An added extra when traveling in the Holy Land is the opportunity to embrace the wonderful cuisine that is part of the mid-East way of life. For a few days one is able to escape the tyranny of fast foods and enjoy some truly local and savory delights.
For a start the breads are awesome. For instance, if you are visiting the Lido on the Sea of Galilee this restaurant has a stone oven heated by a wood fire making the most scrumptious hot “Jesus Bread” that is served with the luncheon meal. If, on the other hand, you are traveling through Samaria you will most likely stop for lunch in Sebastia, near Nablus, and meet the
owner, Mahmoud who makes a tabon for our table guests. Basically a large pita which is broken rather than cut into pieces and used as a scoop for the many appetizer dips.
Traveling up into the Golan Heights many groups stop at Birket Ram (High Pool) to savor some Druze delicacies - one of the most popular orders is that of Lebani, a pita bread heated on a hot stone and then spread with goat cheese, olive oil, tzataar (hyssop) and served as a wrap.
To complete the bread delicacies when in the Old City of Jerusalem, guests delight to buy fresh bread rolls from a barrow and with a small amount of tzataar, provided by the vendor, shake it onto the bread. Tzataar is actually the herb hyssop with a zesty, salty tangy flavor. It always tastes like “more”. Folk tend to buy little bottles of this herb to bring back home to sprinkle over pizza, pita, bagels, salads etc.
Of course, all guests have the opportunity of sampling St. Peter’s fish (from Matt. 17:24-27 - Peter catch’s a fish with a coin in its mouth, used to pay the local taxes). A miracle of Jesus. The fish, normally grilled, is actually tilapia and customarily served with its head on. For most, the head comes right off after the great photo.
Olives abound through the Holy Land and olive groves are everywhere. However most guests are not aware that you can enjoy olives from below sea level, olives from the mediterranean level, and olives from the high altitude slopes of Mount Hermon. There are olive trails and olive tastings and plenty of olive oils, Virgin first press, Garlic, Citrus, Rosemary, and many other blends. You can soon become an olive connoisseur.
A popular lunch time snack is the Shawarma - a pita wrap or pocket filled with shaved turkey, lamb or beef together with sliced onions, lettuce, pickles,red cabbage etc and drenched in tahini sauce. So good.
One could go on to mention falafels, the plethora of tasty dips, humus, cheeses, yogurts, fruits, pistachio nuts, honey, figs, pomegranate juice, dates, persimmons etcpersimmons, . that abound throughout the tour. Each day has its own surprise.
In addition to all these tasty opportunities that are available, EO offers two superb special evening meals for which you have the option of signing up. A local dinner with a Palestinian family when in the West Bank or a typical Shabbat meal with a Jewish family in Jerusalem. Or both ! Don’t miss out on these outstanding options and reserve early so as to avoid
The daily cuisine in the Holy Land helps the pilgrim appreciate the many references by Jesus to loaves, fish, olives, mint, dill, cumin, mustard seeds, figs, grains of salt and wine.
Dr. Lee van Rensburg
Tiberias, Sea of Galilee