The Anatomy of an Israeli Breakfast

The first time I was in Israel for my brother and cousin’s bar mitzvah (shout out to Seth), I was astounded by the breakfasts. Salads? Fish? Vegetables?

Where was all the sweet stuff?

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When going to a new country, it’s obvious that you have to expect cultural differences. And in Israel, breakfast is one of those. I was so shocked by the breakfast options that I actually wrote my college essay about it—diversity, through the lens of an Israeli breakfast.

This summer I’ve learned all about the origins of the beloved Israeli breakfast. It’s a distinctive, beloved meal that unites Israelis and tourists alike.

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The Israeli breakfast finds its origins in kibbutz life. Workers on the kibbutz would need to eat something hearty before going to work in the hot fields all day, so they would often eat whatever produce was readily available. This brunch-like meal eventually became what we now know today as the traditional Israeli breakfast, and hotels started to pick up on this array of food and therefore perpetuated the Israeli breakfast as a buffet.

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While it’s true that there are varieties to this meal, each typical Israeli breakfast has the same core elements. Keep in mind that you won’t typically find meats in an Israeli breakfast because they’re often kosher and dairy-based.

Let me break it down for you:

  • eggs (often served as a type of omelet with herbs, shakshouka, or cooked to order)
  • vegetable salads (the classic tomato and cucumber Israeli salad, cabbage, carrots, onions)
  • olives
  • tahini (because here it goes on EVERYTHING)
  • smoked fish
  • hard and soft cheeses (ask any Israeli and they’ll just tell you it’s salty white cheese)
  • an assortment of breads
  • yogurt (or labneh, a yogurt-like dip)
  • hummus (duh)
  • bourekas (Turkish savory pastries filled with cheese, eggplant, spinach, etc.)
  • coffee, tea, and juice (because obviously you need one of each)

As an afterthought, there might be a plate of rugelach and sweet pastries for “dessert”—that is, if you still have room.

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I like sweet things in the morning—fruit, cereal, pancakes, etc.—but going to a new country is all about trying new things. It’s about going outside of your comfort zone and making the most of it.

Each time I’ve traveled to Israel it’s been entirely different. The first time I was surrounded by the comfort of my family and friends on a tour bus for two weeks. The second time, I joined a group without knowing anyone and ended up meeting some pretty cool people while touring around in a sleep-deprived state for ten consecutive days. This trip was a huge step out of my comfort zone in that I was here for two whole months, attempting to live and work like a true Israeli.

Two of my favorite quotes are “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” Yes, this trip was outside of my comfort zone, and yes, I was a little scared to see how I would fit into Israeli daily life. But at the end of the day, this has been the trip of a lifetime and it’s something I’ll never forget.

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Instead of counting down the months or the weeks, we’re now counting down the days until we leave. Soon enough we’ll be counting down the meals until we board our flights back to the US.

It’s bittersweet, because I’d love to stay in this beautiful country and go to the beach on a weekly basis while writing about food for a living, but I’m also looking forward to camping in Hocking Hills, playing with my dog, celebrating my 21st birthday, and heading back to Pittsburgh for the start of my last year of college.

I’ll miss being a Delicious Intern, I’ll miss living in the best location in the entire city, and I’ll miss the weather being 85 and sunny every single day, but I’m excited for what this year has to bring as long as I remember to step out of my comfort zone.

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**All 3 photos of Israeli breakfast in this post were generously provided by Anabelle Kaplan, one of my fellow Delicious Israel interns who has an obsession with finding the best Israeli breakfast in the city.**

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