I am writing this post as I sit wide awake at 3:30 AM on my flight from Tel Aviv to New York City. For some reason I just can’t sleep! I was shooting for about 8 hours of sleep on this 12 hour flight, but so far have only clocked 3.
The past 8 days have been one of the most unique, eye-opening, creative, delicious, fun, inspiring, educational, amazing experiences I have ever had. I was invited on a 7-day tour of Israel called Vibe Israel by a wonderful nonprofit called Kinetis. Vibe Isarel is a program that uses experience and online influencers to fill the void between the perception and reality (you can read all about it HERE). It could not have come at a better time because just a week before I got my invitation I started thinking about applying for birthright (thank you Davida).
We packed SOOO many amazing experiences into just 7 days and I’m going to attempt to share my trip in 1 blog posts (followed by a few more recipes inspired by this trip….I have TONS of great ideas). One of the things I’m most excited to share is photos! We had an amazing photographer (HEY OR…you are amazing!) tag along with us throughout the entire week’s stay capturing everything via still and video.
Ben, Jessa, Kathryne, Emily, and I all arrived to Tel Aviv on Sunday night. I could not have asked for a better crew of bloggers to accompany me on this trip. So many good laughs with these guys! We had VIP service at the airport which literally took me from the plane, through customs and passport, to my luggage, and all the way out to my taxi in like under 30 minutes. I’m going to call that record time, no doubt. The VIP service continued throughout the next 8 days as the Vibe Israel Wellness Tour took us to some of the most amazing restaurants, spas, and farms in Israel!
I am going to share some of my favorite experiences from the trip including tons of photos (thanks Or!) :D
The Dead Sea & Kibbutz Ein Gedi
I can easily say that The Dead Sea is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. I didn’t really know what to expect, other than the fact that you float when you go in it…and you sure do! The Dead Sea is 33.7% salt, making it 10 times more potent than the ocean. Like woah, right?! It’s not technically a seven wonder, but I’m voting they add an 8th because this place is absolutely surreal. The salt that it gives off is so pure and has so many amazing health benefits.
The routine at the dead sea is to rub mud all over your body…pretty much like a full body mud mask…cool right? You let it dry for a few minutes and then you hop right into the sea, no need for a floaty! Nail biters beware- you don’t want to have any open wounds or you will scream for your life when you get the water in your cuts (owieeeee). The floating experience was surreal. I felt like a human bobber. After rinsing off in mineral water, your skin felt uber smooth and rejuvenated. I should make that part of my skincare routine, yah?
Before heading to the dead sea itself- we spent an afternoon at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz. A kibbutz is a traditional Israeli community based on agriculture. The Ein Gedi is a spa very close to the Dead Sea where people go and spend a few days, rejuvenating their bodies through sauna, dead sea water, massage, and other spa services. Everything was communal, so it was really fun to be with the locals! The Vibe Israel crew each got a spa treatment. Get ready for this- we got a date wrap! That’s right, we were rubbed down with a nummy date paste and wrapped in plastic to let our skin soak of all the goodness. Side note: dates are EVERYWHERE in Israel. The spa treatment was lovely and I definitely could have stayed for days at this place!
Side note: I’m not sure what to call it, but the most magnificent animal strolled onto the property to graze. I got like 3 feet from it!
Carmel Market and Slow Food Workshop
I LOVE MARKETS. Can I just say that Israelis know how to run a market. So much fresh food everywhere. I’m talking rainbows of fruits, veggies, spices, and nuts EVERYWHERE. We did a slow food workshop with Rafram Hadad, where we actually went to the market, picked up our produces, and headed back to an amazing loft to make lunch.
Israelis are the best hosts I’ve ever met. I know that is a huge generalization, but its 100% true! If you don’t believe me…you’ll just have to see for yourself ;). We were invited into a local Israeli family home to use their amazing kitchen to prepare our lunch and then we sat around the piano and chatted/jammed for about an hour and a half. It was perfect.
Strauss Hummus Factory
Eat. All. The. Hummus. You guys! I got to see exactly how hummus is made and produced in a plant. Strauss, the parent company of Sabra, is an Israeli company that produces hummus and cold salads. I’ve never been on an industrial food tour, so this was an eye opening experience to see how products are produced in bulk. The best part about the products that this factory produces is that it’s non-gmo, made with whole ingredients, and freaking delish!
