After many years of not visiting my homeland, I accepted an invitation from the Tourism Office of Israel to visit Tel Aviv during the city’s Gay Pride festivities this past June. As the trip approached, I wasn’t quite sure if I made the right decision or not. The day arrived and in early June I flew to Israel from JFK airport to Ben Gurion airport in Israel on a direct flight on El-Al airlines the most secure airline in the world.
As a born and raised Israeli man, over 40 years ago I made one of the biggest decisions of my life, I decided to leave my homeland the land of “milk and honey” and to move to US the land of “gay freedom,” and golden opportunities, at least that’s what I though.
I moved to the US because America than was more advanced than my home country. What I have discovered on my recent trip to Israel shocked me in the most unexpected and positive way.
Today, Israel is a global leader in equality. In recent years, Israel has produced more affirming legislation and court decisions regarding sexual orientation and LGBT rights than many Western countries. Israel has an active gay community, and it is by far the most tolerant Middle Eastern country towards gays.
Recognized as a world leader in LGBT rights, Israeli law gives equal rights to gay couples in the areas of social security and inheritance, and recognizes gay marriages from foreign countries where gay marriages are legal. Since 1993, the Israeli Army has banned all forms of discrimination against soldiers and officers on the basis of their sexual orientation. The first openly gay member of the Israeli Parliament was elected in 2002.
This year the Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv attracted over 100,000 spectators including many foreign tourists who joined Israelis dancing with Palestinians while they being serenaded by transgender chanteuses as beautiful lesbians walked hand-in hand among the cheering crowds. But that’s not all. Today, Tel Aviv is one of the world’s gayest cities in the world, 20% of the city’s population identifies as gay, lesbian or transgender. The parade in Tel Aviv is a celebration of the diversity of its people, while enjoying great food, music, fantastic beach parties full of shirtless, good looking muscle men, and beautiful women. These people are the most beautiful I have ever seen in the world.
Nestled on the Mediterranean Sea, Tel Aviv boasts beautiful sandy beaches and a spectacular marina, which set the scenes for your day time explorations, a slew of modernist Bauhaus architecture, serving as the backdrop for your evening exploits. Your time in Tel Aviv will be filled with a hectic and lively night life, trendy cafes, great restaurants and boutiques just like London, Paris and Chicago. Even more so than New York, Tel Aviv is a city that never sleeps.
While Tel Aviv is a modern, forward-looking free spirited metropolis transforming the old traditions of its Israeli heritage, Jerusalem the “Holy City” on the other hand is real and grounded. Full of history and reverence for the main religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Jerusalem the capital of Israel projects her own beauty. As one of the most popular song ever written by the extraordinary Israeli singer/songwriter Naomi Shemer tells, Jerusalem is the “…city of gold, the city of copper and the city of light.” Jerusalem has a spiritual light that will guide you from biblical times to the present with harmony not to be found anywhere else in the world.
With my own history interwoven into the city’s, Everywhere I turned the -forgotten streets and hidden corners flooded me with past memories. I was filled with emotion and was at a loss for words. These moments of anxiety and mixed feelings made my trip to Israel the most emotional trip I have ever taken.
With only a 20 minute drive from Jerusalem you can be at the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth. With a rare combination of history, nature, and the healing qualities its salty water, the Dead Sea is one of the marvels of nature. You must stop at Masada located on top of an high and isolated rock plateau in the Yehuda Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. Admired the synagogue and the palace that king Herod the Great built for himself on this rock. A visit to Masada will reveal the heroic story of how the first Jewish–Roman war ended, and how 960 Jewish rebels and their families defeated the Roman’s siege in 74 BC as they committed mass murder/suicide. Masada was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Today, I have realized that I was wrong about the land of “milk and honey,” as I learned a lot from the modern and global Israel, the country of gold, copper and light.
On my recent visit to Tel Aviv, I had the pleasure of indulging in an unforgettable treat at one of the oldest establishments in this captivating city where dining is a work of art.
As one of the first neighborhood built outside the old city of Jaffa, Neve Tzedek never lost its original bohemian charm and vibe. Filled with vibrant cafes, gourmet shops and restaurants, art galleries and many fashionable boutiques this trendy part of Tel Aviv is quite quaint and funky.
Tucked away in Neve Tzedek, you find Kimmel Restaurant located in a 129-year-old restored building, once belonging to a Turkish Sheik. Kimmel offers delicious delicacies, a great list of Israeli and European wines and a warm and romantic atmosphere with a rustic French country style décor that will make you feel at home.
For the last 20 years executive chef and owner Shaul Ben Aderet, shared his unique and delicious specialties with many celebrities, government officials, and hoi polloi alike In the kitchens of his mother and grandmother, he learned the secrets of true home cooking, the essence and the foundation of his extraordinary home gourmet cuisine. On Shaul’s long road to success, these family recipes got new twists and became the wildly popular dishes loved by many of Shaul’s fans picked up along the way.
The second I took my first bite, I recognized Shaul’s inherent talent, his food tasted like my mom’s cooking. With unique serving platters and tableware Kimmel features earthy, rustic dishes of cheeses, meat and fish in rich sauces, herbs, cream and olive oil. The house bread flavored with zataar spices, dill, lemon, garlic is served with sauces such as fig and honey or wild berries and pepper.
The meal began with an array of superb appetizers. The appetizers in my opinion were far better than some of the main dishes on the menu. I recommend the mushrooms stuffed with goose liver in plum-and-fig sauce; the fresh beet salad with pine nuts and Brule St. Moore Cheese, a perfect fall salad; the Goat Cheese Ravioli served in cream sauce with sweet potato and mushrooms is delicious, or the fantastic Risotto with Mushrooms, Spinach and Parmesan Cheese. My absolute favorite the Chicken Liver Pate made with calvados and carrot jam is genius. This dish has the perfect balanced of textures and flavors, it is simply outstanding. For the main course you can choose a wonderful roasted duck, a variety of juicy steaks cooked to perfection, or one of the Seafood dishes such as Surf and Turf in a curry lemon and garlic sauce, or The Salmon Steak.
With generous portions, good service and friendly staff Kimmel is a great choice for fine dining. You will never be disappointed. Israelites don’t go out to dinner before 8pm. If you want to see people you should make your reservation for 8:30 or 9 pm. Only foreign tourists dine at 6-7pm, and when you in Israel, don’t even think about missing this wonderful “gem.”
As always Shaul was happy to share one recipe with PINK!
Fresh Beet Salad in Vinegarate Pomegranate Juice with Saint Moore Cheese Brulee
4 nice fresh beets
50 grams of cooked pine nuts
2 spoons of chopped mint leaves
2 spoons of chopped Coriander
4 dry plumps
1 spoon of balsamic vinegarate
2 spoons of date honey
2 spoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Saint Moore cheese
Peel the beets and cut them into 1 inch sq. cubes
Mixed the pomegranate juice with the vinegar, oil and honey, add salt and pepper to your taste.
Cut the plumps into long slivers, cut the cheese into 1/4 “ cubes and spread some brown sugar on top of them.
Burn the sugar until it turns into golden color, and until it becomes hard. (same as you do for Cream Brulee)
Mix all the ingredients together and decorate on top with the sliced cheese