The Big Felafel

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Travel Israel category.

Like=Candy! The Purim Mishloach Manot Project for Lone Soldiers. Yay!

Purim is definitely in the air. What I mean is Jerusalem is now full of even more crazies than usual. Little kids are already wearing face paint and getting dressed up in celebration of the holiday. People seem to be drinking more around me, and I’m going to say it’s because of a countdown to Purim. And those oh so delicious (OK they’re not the most tasty pastry but go with it), hamentashens are filled with all kinds of gooey goodness and being sold in every bakery or makulot in the area.

You may not know yet what costume you are going to wear, but I know you want to be a good person this Purim and I’m here to help you make sure you do just that. Eli, of Eli’s Shop in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk, has a very special Purim campaign for lone soldiers and you are about to become a part of it.

The only online shuk vendor is reaching out to the social media community to make sure lone soldiers have a super sweet Purim. The shop has teamed up with the Lone Solider Center in Memory Michael Levin to help provide Israel’s lone soldiers with Purim treats.

“We’re doing this because it’s a unique way to use social media to donate to charity. People all over the world can participate in this and give to lone soldiers in Israel this Purim just by clicking “like” with their mouse… (no credit card required!). We will donate the candies ourselves in the name of all our Facebook Fans in appreciation of their support” Eli tells us. 

The Purim Mishloach Manot Project for Lone Soldiers is a great and easy way to give this Purim. Eli’s shop will match a candy to mishloach manot (Purim gift basket of goodies) for every like the page receives. So all you have to do is like the page (which is awesome, because it’s a shuk vendor online) and you have done your part to ensure that a lone solider—a person who has chosen to come to Israel and serve in the army on their own— will have plenty of sweets this Purim.

We at The Big Felafel will do our part to spread the word. This is an awesome cause and we hope these soldiers get baskets full of candies as a thank you for the incredible work they are doing to protect Israeli citizens.

The Center is dedicated in memory of Michael Levin. Levin was a lone solider who cut a trip short visiting his family in America in order to serve in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He had to fight to be with his unit and unfortunately he died fighting in Lebanon. This center not only remembers Levin’s heroism, but honors and takes care of other lone soldiers like him.

It’s a mitzvah to give someone a mishloach manot. To give a lone soldier a candy in that mishloach from anywhere in the world is just awesome. This is the ultimate way to celebrate the most fun Jewish Holiday ever!


Happy Hannukah Shuk Style!

EliShuk's for real!

The Mahane Yehuda Shuk is one of my most favorite places in Jerusalem. Almost everything is cheap. You can sample the fruit or the nuts with just a wink of the eye. There are so many different smells you can’t tell the good ones from the fish-head ones. And you get to meet a very unique part of Israeli society, from those that do all their shopping there, to the people that have owned their stalls for generations.

I recently found out that a friend of mine, Alex King, not only has a father-in-law with a stall in the Iraqi shuk, but that he also has the stall online…on Facebook. Not only is this awesome, but I am pretty sure this is the only shuk shop branching out into the social media world.  Alex admits his father-in-law is not the most web savy person, but is just as excited to share his shop online as he is to any customer in the shuk.

For anyone that has out of town guests, tourists or just friends that want to go to the shuk, you should definitely make Eli’s shop a part of the tour. As a part of the online presence, Eli uploads pictures of the latest products and makes sure to give his online audience a special treat with giveaways! Ahhh, now I really have your attention! What kind of treats are we talking about?

Well click hereto score yourself some delicious chocolate coins just in time for Hannukah, and stay tuned for other yummy goods.  And now for a little Q&A about the man behind the stall, the treats and the Facebook page!


Hannukah giveaway

When did Eli’s shop first open in the shuk?
The shop at its current location was established in 1958 by Na’im Shkuri, Eli’s father who immigrated from Iraq in 1951. Up until 1978 the shop sold fruits and vegetables. Since 1978 it branched out into confectionary and in recent years other areas such as electrical goods.

Who is this Eli?

