Friday, May 7, 2010

No Jewish Delis in the Holy Land?

Have you eaten so many corned beef sandwiches that you deserve to be an honorary Jew? You may have to wait indefinitely for that title because delis and the Holy Land are like ham & cheese - a fine combination to outsiders.

It turns out that the Jewish deli is such a distinctly American creation that it's rare to find one in Israel, because they're not very popular. Even in travel guides, these delis are listed under "American Food."

According to the Jewish site Forward.com,  Eastern European Jews invented delis only after they arrived in the New World. According to Forward.com:

David Sax, author of “Save the Deli,” which describes the increasingly endangered Jewish delicatessen, says there are a number of reasons that the deli never made it to the Holy Land.

“The climate made it very difficult for people to grow the produce, especially raise cattle for such a meat-based food,” Sax said in a telephone interview from New York. “Also, the food itself doesn’t suit the climate as much. Then there was the clear philosophical break Israel’s founding fathers made with the Diaspora, and [the indigenous] falafel became the official food of Israel.”


While a new deli called Ruben has just opened in Tel Aviv and is planning a second branch soon, previous delis have not done so well. Many food mavens have given up hope on great American-Jewish delis in Israel. Here's a quick roundup of the most significant delis in Israel.
  • Ruben
  • Mendy's deli (Tel Aviv) is now closed
  • New York deli (Herzeliya) is now closed
  • New Deli (Jerusalem), which Chowhounds don't like and is focused on fast food
  • Hess German deli (Jerusalem), which foodies like but report that it's pricey and focused on sausages
  • Chofetz Chaim (Jerusalem), which foodies like
  • Chicago Chef Deli (Ra'anana) is actually not a deli
  • Kedma (Jerusalem), which promotes its "corned beef experience"

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