Need an excuse to visit Tel Aviv? Try this. It’s not only a lively and vibrant city, but it’s also a Jewish city. While Jerusalem may have a longer Jewish history, it doesn’t offer nearly as much diversity in party options as Tel Aviv does. In this busy city, you can enjoy some of the best dining and dancing in the world while keeping things kosher. How strictly kosher you’d like your night on the town to be is entirely up to you; there are numerous options that cater to any Jewish preference.
As far as dining goes, if one is content simply not being served pork, choosing a place to eat is simple. Pork is not easy to come by in Israel (though it is possible) and one can be sure that in most places, unless stated clearly, a burger or sausage is swine free. If a more stringent level of kosher food is required, such as a place that is closed on the Sabbath, is owned by observant Jews and in which the food is prepared by Jews, one must find a Rabbinate-certified establishment. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is the body that guarantees that businesses claiming to be kosher are, in fact, kosher. If an establishment is certified as kosher, whether dairy (no meat is served) or meat (no dairy is served), the restaurant will receive a certificate to display prominently to customers. Some places might even have a Glatt kosher certificate, provided by the ultra-orthodox Badatz (Haredi).
Some eateries that are kosher don’t brandish the Rabbinate-issued diploma, be it for financial or political reasons. When in doubt, the best thing to do is simply to ask. While many places in Tel Aviv are not certifiably kosher, most sell food that is not strictly unkosher. It’s easy to find kosher restaurants in every price range, serving any kind of cuisine you can imagine. A few interesting and certifiably kosher places to check out are Regina (offering a nice bar and a rich menu) at the new Tachana commercial area in Neve Tzedek, and most of the waterfront restaurants and bars at the Tel Aviv port.
Keeping in check with Jewish dietary laws becomes slightly easier when you’re not going out to eat but rather to drink. Fortunately, one would be hard-pressed to find any non-kosher liquors and beverages in Israel, as the vast majority are kosher. On Passover, however, beer and whisky will have to be skipped because they’re made with yeast.
Some popular hangouts such as Salon Berlin, Café Adar and Michatronics are not officially kosher but are closed on the Sabbath, and could perhaps be considered kosher-friendly. A recent addition to the Tel Aviv bar scene is a pleasant little watering hole by the name of Rish La’kish on Nachalat Binyamin. Certified kosher and complete with decent culinary options as well as a hefty bar, this place is worth a visit if you are out on the town. For those who are musically inclined and want to keep kosher, there are at least two places in Tel Aviv – Makom Me’hasratim and Eve – that are certified kosher and have top-of-the-line karaoke machines. For a simple place to mingle and have a drink, the Bukowski is a popular option.
Though some clubs are known for their weekend line-ups, there are still many possibilities for partying during the week. Regular beach parties on Metzitzim beach take place on Wednesday nights and are free of charge (summers only). Or visit the Block club at the new central bus depot and join its Wednesday night psy-trance shebang. The famous Hoaman 17 has a long-running line of Thursday night parties that should satisfy anyone’s need for loud music and a crowd, and, if that’s not enough, there’s the underground and immensely popular Ha’chatul Ve’Hakelev (cat and dog) club. It’s never an easy task, but you stand a much better chance on weekdays than you do on the weekends.
For the most kosher of all party options, why not pay a visit to a synagogue or Chabad house? You’ll be surprised how many fun people you’ll meet after services. What’s more kosher than making some nice new Jewish friends? Afterwards, take a stroll down Rothschild Boulevard and you’re bound to find plenty of nice spots for a drink and nice people to have it with.
Another kosher possibility, and a cheap one too, is the beach. Spread out a blanket on the sand or take a seat in one of the many beach bars that offer food and beverages. Most of these places are open on Saturdays but offer kosher menus. On your way to the beach on a weekday, have a peek into the tiny Shesek Bar or the grand Lima Lima to see if their regular weekday parties meet your standards.
In such an international city like Tel Aviv, it’s easy to forget one is still in the Holy Land. Yet here the good times and the Jewish faith don’t stand in contradiction. Rather than give up on your beliefs or on having a good time, why not do both? In Tel Aviv you can.