Eli of Eli's Shop

Eli of Eli's Shop

Eli Ben-Na’im was born in Amhara in Southern Iraq. He made Aliyah in 1951 and moved to Jerusalem. He spent his teenage years in Kibbutz Ein Karmel in the North. He served in a combat unit in the army. He has served in all of Israel’s wars from the 1956 Sinai Campaign up to and including the 1982 Lebanon War. He is married, has four daughters and seven grandchildren (with number 8 on the way!). Eli has worked in the shuk since the mid- 1950’s.

Why did Eli decide to bring the shuk shop online?
The shop has been online for half a year now. The Facebook platform was chosen because it offers great social media tools and can also act as a website for the shop, even for people who don’t have Facebook.

All the merchandise in the shop can be seen on the page (in the photo album section) and new products are regularly added.


Sweets for your sweetie!

The page gives the shop a way to communicate with its customers and the wall offers a forum for the customers to post and to talk, fostering a little “on-line shuk community”.

Moreover, all the photos, updates and posts give the user a “taste of the shuk on your computer” which is widely enjoyed by fans that outside of Jerusalem and all over the world.

Most importantly, the page offers fans special deals and discounts from time to time, so click “like” so you can enjoy them!

What is unique about Eli’s shop?
Eli has worked in the shop since it was established in 1958 making the shop probably the last remaining family-run establishment in the “Iraqi Shuk” part of the market that is still staffed by the original founding members. It retains its authentic old-fashioned Jerusalem shuk character. (Most other shops in the Iraqi Shuk are now rented out or subcontracted to hired workers).

To learn more about Eli’s Shop, products click here.

To find Eli click here.

Chanukah in Israel – Bringing the Story to Life

Nava Rosenbloom, a newly licensed tour guide in Israel, asked The Big Felafel to share her upcoming Chanukah tours in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. She is a great storyteller and super fun to hang out with.

With sufganiot tempting us from every local bakery window, it’s clear that Chanukah is already in the air, and… in our stomach. While most of us have caved and prematurely indulged in these Chanukah treats, there is still something special we can save to enhance our Chanukah experience.

Its easy to forget that much of the Chanukah story played out right here in our own Israeli backyards and we can just go out and see where all the magic happened.

Israel Explorations, a new Israel-based tour company specializing in innovative tours of Israel, is offering a series of Chanukah themed group tours allowing you to rediscover this 2,100 year old tradition.

The Ultimate Chanukah Family Fun Day

The complete Chanukah experience from Maccabees to olive oil. This tour will literally follow in the footsteps of our Chanukah heroes by visiting ancient Modi’in, the home of the Maccabees, and Kever HaMacabim, their possible burial site. We’ll take a trip to a nearby organic goat farm in the spirit of our Chanukah heroine, Judith, who saved her village by feeding cheese to the enemy’s general. The whole family can get involved milking the goats, learning how cheese is made, and experiencing olive oil production with an olive press, the way they used to do it in the days of the Maccabees.

The Temple Exploration Tour

Chanukah is all about our big win in the Temple, so we planned an interactive day on the Mount of Olives, right outside the Temple Mount. This tour will reveal the true story of Chanukah as you explore the Mount of Olives from its peak overlooking the Temple Mount to its ancient treasures in the Kidron Valley below. A hands-on experience at the Temple Mount Sifting project will give you the chance to sift through earth taken from the Temple Mount and find ancient remains – you may even find a coin from the time of the Maccabees! Although I’m not sure they’ll accept it when you try to get on a bus.

Evening walking tours in Nachlaot or the Old City

To get the full ambiance of Chanukah in Jerusalem, you gotta get out to where the real people are celebrating – so we would love to take you on our evening walking tours as the glow of hundreds of Chanukah menorahs light your path. Choose between exploring the quaint, historical and eclectic neighborhood of Nachlaot on the Magical Nachlaot Candle Lit Tour or the ancient, spellbinding sites of Jerusalem’s Old City on the Mystical Old City Candle Lit Tour.

To sign up for a tour, go to IsraelExplorations. Discounts available for Israeli residents.

Whatever you choose to do this Chanukah , make it special, caloric and filled with light. Happy Chanukah!


