Another successful Federation Israel YOUR Way mission, including the delicious Food and Culture track, came to an end last night. Over the course of five jam-packed days, participants on this track got to savor many different aspects of Israel’s diverse culture.

HaTikva Market (Photo credit: Haim Levkowitz)

Armed with good shoes and lots of questions, participants set off on a graffiti and street art tour (at the end of which they tried their own hands at graffiti—shh!) and a tasting tour of the HaTikva Market, located in the ethnically and socioeconomically diverse HaTikva neighborhood. Guided by a young woman who grew up in the neighborhood to a Yemenite Jewish family, the group got to taste a traditional Yemenite stew and other goodies.

For Mitch and Adrianne Malasky, visiting the market was a highlight. Mitch shared, “Unlike the Carmel Market, HaTikva is clearly a neighborhood market that the locals shop in.” Adrianne added, “The best thing [about this trip] has been seeing parts of Tel Aviv that tourists don’t get to see and experience—the sights, smells, tastes.”

Other highlights included a Persian dinner cooked by a local chef at his home, which was organized through the Israeli startup EatWith, and lunch at Blackout, a Jaffa restaurant in which meals are served in complete darkness, escorted by blind waiters. Robin Taub, who has been on and chaired several missions before, shared that eating in darkness was “unnerving at first,” but that she and her table companions all noted that in the absence of phones and other visual distractions, they found themselves listening closely to the conversation and to each other.

On their last night in Tel Aviv, before moving on to Jerusalem, the four tracks gathered at Avigdor 22, a chic new event space, where they got their hands dirty making challah, cocktails, knafeh (a traditional Arab dessert made of noodle-like pastry and a sweet cheese filling) and more, which they enjoyed later on to the tune of a live band.

The group also visited the Ella Valley Winery and had free time to wander around Sarona Market (a Chelsea or Union Market-like space, with various shops and prepared-food stands) and pick their own lunch. They also snagged dinner reservations at some of the hottest Tel Aviv spots.

Jonathan Stahl, co-chair of the food and culture track and a member of JFE®’s Advisory Council, summed it up: “Exploring the food culture in Tel Aviv is one of the best ways to understand the diverse ethnicities that make up Israel. It’s been remarkable to see the different cultures and groups.”

Top photo: The dessert spread at Avigdor 22, which included knafeh made by the mission participants, Turkish coffee, baklava and malabi (a custard topped with rosewater and coconut and pistachios). (Photo credit: Merav Levkowitz)