Post tour- we met with the chief recipe developer who creates all of the new products in a test kitchen for the Israeli sector of Strauss. SO COOL…I want his job. He walked us through how to make traditional Israeli hummus at home. We got so many tips and tricks from how to soak and cook the chick peas to the perfect ratio of chick peas to tahini (4 to 1) AND the fact that there is no actual olive oil in the hummus itself, just drizzled on top. You learn something new every day, right? I’m about to be eating hummus like it’s my job…because that’s how the Israeli’s do it…but with less pita bread ;)
Israeli Breakfast Workshop with Paula Rosenburg
This was hands down my favorite activity during the entire trip. Paula Rosenburg, a local healthy living expert, recipe developer, and naturopath was the host. First of all, can I just stay that I adore her. She has the most beautiful personality inside and out and I just love how her passion shines through energy and work.
Paula is all about taking classic Israeli dishes and giving them a healthy twist. Pretty much what I do on FFF, right? We made 3 classic dishes: shakshouka, tahini, and falafel. This was the first time I had ever eaten true shakshouka and I AM IN LOVE. So many fresh, amazing flavors in one dish. We made a vegan version with tofu and nutritional yeast (traditionally it has eggs). You can definitely expect to se a twist of this dish coming to FFF soon! The falafel was really fun to make. The ball jokes were flying around left and right ;). It’s SOOO easy to make and oh so flavorful. We baked ours instead of fried and in all honesty, I thought this falafel tasted better than the traditional fried kind. The tahini dish we made was so beautiful. It was infused with beet juice, giving it the most vibrant pink color every! Surprisingly the beet flavor wasn’t too powerful. You can expect this one on FFF, too :D
Well this was the first time I ever took a legit shot of olive oil. Apparently it helps your digestion…and let’s just say I was backed up for most of the trip (yah I went there). Fun fact: I hate olives, but love olive oil…I got my dad’s taste buds :D
This organic olive oil farm and press was a really fun experience. The business is a family affair and completely 100% organic. I learned all about olive oil, how olives are processed into olive oil, and lots of tips and tricks. Did you know- that olive oil MUST be stored in a green glass jar. If the jar is 1. clear or 2. plastic, it will make the olive oil go rancid. So, note to self- only buy the good stuff- for real!
I loved being t this farm and learning all about a product I use on a daily basis. The most interesting fact I learned is: if you want to use olive oil for high heat (stir fries), use Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is able to be heated to 400F and safe to use high heat. The second most interesting fact I learned is: if you are going to bake with olive oil- you only need to sub 2/3 cup per 1 cup of other oil such as butter, canola oil, or coconut oil. Interesting, right?!
Harduf Anthropomorphic Kibbutz and Organic Farm Lunch
This place was AMAZING because the Kibbutz focused on providing a home for special needs people, abused children, and those suffering from mental illness. They not only provide a home, but a holistic program to help them through their tough times. They really focus on rehabilitation through art, which I think is the best medicine.
The kibbutz is fueled by a 100% organic farm, grown by the community. What’s so cool about this farm is that most farms only grow a select few crops, but this particular farm is more like a GIANT garden that has hundreds of different crops. They even have their own chickens, dairy animals and so on, making their community 100% sustainable off their own land. This place really made me want to start gardening like ASAP. Our guide on this property took us to the garden and we picked whatever we wanted (tons of veggies).
Then we collected some eggs and got to use one of the kibbutz communal spaces for our cooking. We even got to make our own pita bread in an outdoor fire. SO COOL. I loved this workshop, it was right up my ally :D
The Vibe Israel crew got really good at taking group photos :D
// Where we Stayed //
Diaghilev Hotel– This is the hotel we stayed in the for the majority of the trip in Tel Aviv. It’s in a prime location, making all of our Tel Aviv Day trips walkable (cool right?!). It has a very artsy/boutiquey vibe, but I loved it! There was so much great art everywhere and our rooms were comfortable.
Mitzpe Hayamim– this hotel is one of the most well-known spas in northern Israel. We were told by multiple people that they have THE BEST massages. We each got an amazing suite, stocked with dried fruits and wine. Mitzpe Hyamim is not only a spa, but an organic farm as well. The on-site restaurant Muscat Restaurant (see below), uses almost solely produce from the land as well as dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheeses, to fuel the menu. All meats are sourced locally. I just think this hotel model is so amazing.
// Other Fun Stuff //
Tour of Tel Aviv via Bike Share- I LOVE BIKE SHARES! Minneapolis is known for their system, and Tel Aviv’s had a very similar one. I couldn’t believe how bikeable the city was. We took our bikes down to the sea, to a market, and through a shopping district.