The Jerusalem Light Rail: The Ticket is More Than Full Price

I suck at this!

Wow it has been way too long since we have blogged. I am sure it’s been a difficult few months for you, our readers. How have you managed to live without my adorable sarcastic posts and Rebecca’s incredibly informative write-ups?

So let’s just jump right (or write) in. I’m writing what I am sure will be one of many angry light-rail train posts. Now that the train has been up and ‘running’ for the last few months, I am interested to hear what people think of it. So share your comments with me after you finish reading.

On principal I am not riding it. That and it doesn’t actually go anywhere I need to go.

However, the train and I have met in passing. It’s like a bad date you have to keep reliving, because the person lives a few blocks from you. So, indeed I am not at all fond of this crap train. The train butchered the city with its tracks. It forced stores to close down, has turned the city center into a pretty little ghost town. It causes traffic jams. And some old guy just got hit by it.

But the worst of all? The city is using it as yet another way to rob its citizens. No, I am not referring to the ticket price (as I write this, news has just broken that they plan to charge NIS 6.40 for a ride). No I am referring to the ticket you get when your car gets stuck in the intersection thanks to the new traffic light system, programmed for the train and not the people.

Do I think Israeli drivers are more dangerous than the threat of Iran actually building nukes? Yes I do. But the ones that are getting ticketed at the intersection of Jaffa (by the municipality) are getting fines for fake reasons.

That’s right, the police are standing by waiting for cars to get stuck in the intersection where they then tap on the window, ask the driver to come with them, and give them a big fat ticket. I have heard from several people that the tickets range from NIS 500 to NIS 1,000. I have also heard and even seen for myself that hundreds of people are getting tickets. You do the math on that and you’ll see how the city is planning to get itself out of debt with this method.

Before you get to this evil intersection, you are stuck in a horrendous traffic jam. I believe this is the part of the psychological torture that drives the drivers into the intersection where they get stuck. Instead of having two lanes, all the cars are forced into one lane, thus further frustrating your target ticket audience. Add to it, the many drivers that cut the line of cars by driving on the wrong side of the street, and you have a pretty angry driver that just wants to cross the light already and get from A to B. And I don’t have to tell you that the drivers who are driving on the wrong side of the street, literally meters from the police, don’t get a ticket. Why would they.

The train sucks. Its only lightness is how light it is on any concept of how to truly benefit the city and people. The city sucks for handing out tickets to drivers that don’t deserve them, while standing by and doing nothing about the real issues. With all this sucking, you would think that the whole problematic ordeal could be sucked away into a black hole somewhere.


The Jerusalem Marathon and You! (Next Year in Jerusalem Indeed!)

Picture yourself somewhere in this crowd!

If you weren’t one of the 10,000 people that ran in the Jerusalem Marathon, Half-marathon, 10k or 4.2k race this past Friday, I am here to tell you that you better be next year. If you want a challenge, if you want to be healthy and if you want to eat pasta like it’s nobody’s business then sign up for the 2012 race now.

I am writing this to you, sore legs and all, to say that everyone has the potential to run in a race like this, and if you don’t do it then you are missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime. And to run the Jerusalem track, that’s the cherry on the top. Running through the streets of Jerusalem, hills and all, is an incredible feeling. Running with others who are sharing in your excitement and pain as you climb yet another incline, is so amazing I wish I could do it again this Friday!

Let’s get this straight. I don’t consider myself a runner. I am a woman who became a mommy and didn’t have the time or money to go to a gym with a newborn to take care of. So I made it my goal to get back in shape with a few DVDs (those postnatal workouts with cheesy trainers telling you you’ll be as fit as ever) and a light jog every now and then. No matter where you run in Jerusalem you are bound to face a hill, so I figured a good twenty minute run was plenty and would keep me healthy. Continue reading this entry »

Beautiful Northern Israel: Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, and Zichron Yaakov

