Discovering the Ancient and the Modern in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
I’m met at Ben Gurion airport by David Kichka, Chairman of the Israeli Association for Culinary Culture, and despite my jet-lagged state, he simply smiles and says, “Let’s go wipe some hummus.” Immediately, I feel my flight exhaustion dissipate and my spirits revive, because his welcoming words remind me of my grandmother. Her greeting in Cantonese was always “Have you eaten (rice) yet?” Her hallmark phrase was not merely a substitution for your traditional “Hello,” but one enriched with care and concern. So this similar Israeli expression struck a chord with me.
In exploring two strikingly different cities in Israel — Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — somehow, the common denominator was always food, which Kichka says acts as a sort of universal language we can understand and digest, and aids in strengthening geographical and cultural bonds. After all, there’s nothing quite as memorable as befriending a stranger over the almost ritualistic act of tearing into puffy pita, and using it to swipe up a mound of creamy, sandy-smooth hummus.
The city may be ancient, but its vibe is multi-faceted and modern — especially if you know where to look.
Chef Moshe Basson marries the seven core ingredients from his motherland — olives, figs, wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, and dates — using modern techniques and a signature playfulness.
The Mamilla Hotel
Architects Moshe Safdie and Piero Lissoni brought this luxury hotel, whose foundations were laid during Ottoman times, into the present. The highlight is the views of Old Jerusalem from the rooftop resto.
The Tower of David Museum
During the King David Night Experience, the sky is illuminated with a display of lights, lasers, projections, sounds, and video, all draped on the castle walls in a multimedia retelling of the story of King David.
Gatsby Cocktail Room
The first craft cocktail bar in Jerusalem specializes in mischievous mixology. The Elon Musk’s Flamethrower, for example, includes house bitters, Pierre Ferrand, Zacapa 23, Bulleit, and lots of fire.
First-time visitors here will immediately notice a few pertinent elements: the sun, the sea, and lots of skin. It’s a bit like Miami, but with its own Mediterranean magic.
Inspired by their pristine view of Tel Aviv Harbour, restaurateurs Micha Sol and Danny Eitan present a menu emphasizing locally caught seafood prepared with traditional Mediterranean flavours. Your best bet: the signature fried-whole St. Peter’s Fish — a local name for tilapia.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Photo by Amit Geron.
Designed by architect Preston Scott Cohen around a faceted 26-metre atrium, this angular art institution presents works ranging from 16th-century portraits to installations about climate change. But its real specialty is the 20th century, with a lobby mural by Lichtenstein leading to masterpieces by Klimt and Kandinsky.
Fantastic Restaurant and Bar
Getting to this non-kosher cocktail bar requires taking an Alice in Wonderland–inspired plunge into a hedonistic gardenscape, complete with wait staff dressed in rabbit costumes and a menu of delectable potions. Don’t be surprised if you leave wondering if it was all just a dream.
The Norman Hotel
Situated in the Lev Ha’ir neighbourhood, the Norman’s impeccably updated Bauhaus building now stands as one of the most luxurious retreats in the region. Its Norman Series offers everything from film screenings to mixology workshops — all hosted by local and international experts.