One of my clearest childhood memories may sound amusing today, but its all true. In the 1970s, I lived in the Yekke (German-Jewish) Moshav Sde Warburg in the Sharon, in central Israel. Yusuf, the wagon driver from the neighboring village of Tira, would drive through the moshav once a week with his wares, ringing his bell. He sold fruits, vegetables and various herbs produced in the village. Housewives would go to his wagon, choose what they wanted and run home to do the cooking. Since then, Tira has turned into a city, and with its modernization and change in status, lifestyles changed too, and the wagon driver disappeared.
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As far as I'm concerned, all my life I've lived next to the Arab village that became a city. But when my children began to go to school, I developed a kind of emotional connection that was translated into a desire to research the place, which interested me somewhat more than nearby Kfar Sava. That's how it happened that for a villager like me, the closest town, with all its urban and culinary services, is Tira. I have an interest and a desire to see it flourish, and in that spirit, I'll recommend some of the best and most accessible places to satisfy the palate.
Tira is active all week long, but if you're interested in fresh, outstanding merchandise, the best days are Thursday and Friday. On Shabbat Tira is very crowded, and features a market with no real connection to the place.
Where to shop
Meat and poultry. Tira is full of butcher shops, some of them good and some less so. I recommend going to the cleanest and best known, one that has quite a number of customers, meaning a high turnover of merchandise. I've been going for years to Yusuf Iraqi's butcher shop, located at the southern entrance to the city, next to the vegetable store. Yusuf has 30 years experience, and despite his stern look, offers good professional service. The most highly recommended meats are the outstanding lamb and the poultry, which is much freer of feathers than in any supermarket.
Hummus. For many tourists, Tira is where you go for hummus, and one place thats worth a stop is Hummus Hajaj. The owner, Mahmoud Hajaj, worked for many years as a citrus grower in the Sharon. Then, 16 years ago, he opened a competing hummus shop next to the famous Hummus Lul, which serves an equally good product. Hummus in most places in Tira is relatively uniform, with a creamy texture and a delicate taste, but Hajaj offers a pleasant extra: a thin, hot pancake made with flour and onions. Sinful, simple and wonderful.
Fish and seafood. Despite the fact that it's relatively distant from the sea, Tira has fishmongers that are just as good as those in Acre and Jaffa, the best of which is Hadi's Fish from Jaffa. Hadi (whose original name is Walid) is a native of Jaffa who married a local girl. Due to the high cost of real estate in Jaffa, he moved to Tira, his wife's home town. Hadi has a small, immaculate fish store with excellent fresh merchandise.
During the week most of the fish comes from marine agriculture, but on the weekend (Thursday to Saturday), there is really nice merchandise from the sea. Another good reason to come here: A year and a half ago, Hadi opened a restaurant that serves fish prepared in the simplest way (there are also complex dishes, but I recommend skipping them). The fish are simply wonderful, the salads somewhat less so. You will find the place on Al Salam Street: Take a left at the first square after entering town, and drive 400 meters. The restaurant is on the left.
You can't spend time in Tira without some kind of baked goods. At the Abu Hassan Bakery near the big square (in the direction of Kokhav Yair, or ask any resident for directions) they have all the familiar Abulafia-style baked goods, but on weekends they sell fatayer, a pastry filled with spinach and goat cheese, a real Shabbat treat.
Finally, a good place for farm produce in Tira is the Zohara grocery, located in the center of the village. The fruits and vegetables are very fresh, and in the summer theres mulukhiyah (the leaves of corchorus olitorius), without the branches – a serious upgrade. There is also wild spinach, grape leaves and more. On weekends theres pita with zaatar (hyssop) which is tastier than any you've sampled, and kubbe filled generously with meat and pine nuts, seasoned to perfection, which creates a carnival of flavors and textures when dipped in tahini. The grocery is located on the main street between the post office and city hall.
And if youre already in Tira, here are a few more quick recommendations:
Shwarma Samara: Good, juicy shwarma with fresh salads that are replenished frequently. The falafel, on the other hand, should be skipped. At the big square behind city hall
Daas butcher shop: Another recommended place for purchasing meat in Tira is located at the eastern exit from the city. The butcher shop has a slaughterhouse with all the required permits and also offers kosher merchandise. Recommended for variety meats. Telephone 077-2730890
Nazareth Sweets: Without any real connection to Nazareth, but with excellent baklava that is rich in nuts, as well as knafeh (a traditional Middle Eastern cheese pastry) thats not at all bad (and has no food coloring). The place is air conditioned, with tables, and is a good place to enjoy an espresso with warm knafeh.
Kliyat Amjad (Amjad Roasting): Shortly before you get to Hadi's fish, on the right youll find a spice shop called Kliyat Amjad. The name itself makes it clear that this is a store with not only spices but also nuts and seeds, legumes and coffee that is ground on site. This is a huge store with a large selection. So whats worth buying? The spices, legumes and coffee are highly recommended. Western brand candy bars should be checked for sell-by dates.
Fureidis Fish: Owned by a family from the village at the entrance to the Carmel, from which the place takes its name. There is good merchandise, but its not clear just when the store is open.