Like I always say when we leave Jerusalem — I love leaving and I love coming back. Living in Jerusalem, for the most part is wonderful with the ancient stones and the Jewish flavor. But at times, I’ve seen one too many ancient ruins and I’m ready to see some  greenery and breathtaking views. So we went north. I thought about renting a car, but opted for the 2 hour bus ride instead so we could sit back and relax.  Here’s how to use the Egged online bus schedule if you need it. For those who are members of the “I love driving” team, of which I am not, here’s a list of rental car websites in Israel:

Once we arrived in Haifa, we took a short 15 minute bus ride from Haifa to our hotel in Nir Etzion. We stayed in Nir Etzion for a few reasons – it was kosher, it was a good location smack dab between Haifa and Zichron Yaakov and because we had purchased a “deal” from Chufsha Chalomit (Dream Vacation) where you get 3 nights, 4 days (weekdays only) at one of the listed hotels for half price. You also need to pay a separate sum of money for the deal. So in the end, the “frayer (sucker) deal” only saved us a few hundred shekels, but it did get us out of the house and up north.


Nir Etzion


Nir Etzion is a religious Yishuv and feels very much like a kibbutz, with a cow shed and mini zoo (I hesitate to say petting zoo due to the monkeys, anteaters, eagles and other animals I’m not sure I’d like to pet). We were upgraded to a garden room which was like a tzimmer – a ground floor room that looked like our own little cottage. We considered going swimming and asked when the pool is open. They gave us a time sheet with separate men and women’s hours. I whispered to the concierge, feeling naughty, are there mixed swimming times for me and my husband? Yes, of course, we just don’t tell people unless they ask. Scandalous!

But most of all, I looked forward to the all you can eat Israeli breakfast. And Nir Etzion did not disappoint. Breakfast was delicious by the heapfuls, complete with pancakes, 20 different kinds of cheese, croissants, coffee machines, omelettes, and shakshuka to your heart’s desire.

Ein Hod


After we made our bellies happy, we waddled down the road from Nir Etzion to the wonderful Ein Hod artist village tucked away like a well-kept secret. In Ein Hod, you can take an official tour of the village and get access to all the artist’s galleries and participate in pottery and tshirt silkscreening. However, the tour was a little pricey for just the 2 of us (~200 shekels) so we decided to give ourselves a tour and meet artists on our own. We wandered in an out of the winding streets, enjoying the beautiful flowers, sculptures and views and occasionally stumbling across an artist’s gallery.

We met second generation artists who had preserved their father’s easel setup, complete with paints, brushes, and chair. A little creepy if you ask me since it looked like it was set for him to return any second, but very authentic. We met bronze sculptors who told us about their upcoming exhibitions and showed us bulls made out of bronze. And, when we couldn’t get access to the artists themselves, we made sure to peek into their studios at every chance. There was one studio with a broken window, so of course I carefully slipped my hand and camera inside and took this amazing shot of a glassblower’s studio:


The streets were so windy and roundabout, that any time we’d see a sign, we’d follow it until we got to the destination. It didn’t matter much what the sign said, but we knew if we followed it for long enough, we’d eventually end up somewhere. So, one of the signs we followed was to a pottery workshop. Having seen this on the website, I thought it would be fun to make a mug, paint it and take it home. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were greeted by native English speakers who told us that the workshop is just to make the pottery but you have to leave it there. So you have to pay 40 shekel or so, make pottery, and then leave it. Forget it. So we turned around to start following the signs back to the Ein Hod entrance when the pottery lady told me that there was a small English bookshop next door. I perked up and we frolicked, or at least I did, to the bookshop. Well, I think it may win the award for smallest bookshop ever. It did have a few good books, but in the end I left empty handed.

Unfortunately, Ein Hod, as tourist-friendly as it is, didn’t exactly cater to kosher tourists — there was not a single kosher eatery to be found among the restaurants and coffee shops.  Luckily, we had stuffed rolls, yogurts, and pastries in our pockets before leaving the hotel. But if stuffing gooey items in your pocket is not your style, Nir Etzion has a food packaging company where you can get take away.

