Food in Israel
Visitors to the modern Jewish state no longer need to ponder the old question: "will we eat well during our trip"
The limited choice of restaurants in the early years of austerity and struggle in the land of Canaan have long since given way to the selection of hundreds of top quality restaurants ranging from American fast food mainstays such as McDonald's to finer quality restaurants that offer culinary choices from all over the world. The Baal HaBayit or owner of my apartment building also owns a wonderful Chinese Restaurant in Haifa that can be compared with any in which I have eaten. I have a deal worked out with them to get quality dining as part of our rental agreement. The cook is from Moscow and many of the servers are native Arabic speakers from our region. There is a Japanese restaurant and several mid-priced cafes with three blocks of my home in the "Mercaz" section of Haifa.
"Dependable" is the reassuring thought for those teenagers or adults who can't afford the high-priced choices at the better quality restaurants. Immediately next door to us is our local McDonald's -- there are now half a dozen or so in our community. Therefore visitors to our community from America can enjoy the same high-cholesterol junk foods and feel like they never left home. While McDonald's operates several Kosher and non-Kosher restaurants, all the meat served in the restaurants is 100% kosher beef. The difference is that the non-Kosher branches open on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, in addition to serving dairy products. A kosher McDonald's was also opened in Argentina, at the Abasto de Buenos Aires shopping mall. Argentina and Israel are the only branches in the world that barbecue their burgers on charcoal. I do not taste the difference and nobody else seems to notice as well. The menu is the same as big Mac in America without including native cuisine. Prices are higher due to local food costs. The service is great at my neighboring McDonald's even though two of the cashiers admonish me to eat healthier: "This type of food is not for people your age, sir". That hurts, but they mean well. Israelis are very outspoken especially about health issues.
Most Israelis preferred Burger Ranch even before McDonald's and Burger King entered Israel. There are also higher priced burgers available at local cafes and restaurants. My two favorites in Haifa are The Sinta Bar and Habank. Both are mid priced and great places for burgers and other delicacies.
Burger Ranch (Hebrew: בּורגראנץ׳) is an Israeli fast-food chain. In 2010, the Burger Ranch chain included 107 restaurants with over 1500 employees, competing primarily with McDonald's Israel. They have a branch at our central bus station and therefore I am a fairly frequent visitor. Burger King has a location in Haifa. I do dream of my beloved Wendy's, especially their Chill, and of course Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Chili and American style fried chicken are not often found in Haifa. KFC locations do exist in other parts of Israel and many Palestinians adore the cuisine as well. That brings us to my favorite experience in my five years as a newcomer to the land of Canaan.
I have been blessed to participate in many interfaith activities in Israel.
Run4Unity was held here in the Holy Land on May 13, 2012 in the natural landscape and archeology of Caesarea Maritime. There were more than 400 boys and girls between the ages of 12 to 17, from the Palestinian territories and cities of Israel. The participants were Christians, Muslims and Jews.
This event is organized by the Focolare. The Focolare Movement which is an international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. Founded in 1943 in Trento, northern Italy by Chiara Lubich as a religious movement, the Focolare Movement, though primarily Roman Catholic, now has strong links to the major Christian denominations and other religions, or in some cases, with the non-religious. It is also called the "Opera di Maria," or "Work of Mary". The Focolare Movement operates in 182 nations and has five million members. It is the largest Catholic outreach movement in the world.
Run4Unity, last held in 2008, involved more than 100,000 young people from 9 to 17 from all over the world. Participants were young people of different ethnicity, cultures, and religions, all running to give witness to their commitment to peace and unity by crossing many of the planet’s significant places.
I volunteered to be one of the security guards during the period of time prior to the beginning of the organized events. I happened to hear three of the young people communicating with each other in perfect English. They were dressed in the uniforms of the activity. Participation from English speaking countries is rare in this region. I asked them where they were from and they answered in unison and with great pride that "We are Palestinians from Ramallah." Then they proceeded to tell me that they had lived in Indiana for many years, which explained their wonderful grasp of English. We discussed in length my favorite topic, which of course is food. We all reminisced about Mexican Food, Wendy's, barbecue spare ribs, and of course burgers.
They proceeded to add this statement; "We have visited Haifa which is a primitive place". I hesitated and thought it best not to respond. The rules of these activities strongly admonish political discussions. They quickly added to my relief that "You do not have KFC in Haifa", with great glee, KFC opened a branch in Ramallah in February becoming the first American fast food chain to directly open a location in the Palestinian territories. We proceeded to eat Pizza, drink Coca Cola, and enjoy the wonderful event. Food is indeed the universal language.