On the list of must-see sites that every tourist has for Israel, the city of Ramle usually doesn’t appear. But that doesn’t mean you should skip this central Israeli town, at least if you're looking for a snapshot – and a literal taste – of the diversity Israel has on offer.
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Ramle, which is easily accessible by train or bus from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, isn’t exactly a looker. The city, whose residents are primarily Jewish but which also has a sizable Arab minority, is mostly working-class and for years was plagued by neglect. But in the past decade or so, the Israeli government has committed itself to sprucing up this hard-knock town – now there are new parks and shopping malls for the residents to enjoy, as well as a municipal museum.
But as a tourist, you’re not going to travel to Ramle for the shopping. If you’re an adventure-seeker in search of cultural cuisine, you should head to Ramle because the city is home to one of Israel’s largest concentrations of Indian Jews.
The large contingency of Indian Jews living in Ramle are mostly Cochini Jews, part of India’s oldest Jewish community, who arrived in Israel in the 1950s via the Indian state of Kerala.
Many of them set up shop in Ramle and today you can get an authentic taste of their curries and vindaloos, for instance at Maharaja, an unassuming little Indian joint at 87 Herzl Street in the city center. Don’t let the sign advertising “Indian sweets” confuse you; this place does double-duty as an Indian pastry shop (all hail the mighty ghee) and a sit-down restaurant, where you can fill up with spicy Indian fare for about NIS 30.