Zichron Yaakov


15 minutes south of Nir Etzion is Zichron Yaakov, a beautiful, quaint town with a cute-as-a-button midrachov (main pedestrian mall), wineries, and vineyards. And also apparently a Ner-o-mat:  yahrtzeit candle vending machines (what?!)


We also took a tour of the Carmel WInery, one of the largest wineries in Israel. I called ahead of time to make reservations to join up with a group tour since we were only 2 people. However, when we arrived, no one else showed up so we had a private tour! We learned so much about how the winery started and what the differences are between wines, and of course got to do a fabulous taste testing. Did you know that red wine can be made from green or purple grapes or both and same for white wine! It’s all just a matter of how long the skin stays on (and a lot more I’m sure, but that’s what I understood).

All in all,  a wonderful trip!

What’s your off the beaten path Israel travel recommendation? I’d love to get some ideas for our next trip.

The Big Felafel’s Guide to Passover Entertainment and Activities in Israel 2010

Lots of exciting Pre-Pesach and Pesach activities in Israel this year from art fairs to hippie festivals!  If you have more to add, please leave a comment below.

Dancing Camel Pre-Pesach Giant Keg Party
March 25, 2010

Known for their creative beer flavors like Cherry Vanilla Stout and clever beer names like Goliath and Beelzebub, Dancing Camel is hosting a pre-Pesach Party with one entrance fee that lets you taste all the beers to your heart (liver?)’s content.

Doors Open at 20:00 Sharp!
Cost: 75 NIS enter, Reserve your tickets in advance  click here to order tickets
Location: Hataasiya 12 (corner Hamasger) Tel Aviv. Tel: 03-624-2783

Osim Seder: A unique pre-Pesach crafts fair
March 26, 2010

Pesach crafts fair shopping extravaganza including recycled lamps, jewelry and fashion accessories, candlesticks, plants, kitchen and house items. There will also be huge second hand clothing swap! Feel free to bring your clothes to swap.

Location: Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah Beit Ar-El, 8 Gad St, Baka, Jerusalem.
Free Entrance.
For more information Deena 02-6722405*

Stage One- Amateur English Theater Festival
March 31 to April 2 2010

This Passover, Beit Avi Chai in collaboration with Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah will spotlight the finest English-language drama, music, comedy, opera, and more that Jerusalem has to offer.

If you can only make it to one event, make sure to come to Hahafuch’s hilarious improv comedy show on April 1, 2010 at 9pm!
More info

Bezalel Street Arts and Crafts Fair
March 31 – April 2, 2010

Artists show off their crafts, jewelry, photography and more at this funky street festival.

10am to 3pm
Shatz St., downtown Jerusalem
Free Entrance

Ahava Festival at the Dead Sea
April 1, 2010, April 3, 2010

The annual Dead Sea festival featuring big name Israeli singers such as Natasha and friends, Barry Sakharof, Ivri Lider, and more.
More info

Zorba Buddha Festival in the Negev
April 1 – 4, 2010

This is an hippie-esque festival where you camp out and can partake in meditation and spirituality workshops, yoga, dance and theater workshops, djs, and performances by Mercedez Bend, Avraham Tal, and more.

Cost: 319 NIS
More info

Boombamela Festival at Nitzanim Beach
April 1-3, 2010

Celebrating its 12th year, Booombamela is another camp-out,  hippie-type festival with big name music performers such as Geva Alon, Hatikva 6, and more.

The festival offers various workshops and entertainment such as street theater, body painting, interactive art, pottery, holistic and meditation workshops, and more.

Cost: 195 NIS
More info

Cherry Blossom Festival in the Golan
March 26 – April 10, 2010

Acitivites for the whole family including: Horse rides, origami workshops, kite building, Japanese makeup, Japanese food and drink.

Free Entrance
More info

Eco Social Awareness Festival: The World is in your Hands, Rishon Letzion
April 1-2, 2010

Festival featuring art and activities to raise awareness about the environment such as Noah’s ark made out of plastic bottles, and more.

Free Entrance
More info

For more fun ideas for Passover activities in Israel

[Matzah Kippah Photo from Flickr: Daniel Greene]