1/2 to 4 hours. The line was eventually extended to Lod and Haifa, and in 1921 the train travelled to Al Qantarah El Sharqiyya, Egypt, approximately 160km (100 miles) from Cairo. The station was closed in 1948 and only reopened as an entertainment complex this year.

There are several restaurants and cafes to choose from to sit and have a leisurely coffee with your favorite someone, such as Cafe Tahana in the original railway building.

Or sit on the roof of Shushkashvilli Beer Bar and Tapas, which is in a beautiful old Arab house that stood in the neighborhood called Manshiya, built by the Turks in 1892 to house Egyptian laborers working on the new railroad.

The Wieland Villa, built in 1902, was owned by a German Templar named Hugo Wieland, who built his home and a factory building and agricultural materials next to the railway station with the intention of shipping the goods throughout what was then Palestine and around the Middle East. The family remained in the house until the 1930s when they left and eventually moved to Australia.

HaTahana also has some lovely boutiques and art galleries in the surrounding stone buildings that will appeal to all sorts of shoppers.

The train tracks are quiet now, but HaTahana is abustle with people enjoying the lovely cafes, restaurants, art exhibitions every Thursday evening, and the real reason Mr BT and I got up early to go there: the Orbanic market, which is the new organic farmers market, open only on Fridays.

After visiting the old Ottoman station, I was inspired to make a Water Börek, which is a cheese or meat bureka, made with boiled warka leaves. Instead of going to all the trouble of making my own warka, I bought Moroccan cigar wrappers at the supermarket. Since most of my readers in the US and Europe will not be able to find cigar wrappers so easily, you can use egg roll wrappers. You can serve this for breakfast, afternoon tea, or a light supper with a big salad.

Water Börek - Su Böregi

Serving Size: 6 to 8

1 pkg (500g or 1lb) Moroccan cigar wrappers (thawed) or large egg roll wrappers

100g butter, melted or 1/4 cup olive oil

250g (1/2lb) Bulgarian or Greek Feta

1 log of plain goat's cheese

1 egg

1 cup fresh parsley or 1/2 cup parsley and 1/2 cup dill, chopped

2 green onions, sliced thinly

Several grinds of black pepper

Butter a 22cm (9 inch) deep-dish pan.

Mash the feta and goat's cheese together until well combined. Add the egg, parsley, green onion and black pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

In a large pot of boiling water, place one cigar sheet or egg roll wrapper in the pot and cook for 1-2 minutes. Scoop out the sheet with a wire mesh skimmer and place in the pan. Don't worry if you can't straighten the sheets out, just try to smooth a few out so they will go up the sides of the pan. Repeat until you have one layer of the sheets.

Brush butter or olive oil on the sheets and cover with half of the cheese mixture. Place another layer of boiled cigar sheets, brush them with butter, and add the rest of the cheese mixture. Place a final layer of cigar sheets, fold over any sheets that are hanging off the side of the baking dish, and brush with butter. Bake for 1 hour or until lightly brown. Serve hot or a room temperature.


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