Yoga: I was SOOOO excited when rooftop yoga was added to the schedule at the last minute! We met up with an amazing local instructor (Hey Maya!) and did a 60-minute sunset vinyasa flow on top of her Tel Aviv loft. <3
Worked Out at a Local Health Club: My last day spent in Tel Aviv was not technically part of the Vibe Israel Tour. Ben, Jessa, and I were the only three who hadn’t already flown home and we had the ENTIRE day to spend in Tel Aviv. I was super excited when I found out Ben and Jessa were into fitness (uhhh have you seen their blog?!?!). We popped over to a local gym and had a quick sweat sesh and used their shower because we had already checked out of our hotel!
// Where we Ate //
I feel like we ate our way through Israel- LITERALLY. We got to indulge in a great variety of food ranging from vegan, to organic meaty deliciousness. All of the restaurants were specifically chosen for this particular Vibe Israel Tour based on our health food interest. The food was amazing, but came in HUGE quantities. The chefs and owners of these restaurants were beyond generous and showered us with every item on their menu, I kid you not. In pretty much every restaurant, we started off with drinks and apps (lots of them), followed by the main courses and then dessert. Almost all of the meals were served family style which was great because I got to try EVERYTHING! Aw yeah! I’m going to give you a list of all the places we ate at and a little blurb about the food they specialize in.
Taizu – Asia Terranean Kitchen. This is a new concept restaurant based on chef Yuval Ben Neriah’s personal interpretation of street foods of five countries in South East Asia – India, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. All I gotta say is that it was flipping delicious!
Village Green Vegan Restaurant – Fresh and delicious vegan food served hot-bar style (think Whole Foods Market). This was one of my favorite lunches!
Cafe Louise – Fresh, delicious healthy meals with an emphasis in vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free dishes! Light, but so flavorful!
Nanuchka Georgian Vegan Restaurant – An authentic Georgian restaurant that is 100% vegan! Such great flavor…and all vegan!
Muscat Restaurant (Mizpe Hayamim Restaurant) – The dishes are prepared using a variety of fresh produce collected daily from the fields, orchards, farm, and the dairy of Mizpe Hayamim. Their dessert was fab!
Puaa Restaurant – Think comfort food gone healthy! This restaurant has a hole in the wall feel, with such a creative menu!
// My General Thoughts on Israel, Tel Aviv, and the Culture //
Going into this experience, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had such a skewed vision of what Israel was/is and I have been completely blown away by such an amazing community of diversity, hospitality, health and wellness, authenticity, and technology. Tel Aviv is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to. It’s right along the Mediterranean Sea and the start up capital of the Middle East. The entire city is walkable and VERY green. There bike paths lining the streets, huge recycling nets everywhere, hydration stations, and TONS of dog walkers. The general vibe I got was very European and innovative. Israel is an extremely young country at just 66 years old. The average age in Tel Aviv is 31 years old…crazy right?!
I loved the mixture of people we met. Lots were born in Israel, but there were also a lot of transplants, making Israel extremely diverse. One thing that I had a totally misconception about was that everyone is Jewish and extremely religious. Interestingly enough, the jews in Israel seemed to be less religious than the jews in America (Joanna, the owner of Kinetis agrees!). But really- I had this vision of extremely religious people living all over Israel, but the places we went the people were average joes and very westernized. Note: We did not go to Jerusalem, unfortunately, but I heard this is were a lot of the religious people live :D
What I really enjoyed about this adventure, was how personal every experience was. The fact that we were able to meet so many amazing locals, be invited into their homes, and hear their stories was an experience like none other. I think the individuals who contributed to this tour are what made it so surreal. I feel like we got the insider edition of Israel, which was my kind of traveling!
As for the health and wellness scene in Israel- I was blown away. It makes me smile when I see people running and workout in in foreign countries, and we definitely saw our fair share of exercisers on the streets in Tel Aviv! You could tell that the general population was health conscious and there was a handful of healthy restaurants in Tel Aviv, which really makes me happy! The thing I found most interesting about the Israeli health movement, is that it seemed to coincide with veganism. In the US, there are tons of different “health diets,” but from what I saw in Israel…Healthy = Vegan. Let’s just say that the vegan movement was CRAZY popular. I’m just happy people are eating their greens and proud of it!
The Gang at the Farewell Cocktail Party
I could go on for another 13 paragraphs, but I shall stop here. I wanted to give a RIDICULOUSLY HUMONGOUS thank you to Kinetis, the Kinetis founder, Joanna, and the program director, Rotem for making this experience possible. I already can’t wait for my next trip :D
PS: I am proud to announce that I did workout 5 of the days while I was in Israel. It was much needed after stuffing our faces daily…I mean stuffing (right Kate?) Thanks again Emily Miner for the workouts :D
This post is sponsored by Kinetis and Vibe Israel. I was not compensated, but was provided a round-trip, all expenses paid trip to Israel. All opinions are 100% my own! Thank you for supporting my dream as a cook and eat my way through the world!