Devorah Lev-Tov

Writing ⋅ Editing ⋅ Consulting

Devorah Lev-Tov is a writer and editor with 12 years' experience. She writes about food, travel, luxury, and lifestyle for multiple publications including The New York Times, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, and National Geographic. An ex-pat from the publishing world, she is also an illustrated nonfiction book editor, with expertise in developmental editing and cookbook/recipe editing. In addition, she has several years' experience in event marketing and nonprofit copywriting. She's eaten her way through Central and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, and much of the United States.

Filtering by Category: Israel

Turkey and Israel: Kicking Off the Journey

The three week journey from New York to Bombay was a bit hectic. It seemed as though big news stories had been following us around.  Our second week in Israel, the whole country was consumed with constant updates on the release of 5-year Hammas prisoner Gilad Shalit, who finally reached Israel the hour we left it.  Make of it what you will, but on the day of Shalit's release, both foreigners in Israel and Turks asked us the same question: "A THOUSAND prisoners for one soldier?"

A couple days after we arrived in Turkey, news broke of the Kurdish missile attack and subsequent Turkish incursion into Iraq.  A day later, as we returned from an all day trip, we were told by our hosts of the terrible earthquake in eastern Turkey several hours earlier.  Needless to say, our families were worried while we had no idea.

Israel was a whirlwind of family and friends. We went from the center to the north and back several times.  Having been in Israel and experienced the inflation there first hand, I have a much better sense of the cause of the protests several months ago.  I'm not sure how  people survive there financially. Also interesting was Yom Kippur.  We were in Hertzilya for the holiday and it was different than anywhere else I'd been.  To be fair, I'd only previously experienced Israeli Yom Kippur on Kibbutz, where everything comes to a hot standstill for a day.  This was truly different.  People go out and enjoy the day, taking advantage of the lack of cars.  The evening of Yom Kippur, there were tons of people walking and riding bicycles, even on the highway.  The biggest beneficiary of the holiday seemed to be dogs, who could be walked without leashes, free to roam about where they please.  Children rode and played on the city streets--a luxury they don't have the rest of the year.   It was pretty incredible to see this somber, quiet holiday turned into a shared lively experience. We arrived in Turkey to find Istanbul's airport to be deceptively chaotic.  As we went to collect our bags, the belt they were supposed to be on was turned off and no one was standing by it.  After walking around the entire baggage claim section, we found my bag as the lone luggage on different belt.  Devorah's bag was nowhere to be found.  This was not a good start to our trip.  Devorah went to the lost baggage office to fill out a claim and afterwards we decided to do one final check for her bag.  Sure enough, it was in a pile of bags that had been removed off of the belts.  Crisis averted. Istanbul was not exactly the East meets West that I'd envisioned, unless the east that's being referred to is the middle east.  Our first day there we took four different types of public transit: tram, trolley, bus, and two very different funiculars (short distance trains that take commuters up and down hills).  To top it off, a couple days later, we added a light rail, boat, and metro.  We took every possible public commuting option in the city, except the suburban train. It was also pretty amazing to walk through the city and see random ancient Ottoman mausoleums and landmarks.  There are so many things to see in that city, so much history, I feel we could have easily spent weeks there and not seen everything.

After Israel, driving in Turkey was a pleasure.  There were no cars driving dangerously fast, drivers used their blinkers to indicate they wanted to pass rather than tailgating for as long as it takes, and there was no unsafe passing.  It was a stark difference from Israel, where I got clipped by a bus driver that cut me off and then proceeded to drive away and pretended he hadn't left a piece of the bus lodged in my car.  Turkey will be the last time I drive a (four wheel) vehicle for a while.

Breakfasts in Israel

In case you're unaware, I write another blog called Toast 'n Jams with some friends about breakfast and music (the world's two greatest pleasures). While on this trip, I'll be posting about my international breakfasts there. Here's a recent post I did on the great breakfasts we had in israel: http://toastnjams.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/eat-this-abroad-breakfast-in-israel/ Next up: tales of our Turkey travels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israel: The Dead Sea

During the holiday of Sukkot, which is 7 days long in Israel, schools are still on vacation and many offices are closed fully or partially. It's a popular time for many people and families to take a tiyul, or trip, often to the north or south. My sister decided to take off a few days from work and the four of us rented a car and headed down south, to the Dead Sea. Manor and I both hadn't been there in many years so it was a real treat.

