Top 10 Souvenirs to Buy in Israel
Whether you wish to get something for yourself or if you are obliged to bring some gifts back home, a few souvenirs are a great way to keep the memory of your tour experience to Israel alive. It can be something to wear, display, eat or drink – Israel has plenty of authentic locally made products to consider buying and taking back home. But would be the best? Here is a roundup of our top 10 best types of souvenirs to get in Israel.
With Annual export of $7 billion worth of diamonds, Israel is one of the biggest world centers for Diamonds trade. A tour of the Israeli Diamonds exchange center, just outside of Tel-aviv, is both a great educational experience as well as a great opportunity to get some diamonds at wholesale prices, or high-end jewelry. Israel’s national gemstone is Eilat Stone, quarried just north of Eilat. It is a semi-precious stone bearing cobalt blue, green and turquoise colors. Jewery bearing Eilat stone can be found in many jewelry stores in Israel. Here are also a few leading Jewelry brands –
YVEL – A high-end international Jewelry brand whose headquarters and remarable visitors center is just outside Jerusalem. Yvel is especially known for designs based on asymmetrical pearls and a Jewelry school for Ethiopian immigrants (Megmeria).
Moriah Collection – Another Jewelry store in the Jewish Quarter, Moriah Collection offers an exclusive collection of high end Jewelry, each combining gold and diamonds with stone from the Temple Mount.
George Kouz Store– Set along the main street of the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, Christian-Arab owned George Kouz Shop offers a variety of Gold and Silver Jewelry with Christian themes, some of which is combined with Eilat Stone and Roman glass. It is also worth noting that the staff is very helpful, polite, and not pushy and rude, which is an exception in the area.
Ben Zion David – A Yemenite Jewish artisan whose workshop is in the heart of Jaffa, creating traditional intricate filigree Yemenite style jewelry. Ben Zion also has a charming visitors center to introduce the history of the Yemenite Jews.
Adina Plastelina – Founded in 2003 in Jaffa, the Jewelry collection of Adina Plastelina is unique for combining polymer clay crafted in an Italian “millefiorie” technique. The result is a special vibrant and romantic look, and yet at surprisingly well affordable prices.
Michal Negrin – Unique vintage inspired and romantic style colorful jewelry and accessories named after its chief designer.
From classic paintings and sculptures, to photography and multimedia works, Israeli art stands out as bold, vibrant and creative. A purchase from an emerging Israeli artist can prove to be not only a special experience, but also a good investment.
David Gerstein – Perhaps the best selling living Israeli Artist, David Gerstein‘s works are a very colorful and range from canvas paints to sculptures, and hybrids of both. His big workshop near Beth-Shemesh is open for visits by appointments.
Ilana Goor – An autodidactic and multifaceted artist, Ilana Goor specializes in molded bronze sculptures, metal furniture, leather goods and Jewelry. Her home in Jaffa is a marvel of art she collected around the world, displayed along with her own work.
Ein Hod Artists Village – An artsy village south of Haifa with a special relaxed vibe. Ideal to for a stroll among quient alleys visiting homes of artisans and appreciating their art, and possibly participate in workshops. The center of the village has a main art galleris and a few nice cafes.
Judaica is the term for all items needed in Jewish ceremonies. It is no surprise that the Jewish state of Israel is a natural choice to get a nice new Passover tray, Kiddush cup, Hannukiah, or a Mezuzah. The highest concentration of Judaica shops is in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, while for Jewish art, the best is to stroll along the main alley in the old city of Safed. These are our most recommended shops and brands –
Weaving Creation – A workshop in the Jewish quarter offering handmade and custom designed prayer shawls woven on a manual loom.
Mira – A veteran shop in the Cardo of the Old City of Jerusalem selling Judaica and ancient Jewish coins, as well as Ayala Bar, Michal Negrin, and metalace designs.
Hazorfim – A veteran and popular Judaica brand of high-end silver designs with a big factory store near the air-port.
Yossi Matityahu – A talented artisan of high-end modern style Judaica, with winning award designs.
Metalace – A unique art technique of imitating traditional embroidery designs on thin stainless steel sheets. The results are various delicate yet durable Judaica objects – Mezuzah, candle holders, challa boards and knives, kiddush cups and more.
Safed Candles – A workshop operating in old city of Safed producing mostly Shabbath and Hannukah candle set with a distinct and colorful style.
Dead Sea products
Besides its high concentration of salt, the Dead Sea is also famous for its rich minerals and nutrients and their therapeutic value. The leading brand for skincare products based on the minerals and mud of the Dead Sea is AHAVA (Hebrew for “love”). Their wide range of products are sold in many shops in Israel and abroad, but best is to schedule your shopping of these products when you travel to the Dead Sea, and have time reserved to visit their factory store near Ein-Gedi and Masada.
Olive Wood Carvings
Olive tree is native to the Holy Land and has been cultivated for thousands of years, and it is no surprise to find multiple references in the Bible to Olive trees and Olive oil. Pruning the trees is an essential process in its cultivation, and so branches of Olive trees became a source of handmade carvings. Most of the workshop are in and around Bethlehem. With skillful hands, the local artisans turn these branches into delicate works of art, mostly of Christian themes. The final products can be seen in many souvenir shops in Bethlehem and in the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem. The best collections are in George Kouz Shop and Zack’s Jerusalem Gifts stors in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem.
