Bintel Blog

Offbeat Israel: Japan's Falafel Connoisseurs

By Nathan Jeffay

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They say that all Israelis reckon they are experts on falafel – where the country’s finest can be found, in what order the pita should be stuffed, which salads deserve to be included. Well that was before sushi arrived. Now that virtually every shopping street in the country has a bar serving up the Japanese delicacy, Israelis have lost interest in the falafel and turned their critical attention to sushi.

So who will take up the mantle as connoisseurs of falafel?

The answer, believe it or not, is the Japanese.

Israel is becoming a hugely popular destination for Japanese tourists. Japan’s most popular travel guide series, Globetrotter, has just revealed that its guides to only one country — Mexico — sell better than guides to Israel. And yes, there is a detailed section on falafel, which Japanese tourists can be seen enjoying and reviewing across Israel.

In fact, the popularity of this guide points to a wider phenomenon that travel to Israel from across East Asia is on the rise. Some 135,000 visitors from East Asia arrived in Israel during 2008, an increase of 20% on 2007 when 112,000 tourists from the region visited.

Israel is keen to encourage the trend. The Tourism Ministry recently opened an office in Beijing.


Back on the subject of eateries, can McDonald’s manage what Starbucks could not — namely to convince Israelis that they want neither Arabic-style “mud” coffee nor European-style espresso-based coffees, but rather American-style drip coffee? Starbucks tried the Israeli market but left. McDonald’s has just announced that it will open its McCafé chain — currently only at Ben Gurion airport — at several locations in Israel.


A Mrs Robinsonesqe trial ended in Israel yesterday. An English teacher from Rehovot was convicted of having a three-month affair with her 17-year-old student.

The teacher in question was found by the court to have regularly driven the student home at the end of the school day and had sex with him in her car, a rented room, or the home of a female friend of the student’s.

The friend took pictures of the two kissing, and rumors spread of the affair. The teacher and her husband were accused of making threats against the friend.

The case was not heard in full as the teacher agreed to a plea bargain, according to which she will plead guilty to having an illicit affair with a minor over 14 and abusing her position as an educator, pay financial compensation to her former lover and his friend, and undertake six months of community service.


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