By Jeanne O'Brien Coffey - May 28, 2015

Originally appeared here on 

Food is an exceptional way to connect with a new culture. In Israel, freshly ground spices and nuts perfume the open air markets and form the basis of a cuisine rich with fresh vegetables, locally made cheeses and ancient grains. Here are four worthwhile stops for foodies and anyone who wants to explore Israeli culture through its food.

Chai Goat Farm, Mevo Modi’in
Judy Avraham Chai abandoned life in London and a public relations job to start an organic goat farm with her husband, and is now making cheese so popular she couldn’t age it if she wanted to. A sort of mad scientist of cheese, she makes traditional Middle Eastern cheeses like labneh, a thick savory goat’s milk yogurt, but also makes cheddar, manchego, and Roquefort.

Tours and tastings are by appointment only, and Chai also offers cheese-making classes, and opportunities to milk or herd the goats, who graze in the nearby Ben Shemen Forest.
Tel +0544283646,

Machane Yehuda Marketplace, Jerusalem
Exotic scents overwhelm at this busy but friendly market. Stands are piled high with green and black olives, spice mixes, teas, baked goods, Israeli olive oil, halvah, and cheese, among countless other goodies. Vendors, many of whom have worked in the stalls for generations, are happy to share tastes and cooking tips. Read More