In 1919 the British authorities invited several Armenian ceramic craftsman to participate in a project repairing the tiles of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and some of stayed in Jerusalem ever since. These family owned workshops produce distinctive ceramics in colorful designs. Tiles, bowls, jars and Hamsa are the most common shapes, with red, green and especially blue as dominant colors. Due to their popularity many souvenir shops in the old city sell fragile copies of this style of pottery. If you want to buy a genuine piece, best to buy it from the artisan directly. These are our most recommended ones:
Karakashian – On of the most veteran Armenian Ceramics Workshop, not located next to the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate.
Sandrouni – A family owned Ceramic workshop operating in the Armenian quarter. The owner is a charming fellow who is also happy to show you the workshop.
Balian – An Armenian ceramic workshop operating north of Damascus gate and is known for its big display room.
Eli Kouz – A Ceramic workshop of an Christian Assyriac family operating in the Christian Quarter, behind the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In most countries around the Mediterranean antiquity trade is forbidden, and you could be jailed for attempting to buy an ancient artifact, yet Israel has a surprising tolerating policy towards Antiquities trade. Being so, you can buy from an authorized dealer a genuine oil lamp from the time of King David, a bronze coin mentioned in the New Testament, or the Silver coin used for paying the Temple Tax in the time of Jesus.
Most of the antiquities shops are concentrated along the Via Dolorosa and in the old city of Jerusalem, but even if the dealer will present a certificate that he is a licensed dealer you should still be aware of fakes, or hidden repairs!!. We do not recommend to make big purchases without consultation, and being an archaeologist, Danny “the Digger” Herman, will be happy to consult you on any specific item you might be considering. Zack’s Antiquities shop in the Christian quarter of the old city is our recommended place to scout for any interesting ancient artifacts.
Food from Israel
Whether you were dining or having some great street food during your tour of Israel, buying an Israeli cookbook or some food samples to take back home is a great way extend the memory of your gastronomical experiences.
Wine – Wine was reintroduced in the Holy land in the 19th century , but only in the last 20 years or so the Israeli viticulture is blooming. Being so, a bottle of good Israeli wine can be a great souvenir or gift for a wine connoisseur, especially if purchased when visiting the winery itself, and tasting the wine yourself.
Olive Oil – Israel’s Olive oil comes from several regions of the country, and is known for its high quality. We especially recommend the Eretz Geshur Olive oil, from the Golan Heights, which has won awards in several international competitions.
Tahini and Halva – Unfortunately packaged hummus will never taste like the freshly served dish, but packaged Tahini can be a great alternative, or its solidified sweet version – Halva. Kingdom of Halva in the Mahane Yehudah Market in Jerusalem is a great place to get both.
Spices – Israel is also known for its own unique favorable herbs and spices which are included in almost every dish. Zaatar is a mix of hyssop and salt popular over bread; Sumac is a purple colored powder often used to spice meat dishes and salads; Hawaij is a Yemenite spice mixture used mostly in Yemenite soup; Baharat is a popular mix of spices used for meat cooking and as well as soup. These spices can be found in any supermarket, as well as the open markets.
Israeli Dates – Israeli Dates are popular worldwide, and especially the large and succulent Medjool, which is exported to over 30 countries. Dates are a healthy delicacy and dried dates will last for quite a while, and so can be a great authentic and Biblically flavored souvenir from Israel. Alternatively, you could also buy Date syrup, called Silan. With a texture like bee honey, Silan can be a great topping over a muesli or ice cream back home.
Black Coffee – With all respect to Starbucks and homemade brewed coffee, Israelis much prefer strong ground coffee served boiling hot in a small glass cup. Some foreigners find it too strong, but if you developed a taste for it, you will never be replace it!. The most popular is the Elite Turkish Coffee blend, packaged in small red bags.
Israeli Snacks – At any supermarket in Israel you can buy some local snacks. Here are our 3 favorite:
Bamba – a puffy and light peanut butter flavored snack, sometimes filled with Halva or Chocolate.
Bisli – savory and crunchy snack made in different shapes and flavors.
Krembo – a Chocolate coated marshmallow creme-like foam on a biscuit. It is a delicate delicacy that might be harder to pack, but when there is a will there is a way!
Almost hidden behind the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Elia Photo was founded in 1924 by Elia Kahvedjian, a gifted photographer of the Armenian community of Jerusalem. To this day his grandson Eli sells high-quality prints of his Grandfather’s works. Elia’s photos are mostly captured daily moments in Black and white of Jerusalem and the Holy Land before modern times.
A non-profit organization that supports nearly 300 elderly Jerusalem residents on daily basis, “Yad Lakashish” (Hebrew: “Lifline for the old”), also operates a workshop in which the elders create unusual products and souvenirs. Buying at “Yad Lakashish” you also support financing this blessed organization.
Best places for Souvenir shopping in Israel
- Mahane Yehudah Market, the Carmel Market and the market of the Old City (Suq) are great places for buying some food and spices.
- The Christian Quarter in the old city is the best place for buying antiquities, Armenian Pottery, B/W photos, Oriental textiles and fabrics, leather goods, Olive Wood Carvings, and Christian themed jewelry.
- The Cardo in the Jewish Quarter and Ben Yehudah Street in Jerusalem, as well as Safed are the best places for buying Judaica.
- The Flea market, the Nahalat Benjamin Crafts market, “Hatachana” complex and the gift shop at the Israel Museum are the best place for some crafts.
- Mamilla Pedestrian mall, King David Street in Jerusalem, and Jaffa are the best place for buying fashion wear, art and Jewelry.
- And one last advice – you are buying in markets, make sure it doesn’t say anywhere “Made in China”, and don’t be shy to bargain a bit, especially if you holding cash.
If you wish to inquire of any specific shopping, don’t be shy and let us know!