Traveling can be one of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of living gluten-free. Small wonder, given how hard it can be to communicate your needs to the staff at your local restaurants.
However, it doesn’t have to be stressful, and a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. It’s also true that different places are more or less likely to be celiac friendly.
One place you may want to check out? Israel.
According to the Jerusalem Post, one out of every 75 Israelis has celiac disease – so your odds of meeting waitstaff who understand your needs is fairly high. What’s more, Israel has adopted a 20ppm cutoff for the labeling of gluten-free food within the past year, so supermarkets are fairly celiac-friendly. The icing on the (gluten-free) cake is that you’ll easily find English speakers in most of the country, so you can bring your English gluten-free dining cards or even some of your disposable dining cards and be just fine.
I took a trip to Israel in the summer of 2010, and ate happily while I was there. To be fair, I was on a tour for most of the time and so I had some help navigating — but the region’s cuisine lends itself to even a solo gluten-free traveler.
To begin with, a typical Israeli hotel breakfast will have plenty of fresh vegetables, eggs, cheeses, hummus and other vegetarian spreads like baba ghanouj and tahini, fish, etc. Sure, there’ll be pita bread, but it won’t be hard to avoid.
During the day, you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid shwarma (shaved meat) or falafel. Beware that either is automatically safe – but most are. And, most cafés will be just as able to serve you a platter as a sandwich, and you’ll likely have a buffet of salads and sides to choose from to boot.
For a more in-depth look into eating in Israel, have a look at:
- Celiac Association of Israel
- Israel Inside Out, which has subsequent links to restaurant and grocery lists
- Kosher Critic has some tips, even if you don’t keep kosher
- The newspaper Haaretz recently covered a handful of gluten-free restaurants across the country
- To familiarize yourself with local gluten-free brands, visit GlutenFree.co.il
Have you been to Israel while gluten-free? What was your favorite meal?