Mea’ Sharim: A Food Tour with a Twist

When I see the words food tour I immediately forget myself and become hungry. When I signed up for this one in particular I did not read the fine print or maybe it was just that I had no idea what Mea’ Sharim really was.

DRESS CODE?

Yana Milinevsky emailed me to make sure we were aware of the dress code for the food tour. Turns out what I had signed up for wasn’t just a food tour of Jewish cuisine. It took us right into the heart of one of the remaining truly conservative orthodox areas in Jerusalem.

So it was a food tour with history and I had to be dressed conservatively. The only problem was I did not come to Israel equipped. Yana was not just the my tour guide but also my fashion consultant and brought me a dress to wear over my pants so that I fit in better.

THE FOOD

Being from New York I am very familiar with Jewish cuisine. In fact I never even think of it as Jewish but just as New York. So much stuff we eat here is from the Jewish culture that there is no separation as a New Yorker. Bagels, lox, matza, matza ball soup, brisket, I could go on.

I of course got to try some new things.

Kugel:  we tried two different versions one made with potato and the other with pasta. Both sweet with a sort of mushy consistency.

NOT THE MOST PHOTOGENIC FOODS

Cabbage Roll: sounds exactly like that. It was meat and sometimes raisins cooked in cabbage. Also has a sweet taste. It was one of my favorite things I tried.

We went to a bakery for sweets and had chicken noodle soup as well.

THE PEOPLE

This is was far more than your average food tour so the food became second to what we were learning,

All around the outlying buildings of the neighborhood were signs warning people not to walk thru the neighborhood dressed inappropriately.

Of course directed at women.

Mostly the ultra orthodox operate like it is not 2017. From the clothes they wear to the cellphones they don’t have, the atmosphere and lifestyle are that of decades past.

They even post news on billboards. Yana referred to it as “the original Facebook”. It is how the community gets information out or makes announcements.

It is not appropriate to laugh and be loud in public especially if you are a women so there was a lot of shushing from Yana . Not wanting to disrespect anyone we tried our best to fit in.

THE ORIGINAL FACEBOOK

WHAT DO NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE THIS MEAN FOR CONTEMPORARY ISRAEL?

I heard several stories from various people living in or from Israel. It seems that the ultra Orthodox community is at odds with modern Israelis.

See a lot of them do not work. The men spend all day studying the Torah and in the eyes of modern Israeli’s not contributing to society. They have loads of children, don’t send them to regular schools, don’t pay taxes but often live off of government assistance.

You can see where this becomes an issue.

Unlike the Amish in America, the ultra Orthodox are not an independently sustainable community. They do not live off the land and their abilities to build and create their own incomes. They live outside of modern Israeli laws and culture yet within the confines of there cities.

It is an intriguing dynamic and one that can not possibly last too much longer. The tension is already spilling over with protesting. Especially when it comes to the orthodox avoiding military service which is mandatory for all Israeli citizens.

This tour is so much more than food. It is a peek inside a world that is old. It is a unique way to infiltrate a hard to penetrate community…WITH FOOD!

If there is one food tour you go on in Jerusalem you should join Authentic Jerusalem.

I want to thank Yana for hosting me and giving me such wonderful insight to a community I could have never explored on my own.

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