Kerem Hatemanim, Tel Aviv
Kerem Hatemenim - “Vineyard of the Yeminites” - covers the area behind the Carmel Market and part of Allenby Street and is approximately 15 minute walk from SEA Executive Suites. It's a neighborhood deeply loved by the vast majority of Tel Aviv residents and if you ask a “Tel Avivi” about the “Kerem” they will invariably smile and reveal several fond memories of the area.
To the non-familiar visitor, Kerem Hatemenim may feel like a poor man’s version of Neve Tzedek, if you understand the average Israeli’s love for this collection of alleys and back streets, you can accurately say you appreciate what it means to be indigenous to Tel Aviv.
Kerem Hatemenim is a truly timeless place, infused with an authentic flavor of generations gone by. Settled at the end of the 19th century by Yemenite Jews, the neighborhood predates Tel Aviv. It hosts a significant Yemenite and traditional Sephardi community until today. Local architecture is varied and there are buildings from the British colonial era, through to the Bauhaus period.
Zohar Argov, possibly the most famous of Israeli singers named his album “In Kerem Hatemenim” as a tribute to the area and its influence on the Yeminite Jewish community in Israel. There are references in his songs to the homely feel of the area and how Yeminite culture fills the air within the Kerem. Although his songs were written in the 1980’s, the words ring true today and a stroll around the neighborhood will have you longing for some Yeminite cuisine and local chatter.
The main reason why the Kerem is being overlooked as the next huge redevelopment project is qyuite simply because the locals like it that way.
People who love the Kerem are not just looking for cheap meals; they are searching for the comforts of the past. It is the unique and comforting anomaly in a city that brims with trend-setters, fads and start-ups. In Tel Aviv where change is routine and expecting the unexpected becomes second nature, the Kerem is a chance for locals to reflect back to their childhoods, their grandmother’s kitchen, crumbling doorways and the quietness of a Sabbath without any cars on the street.
There are plenty of places to pick up a very cheap meal of Yemenite Soup (the Mizrachi answer to chicken soup) and cheaply priced humus with spicy condiments such as hilbeh and schug. I recommend looking out for “Erez” on Nachlieli St to test out the Mujadra (rice with lentils) and their sizzling chicken skewers. This is an incredibly cheap but amazingly filling place to eat. I have personally eaten here with three foodie friends for under 150 shekels – well worth the trip and absolutely worth the money.
Another recommendation I have is “Hamitbachon” on Rabbi Akiva St for the best tehina and stuffed vegetables with both meat and vegetarian options. Although more expensive than Erez, the cuisine is superb, easy on the stomach and the place has a great community vibe.
The restaurants are somewhat downtrodden and the décor is old and peeling but the homely ethnic feel outweighs this and taking a half step out of the comfort zone of the clean and pristine Sea Executive Suites to experience some local flavor is priceless.
Main image by via Wikimedia Commons