It's very beautiful there, and aside from taking a dip in the mud and water of the Dead Sea, there are also several hikes in the area. Lucky for us, Dudu is a certified guide and knows a ton about hundreds of hikes throughout the country. He also knew about a semi-secret beach on the Dead Sea, away from the main "Mineral Beach," which is usually packed.

We weren't completely alone, but there were very few others with us, some of whom felt isolated enough to be nude. Seeing the cliffs of Jordan on the other side of the sea is pretty majestic, and we went close to sunset so the rocks got nice and pink.

The water was, of course, very salty. It's pretty fun to float in, but it does get burn-y pretty quickly. Putting the mud on was really fun, and it does feel super smooth. And when we washed it off our skin did feel really soft.

Adina and Dudu also picked a great place for us to stay the night, Metzoke Dragot, which is perched on a high cliff, overlooking the Dead Sea.

Aside from regular rooms, they also have large family tents, that actually looked like large sukkahs, in keeping with the theme. They came equipped with mattresses so we brought sleeping bags and were good to go. However, we still woke up with the sunrise, which happened to be beautiful.

After sunrise we went back to sleep for  a few hours, but while we were snoring Adina woke up and got to see a bunch of ibex (type of wild mountain goat common to the Middle East) right by our tent! Luckily, she took pictures.

We finally made it out to Wadi Amog for a 2-3 hour hike. It was definitely hot, but Dudu chose this hike because it has some shady spots, in the form of large cliffs overhead. That was certainly appreciated! There is also some fun climbing and great views at the end.

Israel: Yemin Moshe

One of the prettiest neighborhoods in Jeruslam is called Yemin Moshe. It also happens to be the one of the oldest: it was the first neighborhood established outside the Old City walls, back in 1830. It's charecterized by it's iconic windmill and views of the Old City. Now it's full of wealthy people who have beautiful homes and gorgeous gardens. We took a walk there and came away with some beautiful pictures. Enjoy! [slideshow]

Israel: Sukkot and Jerusalem's Old City

After a week of staying somewhere different almost every night, we finally landed at my sister Adina and her husband Dudu's cute apartment in Jerusalem, in the Katamon neighborhood. They moved here back in May and seem to be enjoying their first real home (outside of Africa!) together. While we were there it was the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles), where families build and decorate small huts (sukkahs) and eat all their meals in them. These huts symbolize the huts the Jews lived in when they wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt until they got to Israel. Adina and Dudu had a great little sukkah that we enjoyed eating and spending time in. Dudu loves to cook and he's very good at it. He made amazing challah bread and lots of yummy "salatim" (Israeli salads) for the holiday.

Aside from lots of eating, we did find time to explore the city. I've always loved the Old City; it seems there's always a lot going on and something new to discover. We went to the Kotel (Wailing Wall) and walked through the Arab market. We also did the Ramparts Walk, which allows you to walk along the city's walls. It was great to see the city from that vantage point and fascinating to know you're walking along some pretty old stones!

[slideshow]

Israel: Land of Delicious Fruit

Israel is one of our favorite places to get delicious, fresh produce. Because the country is so small, things don't have to travel very far from the farms to the markets, so by the time you get them they are still recently picked. Israel is full of outdoor markets (called Shuks in Hebrew), large and small. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have huge ones, while smaller cities had emore manageable ones. This trip we went to the market in Teverya and saw some beautiful produce, including lots of dates and pomegranates, both of which are in season now here.

The Golan is filled with cherry  orchards, which unfortunately weren't in season now, and apple orchards, which luckily were in their prime. We drove past dozens of pick-your-own farms, and although we didn't have time to stop for that long, we did manage to buy a few from a stand on the side of the road and they were juicy and crisp. We saw lots of Druze men driving tractors like these hauling apples.

We also had some great fresh-squeezed juice in Tel Aviv. There are fruit juice stands everywhere,but this one on Ben Gurion St. was excellent and a huge variety. We went with mango grapefruit.

Because pomegranates are in season now, there were pomegranate juicers everywhere, especially in the Old City in Jerusalem.

We also had our share of pomegranates at various friends' and relatives' houses--everyone seemed to be offering them. And of course, we didn't turn it down as we love them! In Herzilya, Manor helped his cousin peel and seed a bunch of them.

Their dog, Raja, watched and waited patiently:

Hope I didn't make you too hungry!

