The foods eaten by the people of Israel

The cuisine of Israel has a long and diverse history that reflects its multifaceted cultural landscape. Over the last 500 years, the area has seen numerous waves of immigration, conquests, and influences from various empires, cultures, and religions. Below is an overview of some of the staple foods and influences that have shaped Israeli cuisine over this period:

Ottoman and Middle Eastern Influences:

  • Hummus: A spread made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic.
  • Falafel: Deep-fried chickpea or fava bean balls.
  • Kebabs: Grilled meat skewers.
  • Shawarma: Grilled and sliced meat, usually served in a pita.
  • Tahini: Sesame paste used in various dishes.
  • Baba Ganoush: A dish made from mashed cooked eggplant mixed with tahini.

North African Influences:

  • Couscous: A dish of steamed semolina wheat served with stew.
  • Shakshuka: Poached eggs in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions.

European Influences:

  • Schnitzel: Breaded and fried chicken, adapted from Central European culinary traditions.
  • Gefilte Fish: Fish patties or balls made from a mixture of ground deboned fish, often served during Jewish holidays.
  • Challah: Braided bread, typically eaten on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.

Ashkenazi Jewish Cuisine:

  • Matzo Ball Soup: A soup featuring dumplings made from matzo meal.
  • Latkes: Potato pancakes.
  • Bagels and Lox: A dish featuring a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, though more common in the diaspora.

Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish Cuisine:

  • Dolma: Grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, and various spices.
  • Charoset: A sweet paste made of fruits and nuts, typically eaten during Passover.

Russian and Eastern European Influences:

  • Borscht: Beet soup, often served cold with a dollop of sour cream.

Local Produce:

  • Olives and Olive Oil: Used extensively in cooking.
  • Citrus Fruits: Oranges, lemons, and the native pomelos.
  • Figs and Dates: Native to the area and used in various dishes.

Modern Influences:

  • Sushi, Pizza, and Fast Food: Globalization has brought international cuisine to Israel, including American fast food, Italian pasta and pizza, Chinese food, and Japanese sushi.


  • Wine and Arak: Wine has been produced in the area for thousands of years. Arak is an anise-flavored spirit common in the Middle East.
  • Coffee and Tea: Turkish coffee, herbal teas, and more recently espresso and cappuccinos.

Kosher Dietary Laws:

  • Kashrut: The set of Jewish dietary laws has influenced the cuisine significantly, including the separation of dairy and meat products and specific methods of slaughtering animals.

Israeli cuisine continues to evolve, with modern chefs blending traditional and international elements to create new dishes. However, the rich history and diverse influences ensure that traditional foods remain an important part of Israel's culinary landscape.

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