Pie in the Sky: The High Cost of Eating in Israel

Why is food in Israel so expensive? How do locals cope? And what exactly is the Falafel index? These questions and more in this episode of the Tel Aviv Table podcast.

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Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Not a week goes by on the Tel Aviv Table without one persistent theme coming up: the cost of eating in Israel. Last week, it was the Falafel Index, which compares salaries to falafel costs across the Middle East. Israeli falafel is the most expensive there is. In January the Knesset released a study finding that food prices here are 25 percent higher than in the EU, especially for milk, cheese, and eggs. And in September, the OECD found that Israeli farm produce is 11 percent more expensive than the OECD average. The high cost of food is nothing new in Israel. In fact, in July 2011, Israelis staged a massive boycott of cottage cheese because the country’s three major dairy companies had all jacked up prices. But in the three years since, food prices have not receded. So on today’s show, we talk about food and money.

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Hunting for grocery deals in Berlin

You don’t have to look at reports to know Israeli food prices are high — just go to a supermarket in Berlin or Amsterdam. Journalist Uri Berkowitz started a blog called “Zol Sham,” Hebrew for “cheap there” to compare the cost of groceries in Israel and Germany. He explains what he found.

SONG: Axum: Yair, Al Timrach Otanu (Yair, don’t smear us)

Asher Schechter on why Israeli food costs are so high

Business and economics journalist Asher Shechter explains about the monopolies, lobbies, import duties and kashrut regulations that drive Israeli food prices through the roof. Asher is a reporter with financial paper The Marker, and he also hosts “The Cost of Doing Business” on TLV1.

SONG: Barenaked Ladies - If I Had a Million Dollars

Stretching Shekels for Dinner

The cost of food is irritating for all Israelis. But 20 percent of Israelis live on salaries low enough to qualify as poverty wages, and for them, food costs are a daily challenge. Louise Summers is a single mom with a disability and raising a child in Tel Aviv. She describes some methods for stretching her shekels in the kitchen.

SONG: The Beatles: The Taxman

Social Food, Sane Prices

Go to most Tel Aviv coffee shops and you’ll shell out as much as 15 shekels for a cappuccino — even if it costs the restaurant only 5 shekels. Assaf Ben Ezra is taking a jab at the high profits of traditional restaurants with Havruta, a coffee shop where customers decide how much profit to give above the cost of the food. I pay a visit to Assaf at Havruta on Dizengoff 125 in Tel Aviv to hear more.

SONG: Gidi Gov - Ein Li Kessef (I Got No Money)

Gil Hovav on eating great restaurant fare for cheap

Chef and culinary journalist Gil Hovav has made finding delicious and inexpensive meals his specialty. Last year he published a book on 50 restaurants under 50 shekels, a compilation of reports he did for Army Radio. He gives his top three recommendations for affordable sit-down eating in Israel.

SONG: Johnny Cash - No Charge

Pricez: The Waze of supermarket shopping

It makes sense that in Startup Nation, some tech experts would tackle the issue of prices. Boaz Yahav wanted to help Israelis get the cheapest goods possible at the supermarket, so he and his wife started a price comparison app called Pricez.

SONG: Pink Floyd: Money


New alcohol chain Beer Drop is offering cheap suds on Ibn Gvirol 17 in Tel Aviv. Unlike other low-priced bars Drink Point and Cofix Bar, Beer drop will have five beers on tap, including Israeli Macabi and import Paulaner. Beer Drop is planned as a national chain, with more branches slated to open first in Tel Aviv and then around Israel.

A new restaurant in Tel Aviv is designed to be an Italian neighborhood bar: Cicchetti on Yehuda Halevi 58 serves cocktails like a Thyme Negroni along with abundant cheese and sausage plates, and colorful salads and seafoods. No gondolas, but the cheese certainly tastes like it could be in a Venice restaurant.

And, a few upcoming festivals: This weekend is the [Hebrew] Sorek wine festival in Kibbutz Nachshon, which includes tastings of wine, cheese and olive oil. Two weeks after that is the May 29 celebration of agriculture in the northern Negev desert, including local cheese, potatoes, fruits and vegetables and olive oil. More info in Hebrew at Habsor.com. And finally, there is also an asparagus festival coming up in just three weeks on Moshav Hayogev in northern Israel. Between June 4-6 you can go up there and grab a fixed price menu with seasonal stars like asparagus salad, buckwheat crepes with fresh asparagus, and pillowy polenta with asparagus.

For more info, visit the Tel Aviv Table facebook page.
Editor: Amy Racs
Producer: Liya Spiegel
Music Editor: Tomer Gershenman
Technician: Tammy Goldenberg


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