Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

It appears to me that Israel is the sesame capital of the world.

In America, we’ve got the classic sesame seed bun…but that’s about it. Israel’s got sesame on their challahs, in their desserts, on their street food. It’s everywhere.

Which brings me to the topic of tahini. I dare you to try pronouncing this world in Hebrew because it’s virtually impossible. A (poor) transliteration would be something like tchina. Imagine pronouncing the t and guttural ch one after the other (#linguistics).

Better yet, try it out loud. Make your friends try it. Laugh when you all fail.

I don’t know why this place was ever called the land of milk and honey, because it definitely should have been called the land of milk and tahini.

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Tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds and olive oil. While some people claim it has the consistency of peanut butter, I like to think it’s more comparable to cookie butter or Nutella (probably because I’m thinking about dessert 100% of the time).

It’s creamy, oily, bitter, nutty, and smooth, so many people use tahini like a nut butter.

However, in Israel you’ll find it:

  • as a salad dressing
  • on top of falafel/sabich/shwarma/eggplant/everything
  • as a dip for pita and veggies
  • in baba ganoush
  • as one of the main ingredients of hummus (read: choomoos)
  • in tahini cookies
  • in halva

Halva. It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever tasted. Though it’s a dessert typically made from tahini and sugar, it’s not exactly sweet but it’s not entirely savory. Halva has the nutty taste of sesame but often has other mix-ins.

It’s kind of like the Israeli version of fudge. There’s classic halva, vanilla halva, halva with cocoa, halva with nuts, etc. It’s created in large bricks and cut into slices like fudge.

The consistency of halva is what I think makes it most bizarre. It’s dense but crumbly. There’s a strange grittiness to it but it’s also soft and malleable.

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So it’s pretty contradicting.

Speaking of contradicting, I think this is a great moment to speak about the stigmatized view of Israel. It’s important to remember that media is biased. You only ever hear the bad things and the good goes unmentioned.

Israel in the media is the Conflict, with a capital C. But Israel in real life is so much more than that. There are other issues, like housing and poverty, that deserve to be talked about.

But there’s also daily life. I’m sure most of my friends were pretty apprehensive when I told them I was going to be in Israel for two months. It’s a long time to be spending in a place that appears unsafe, where a missile could attack any second.

While I guess a missile could attack Tel Aviv at any second, I feel safe here. Israel on a daily basis is totally the opposite of Israel in the media. As a Social Media Fellow for my Pittsburgh cohort, and as a person who’s traveled to Israel multiple times in general, I feel like it’s my duty to share the truth with you. It’s my responsibility to share with you all the wonderful experiences that I’ve had so that I can prove that Israel isn’t a horrible, dangerous place.

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