December 8, 2023
December 8, 2023

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The Digital Appetizer for a Terrific Way to Tour Israel: Israel’s Top 100 Ethnic Restaurants

Livingston— We were invited people to a book party, one locally and one in a trendy Israeli eatery in the city… But alas, fates intervened. And then we discovered this was not a party for a conventional book. In fact, it wasn’t even a conventional e-book. It’s more like an app. A yummy app where the dishes look sumptuous on the screen. Photos of 100 signature dishes from 100 Israeli food purveyors make you want to dig into the screen and eat…but…but…what was that? No recipes! …Click on apps, click on videos…Hmm. Fascinating. It’s a travel guide that connects you to the places where you might choose to go. Go to the purveyor’s home pages, whether a bakery or eatery, winery or farmers’ market and shuk. And then hop on a plane and go to Israel to chomp your way through the menus on your tablet screen.

In a conversation with JLNJ, authors Jack Gottlieb and Gil Hovav said they discovered that the way back to Jewish heritage for many folks was food. From the stomach to the soul. Jack is an American expat and Gil is a food critic who is well known in Israel, and they decided food is the answer, a great equalizer and a bridge builder.

Jack has a mission, and it’s not just to get people to eat their way across the planet. He wants to preserve Jewish world heritage sites and needed to figure out how to do it. This is his solution. “We decided that what was needed was a kind of UNESCO for Judaism,” Gottlieb said. “Think of us as a cross between UNESCO, Wikipedia and Trip advisor, with Jewish heritage and culture being the unique components tying it all together.”

Why? At some point he realized that no organization was solely dedicated to rescuing Jewish heritage sites in Europe. After a trip to see Jewish places in Belarus and Ukraine, Gottlieb saw that these places “had no voice; no one knew about them and they were falling into disrepair. I thought, ‘Can we do something about this?’”

He came up with the World Jewish Heritage Preservation Model, and uses digital-tourism tools to push more and more visitors to Jewish heritage sites and cultural events. He says that creates incentives for countries, local authorities and organizations to keep preserving and investing in their Jewish heritage assets, which will further promote tourism to these sites and events, creating an eco-system of Jewish heritage tourism.”

The best way to go about it, he thought was to preserve Jewish culinary heritage first, using the e-book format to teach folks about Israel’s hidden ethnic culinary gems. And it’s a great franchise, since there are other e-books to follow… about Jewish cuisine in North America and Europe.

“We chose food as the first aspect of our heritage we’re trying to preserve, as it represents such an important part of our culture,” Gottlieb said. “It’s the stories behind the food, and behind the people who make it, that are the gateway to so many other aspects of our heritage.” He also pointed out that sometimes the best ethnic restaurants aren’t in ethnic neighborhoods, describing one New Jersey deli, as having the best corned beef in the Tri-State area, but no Jews in the neighborhood, so you never know where you end up when you look for authentic Jewish food.

Gil Hovav showcases what he calls a paradise of ethnic food in Israel, which he says aptly describes of 60 different ethnicities, each with its own unique culinary traditions, in such a small country, a rainbow of menus…As he put it in the book, “ …At least gastronomically, that is what we are: colorful, sunny, enticing, shameless and direct. We have been here for the past 66 years and we have not even started to create what will eventually become a local cuisine. We are people from more than 60 ethnicities, living in this tiny country and each and every one of us is certain that his or her grandma’s cholent is far better (and more authentic!) than everyone else’s. And you know what? This is what makes us unique. And delicious.”

Israel’s Top 100 Ethnic Restaurants is being billed as a “digital appetizer to a wider menu of planned technology, including mobile applications that will put the power of online, collaborative communications in the hands of the Jewish community to preserve Jewish heritage.”

To learn more about the WJH, please visit:

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