The French Connection

December 30, 2008 at 17:49 Leave a comment

Over the last years, those of us who are fortunate enough to dwell on the western side of the Ayalon Highway have noticed the steady influx of French elements in Tel Aviv. This rise in immigration of French Jews is probably one of the least expected results of the Second Intifada, and even though we should be very happy about kibbutz galuyiot and all that, there are a few aspects of this trend that can be somewhat irksome.

First of all, the cost of living in Tel Aviv has sky-rocketed. In Jerusalem, they’ve known this phenomenon for quite some time already. But the American immigrants who can pay for their apartments in the Holy City with dollars, are not particularly interested in moving down from the mountains. The French, on the other hand, are more mundane and want the good life, and consequently they choose to live along the coast, in Netanya, Herzliya or Tel Aviv. Being used to the real estate prices in Paris, Marseille or Lyon, they don’t bat an eye lash when asked to pay sums that Israelis can only dream about for a place to stay.

It’s not hard to imagine that those very same Israelis who are forced to move into small, dingy ground level studio apartments, or down south of Allenby, or even — heaven forfend — Givatayim, are less enthusiastic about the ingathering of the Francophone exiles. And it doesn’t get much better when they try to escape their small but affordable apartments and seek refuge on the beach, since the beaches all the way from the marina to Yaffo are filled with French-speaking, or rather French-shouting hordes.

But I must say, that the French invasion has brought with it at least one positive thing for the White City: a wide range of high quality kosher cafés. For too long Tel Avivians who kept kosher were reduced to frequent Roladin, Yehudit’s and even Alter Nativ — an establishment where no self-respecting secular inhabitant would be seen dead. But in these days, there are many high quality cafés for all shomrey kashrut in the city.

Here’s a list of my favorite ones, in no particular order:

1) Ginzburg, Ahad Haam. A classic.

2) Mazzarine. It’s actually a chain. The branch on Gordon is very good, but a breakfast at the veranda at the branch on Montefiore on a Friday morning in spring is a highly recommended experience.

3) Shirale, Yedidia Frenkel. Smaller, cozier. A little off the beaten path — i.e. not exactly convenient walking distance from Rothschild, but still ok.

Taking this this boom of kosher cafés into account, one can’t deny the French immigration is ultimately a good thing. And come to think about it: what culinary heritage has the Swedish immigration brought the Holy Land? Wasa bread? Gingerbread cookies? Lutfisk? The restaurant at IKEA?

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Entry filed under: Life.

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