Land of Milk and Honey

Foodies may be surprised by Israel's growing culinary appeal

By: Gabriella Gershenson

Sure, France, Italy and California are well known for their culinary appeal to tourists, however, some might be surprised to know that Israel also offers a thriving gastronomic culture on the rise. Boutique dairies stud the country, and wineries of growing repute gear their operations toward thirsty visitors. And culinary pleasures extend to the cities, as well.

What’s more, all of the places mentioned here are kosher. So, in the words of the proverbial Jewish mother, come to Israel to “Eat, eat! You’re skin and bones.”

Tel Aviv

Though a modern city, food culture in Tel Aviv displays charming Old World characteristics. Carmel Market, the city’s largest fresh market, is a bustling center of hawkers and shoppers of the country’s wares. Radishes the size of small cabbages, three-foot-long leeks and abundant bouquets of fresh herbs burst with life. Gawk, but don’t dawdle shoppers here mean business, and a lingering tourist is apt to get jostled.

Follow this excursion with a visit to neighboring Levinsky Market, the city’s old Persian quarter, rife with stunning offerings of plump dried fruits, fresh spices

and confectionary traditions (think delectable hand-made almond paste).

Fifteen miles from downtown Tel Aviv is Eretz Zavat Halav (Land of Flowing Milk and Honey) Dairy. This mushav a privately owned farm, as opposed to a socialist kibbutz is owned by the Markovitz family, makers of fine sheep milk cheeses. In one of many bucolic images one will witness in this country, the Markovitz’s small herd can be seen quietly grazing under the shade of a crooked tree.

Overlooking the scene is Aharon Markovitz’s boutique dairy, cheese shop and eatery. Inside his attractive, earthy store, a knotty wooden table is covered in bowls of marinated olives, vegetables and cheeses. The main draw blooming wheels and hunks of Markovitz’s aged cheeses wink out from refrigerated cases.

Rather than emulate the cheeses of more established cheese-making countries like France and Italy, Markovitz chose to pioneer what he considers cheeses unique to Israel. Some are sharp and crumbly, others are creamy and round in flavor; one cheese is aged in grape leaves, another contains chewy dried figs but all are wonderfully memorable.

Sample the cheeses, cured and fresh vegetable salads and homemade bread at the dairy’s excellent semi-enclosed dining area overlooking the grounds, which serves brunch and lunch.

The Galilee

In the north of the country, in the Golan Heights, the region of Israel bordering Syria and Lebanon, visitors can experience incredible rolling green hills and steep valleys studded with twisted olive trees. The region is also home to Israel’s Golan Heights Winery, makers of Yarden wine, and its younger spin-off, Galil Mountain Winery. Tours and wine tastings are offered at both destinations.

Also in the north, on the Sea of Galilee, is the Scots Hotel in Tiberius. With gorgeous seaside views, the restored castle-like 19th-century basalt stone buildings are ideal accommodations for travelers in the region.

Less then 10 miles away is Barkanit Dairy near Mount Tabor, which produces a variety of sheep and goat milk cheeses from its 600-count herd. These include French-style chevres, manchego-like sheep’s milk cheese and half-goat half-sheep milk combinations.

These represent just a few of the culinary delights to be experienced throughout Israel. After all, they don’t call it the Land of Milk and Honey for nothing.



Israel Dairy Board
Adriana Shoet


Dan Panorama Tel Aviv

Scots Hotel Tiberius