Tourist Tip #326 / Bringing a Gift to the Rosh Hashanah Meal

It's not unlikely that, while in Israel, you'll be invited to a holiday meal, maybe by people you barely know. Buying an appropriate present may be a delicate task.

During the Jewish holidays it may seem like half of Israel is on the move – en route to the other half. Leaving aside the ones who flee their loved ones for foreign shores, Israelis are driving or otherwise on the way to their parents and grandparents, to friends and to friends of friends. And it is very much the Israeli custom when coming for a holiday meal, let alone a holiday weekend, to bring a gift for the household.

What to bring is something else entirely. Let us leave aside extreme scenarios of, say, you and your 20 relatives descending on people you've never met before, which would probably beg a gift of commensurate dimensions.

If you don't know your hosts well, it's a kindness to bring something ordinary – in the terms of the Rosh Hashanah holiday - but useful, for instance a nice basket of honey, nuts and sundry goodies. Every grocery and kiosk in Israel will be offering prettily packaged gift baskets and, cliche though they might be, it's for good reason – they're a nice present. Prices can range from about NIS 80 for simple baskets to hundreds of shekels. Some stores will offer alternative baskets, for instance with a ceramic teapot, teacups and tea infusions, or wine and dried fruits, or hand towels, you name it.

If you cavil at their choices of content, many though not all stores will happily put together a basket of things that you choose – it's worth asking.

These baskets are convenient in that in that variety of yummy things, there will likely be something your hosts like.

If you want to get kicky, then all bets are off. Your aunt may appreciate the thought behind the pickled frog's legs and electric chopsticks, or she may not. Pomegranate wine may make aficionados of the grape blanch. But what's sure is that a stroll down any Israeli shopping street or mall ahead of the holidays will give you endless ideas. And if you find yourself at wit's end, unable to choose and unwilling to bring an "ordinary" basket, you can always offer to do the dishes.

AP