Dangers and annoyances: the falafel eater

by Sarah on August 21, 2012


Falafel eaters are causing a ruckus.

Israelis across the country have an insatiable appetite for their favorite street food and will not hesitate to break the law to obtain it. Aside from spewing tomato and cucumber salad all over the sidewalk with every bite, falafel eaters are guilty of obstructing traffic and disruptive behavior. It is a very real, albeit covert annoyance, not taken seriously because “That’s how it is in life. There’s nothing you can do about it”, as Israelis are wont to say.

Unlike most modern countries, Israel suffers from three daily bouts of heavy traffic and not two. Standstills occur regularly at midday in every municipality big enough to have a falafel joint. The cause? Moshe has parked his car in the middle of the road to fetch himself and his ten coworkers a sandwich.

falafel stand

Government officials do nothing to alleviate this phenomenon and the rest of society isn’t too eager to press charges. Tomorrow they’ll be guilty of the same offence. Forget about complaining to a policeman. Chances are he’s on his lunch break and it’s his vehicle you’re stuck behind.

Drivers often roll down the windows to shout at the offenders but instead get the hated five finger wait signal by hungry patrons in no rush to move. Combined with the summer heat this can escalate to an enraged verbal attack. “Move your car! You @#$3%$#%$#!” is countered by “matarootze aniochel” or something else equally incoherent as it’s hard to speak with a mouthful of falafel.  This has happened so many times in my daily commute that I dream of blocking a falafel eater’s car and then looking at them in insolence when they want to leave. Sweet revenge.

Falafel from Dalyel El Carmel

Frustrated drivers should SMS messages to radio stations to inform them of the current road conditions.  Instead of the usual “traffic accident on road 1” the broadcaster would announce, “a buildup has formed outside of Shimi’s Falafel Joint in Or Yehuda, take alternative routes to your destination”. Of course this method would never work as local eateries would use it for free publicity.

mizrachi falafel stand

The Mizrachi family falafel stand, they take their falafel seriously and have put all competition out of business.

The situation is not limited to blocked roads. While drunk driving is considered a misdemeanor or even a felony, eating and driving should be too. Indeed, the falafel stand is the closest Israelis have to a pub culture and entails the same dangers.  With one hand holding a pita and the other a coke, drivers resort to their knees to steer their cars, zigzagging all over the road. There should be an amba (pungent mango chutney) breath test against it.

Like everything else in this part of the Middle East, there is no easy solution. Meanwhile, I’m off to get myself a falafel because, as they say, if you can’t fight them, join them.

Update: Hiking in the northern Galilee

A few pictures from the Akziv River from last week’s trip.

nahal Akziv, wild fennel

monfort, crusader fortress Montfort, Crusader Fortress

nahal akziv, water pool

 nahal akziv, galilee Israel, stream

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa August 21, 2012 at 8:23 am

Oh, I’d love to spew cucumber and tomato all over the sidewalks and obstruct the traffic like a real Israeli! ;-P That sandwich looks amazing.

What a lovely walk!



Sarah August 21, 2012 at 8:43 am

Thanks Rosa! You should come


Silvia August 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm

This week I had falafels 3 days in a row(using your recipe by the way), is it so strange that I crave for more now :)


Sarah August 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm

falafel is addicting, watch out ;-)


Eha August 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Well, I have loved falafels since day one! I DO make them [badly, I am certain!] regularly at home. I guess I should take what you have written seriously, but am rather laughing my head off at the picture of ‘the lunchtime rush’! What a delightful crazy local world!! Were I to live there I would not want that fuzzy-warmth changed an iota! I mean, since everyone knows the traffic is banked up ‘for peaceful purposes’ at whatever time, DO go another way :D !


usha August 21, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Beautiful photos. Thanks Sarah.
The felafel…..When we lived in the UAE, I ate more felafels that you could shake a stick at.
The photo of the narrow waterway and the interesting rock formation on the banks evokes nostalgia in me although I can’t quite put my finger on it.


Katherine Martinelli August 23, 2012 at 1:54 am

Hahaha love this. So true! Your hike looks just lovely :-) Sorry I missed you in Tel Aviv last week! Soon.


Jamie August 24, 2012 at 4:20 am

Sarah, this must be the best blog post I have read all year! I love it – absolutely brilliant (as I sit here laughing out loud AND craving one of those damn felafel)! Now, you know, I REALLY have to visit!


Sarah August 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Thanks Jamie! You do have to visit :-)


heidileon August 24, 2012 at 4:47 am

And where do I get a decent falafel here in Macau to kill that sudden crave?? ;)


Sarah August 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Heidi, I’ll trade you a Portuguese custard tart for a falafel?


Joy (My Turkish Joys) August 25, 2012 at 5:29 am

Funny post! Just last night I picked up the first and only falafel I’ve tasted here in Istanbul at a restaurant I like called Kantin. The falafel was pretty decent, topped off with a little Turkish yogurt at home. :-)


בובו August 26, 2012 at 2:10 am

אז הסממן התרבותי היחיד שלנו הוא בעצם כזה של חוסר תרבות…
אל תקחו לנו את הפלאפל!!!


foodwanderings August 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm

ahahha I could totally see it though all I could think about is what I would give to have that falafel now. I didn’t catch where is this stand? We haven’t done tiyulim as much as we wished to while in israel, due to the heat, time constraint and lost of luggage for the first week. Nice to enjoy it through your post.


Sarah August 27, 2012 at 6:44 am

That second falafel is from Daliat El Carmel, the Druze town near Haifa. Their falafel is made only with chickpeas and it is so good.


Yosefa @nonrecipe August 27, 2012 at 2:57 am

Great post! That’s so funny. The traffic here really is funny. I think it’s so funny that you have to stay home and be quiet from 2-4, but you can have your kids running around outside long past dark and call people past 10:30 pm! Beautiful pics!


DanO January 22, 2013 at 6:07 am

Loved this post thanks! best from a foodie in Spain


Sarah January 22, 2013 at 8:35 am

Thanks DanO!


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