Israel: Seeing and Eating New Things

First off, sorry it's taken so long to post! Today is the first day we've had Internet on our trip so far, which is pretty surprising because we're not in a third world country yet! But we have been staying somewhat off the beaten path until now. Manor and I have both lived in and visited Israel many times, and we both have lots of family here. Lately, when we come to visit, it's all about running around to see friends and family--which is wonderful, but also exhausting, and leaves little time for personal time. This trip, we knew we would have a lot of people to see, but we managed to carve out a couple days to ourselves soon after our arrival in Tel Aviv--that is of course after seeing my brother-in-law (David) and two friends in Tel Aviv on the day of our arrival. David took us to Chumus Gan Eiden for lunch, at the corner of Allenby and HaNasi in Tel Aviv. Their specialty is what they call Darfur Hummus or Darfur Foul, basically Sudanese style hummus (chickpea spread) or Foul (fava bean spread) with lots of yummy toppings. There are many Sudanese (and other African) refugees in Israel and their cuisine is starting to infiltrate the country.

Darfur Foul comes with lots of Foul, topped with chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped tomatoes and whole chickpeas.

The next day, Manor and I rented a car and drove up north, to the very top of Israel, right by the border with Syria and Lebanon. We went to the small town of Majdal Shams, which is populated mostly by Druze people. The Druzes are actually Syrian Arabs who remained in their village after the 1967 war and so now are part of Israel. There are four Druze villages in northern Israel and Majdal Shams is the largest. The people were given the option to become Israeli citizens, but many refused because they did not want to have to serve in the Israeli army, which has a mandatory military draft. However, if they leave Israel, for example to visit relatives in Syria, they are not allowed to come back. The exception is if they go to study in university in Syria. The 2004 film The Syrian Bride addressed these issues by telling the story of Druze brides from Israel who marry Syrians and have to leave their families in Israel forever. Near Majdal Shams is a place called the Shouting Hill, where family members from each side of the border would meet and yell across to each other. Before the Internet was popular this was their only means of keeping in touch.

I was very curious to see the village and it's inhabitants and was wondering if they would seem unhappy or lonely, but the town is vibrant and beautiful, with amazing views of Mt. Hermon (the tallest mountain range in Israel) and the mountains of Syria.

People were friendly and happy and the town was bustling, with narrow winding streets alongs the hills and mountains.

We stayed in a "tzimmer," a popular phenomenon in Israel--basically a bed and breakfast. There are thousands of them throughout the country and they present a nice, romantic getaway. It seems a requirement to have a jacuzzi and a lavish breakfast. You can find many of them listed at www.zimmer.co.il. We stayed at a very charming tzimmer called Nofesh Barama, overlooking a cliff with a view of Syria. The hostess, Jamila, was very friendly and welcoming, and the three rooms were all clean and cozy.

In the morning we were served a traditional Druze breakfast, which was massive and delicious. It was similar to Israeli breakfast, with the main difference being the Druze bread. It's a very large, very thin flatbread that can be folded and ripped to use in the many dips.

The main Druze dip is labne, one of my favorite dishes. It's a creamy, yogurt-based dip that has been thickened and comes covered with olive oil and za'atar, a popular middle eastern spice mixture. We were also served hummus, a salty feta-type cheese, goat cheese in olive oil, some of the best butter I've ever had, orange marmalade, sliced tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, olives, hard-boiled eggs, and two other kinds of pita. Suffice to say, it was way more food than any two people could eat, but we tried our best.

The next day we ventured out to see what the Golan (what upper Israel is called) had to offer. We drove to Nimrod's Fortress, the largest fortress in Israel, which dates back to the 13th century. It was built by Muslims during a few different time periods and the remains are mostly intact. It's on a high mountain and the view to the valleys below is quite beautiful.

It was starting to get rather hot, so we got back in the car and drove a few kilometers down the hill to the Banias, a lush green area with springs and waterfalls. It's amazing how many different types of landscapes you can see in Israel in very short distances. We did a nice hour-long walk down to the falls and were rewarded with beautiful scenery along the way.

Manor and I were both shocked that we saw, ate, and experienced new cultures and environs that we hadn't experienced before in Israel, a country we have both spent so much time in. It continues to amaze me how such a tiny country can contain so much!

Powered by Squarespace. Background image by Devorah Lev-Tov.