Lunch stops while leading tours to Israel are always. For most who not are not used to a typical Middles Eastern sandwich called a falafel, it can also be interesting. While for a very few it may take some time to get used to a falafel, the most it’s love at first sight.
Falafel is a traditional Arab food, although it is also a food staple for Israelis as well. It is suggested that the Coptic Christians in Egypt were the ones who created the falafel, using it as a replacement for meat during the Lenten Season. Falafel is made from chickpeas and is rolled in small balls which are deep fried. It is usually served in pita bread which serves the a pocket. This falafel sandwich is usually topped off with salads, pickled vegetables, and either tahini sauce or my favorite, humus! The combination of the falafel balls and other items that you can add to your sandwich are endless. Some restaurants even stuff french fries into the pita. Talk about a western way of easting falafel! Today, falafel has become one of the most common street foods, or as we would say, fast foods all throughout Israel.
Some of my favorite places to eat falafel are restaurants owned by the Druze community. The Druze are Arab-speaking Israeli citizens who primarily live in the Golan, the region north of the Sea of Galilee. While the majority of Druze live in the southwest corner of Syria as well across the border in Lebanon, there are about 125,000 Druze in Israel. Some even join the IDF (Israel Defense Force), although they are not required like Israeli Jews are once they complete high school. The Druze boast of a monotheistic religion of their own, going back as far as the 11th century AD.
In the Carmel Range region of Israel, there is a particular family who live there who specialize in making falafel. Over the years of traveling there, I’ve watched the small children now grow into young men (pictured above) who help run this thriving family business. They are the kindest of people who make a wonderful falafel. Makes me wonder if Elijah, after defeating the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18), had a falafel from this Druze family? I doubt it. 🙂
In the Golan Heights at the base of Mt. Hermon on the Lebanon border is another falafel business. Here, you can eat a falafel while enjoying the view of the peak of the mountain. Incidentally, it is here where you also can get flat bread. When it’s rolled up with a chocolate filling, it is hard to beat! Makes for a great dessert!
I’m so glad there is a Lebanese man who has a Middle Eastern restaurant right here in what is called the Strip District (the ethnic part) of Pittsburgh. Once in a while when I get hungry for a falafel, I make my way downtown, especially if I’m making a hospital visit nearby. I think Ali’s mother makes the falafel in the back kitchen. I’m sure it’s a similar family recipe. It’s very good as well!
I’m also so glad that, God willing, my Israel ministry will expand to where I’m traveling 6-10 times to Israel each year. That means at least 5-6 falafels each trip, let’s see, times 6 or 8 … wow, that’s sounds like a great steady diet of falafel to me! Sweet!