An increasingly popular destination among Middle Eastern countries, Israel has charmed the hearts and minds of countless tourists and travelers from all over.
If you have the chance to visit this fascinating country yourself, you probably want to take something back home with you as a memento of your travels.
That’s why today, we’re going to take a look at the best souvenirs and gifts from Israel!
If you are lucky and find love in the holy land, of course you’re free to take your date home with you – though I’d hardly call that a souvenir.
No, in this case I am talking about one of Israel’s culinary prides, their lovely date fruits! Though most of them descend from Moroccan Medjools, Israeli dates are somewhat distinct from the internationally more common varieties and have a sweeter taste.
Look for the best examples in the nearest shuk (open-air street markets) as well as in organic grocery stores and the like.
Another bonus to consider: even at the top end, dates are significantly more cheaper to get in Israel than anywhere in the West since they’re grown locally and don’t have to be imported!
These snacks are of a more savory variety, but there’s hardly anything more popular among Israelis of all ages than Bamba!
To someone who’s never had them before, Bamba are a bit tricky to explain. Imagine, if you will, Cheetos, but without any of the cheese — and made out of a dough with a very similar consistency yet based on peanuts.
Sounds strange? Maybe. Still, Bamba is the country’s most beloved snack, and Israelis of every generation (including me) can fondly recall rummaging through those colorful bags looking for just a few more at the bottom when they were little.
3. Hanukkiot and Menorot
No symbol of Judaism is more instantly recognizable than the Menorah, the seven-armed lighter. While only symbolic in nature, many Jewish households around the world keep a menorah to feel closer to tradition.
The Hanukkiah is even more important. With nine arms, it serves an integral purpose during the ceremony of Hanukkah.
Many diaspora Jews, especially recent converts and those living in more remote areas, often have trouble finding these items of Judaica where they live.
A trip to Israel doesn’t just ensure that you will have plenty to choose from — if you stray from the obvious tourist traps and souvenir stores, you can also find some genuine, handmade gems that are of much higher quality than anything elsewhere.
You might not have heard of it before, but Israel actually harbors an internationally significant industry in the mining and refining of gemstones, particularly diamonds!
The national gemstone of Israel is the Eilat stone, named after the gorgeous city of the same name which lies deep in the Negev desert in the south of the country. It shines in a brilliant glow of blues and greens that aficionados can tell apart from a mile away.
All over Israel, you’ll find countless smaller workshops dedicated to the traditions of jewelry-making. What’s so special here is that, thanks to Israel’s multicultural background, these traditions range far and wide.
Yemenite-Jewish Israeli jewelry is particularly renowned for its beauty and complexity, but many will perhaps find what they’re looking for among the many Lebanese, Syrian, or Turkish-inspired jewelry in Israel!
5. Dead Sea Salt
The Dead Sea remains one of Israel’s most popular vacation spots — both for the locals as well as foreigners from all over the world!
The experience of swimming, or rather floating, in the Dead Sea is unique by itself. But what if you could take a piece of that home with you?
Well, it’s only possible in a bit of a symbolic sense, but you can still get actual Dead Sea Salt from many apothecaries and small boutiques all over Israel.
The salts and other minerals extracted from the sea are very nourishing and are used for skincare products as well as many kinds of topical medicines.
In many countries, including much of the Middle East, the antiquities trade is highly regulated to the point where it almost exclusively happens in one of three avenues: between donors and museums, at exclusive auctions, and on the black market.
In Israel, the situation is surprisingly different. Perhaps it’s a certain pride of the country’s biblical heritage, perhaps it’s something else, who knows!
The fact of the matter is, you can buy almost any kind of antique collectible, whether that’s ancient coins, pottery, jewelry, or even preserved furniture from licensed antique dealers.
I don’t know about you, but to me, the thought of owning something that’s potentially centuries or millennia old, stemming from one of the most important and storied regions of the globe, sounds like an idea for some of the best gifts from Israel I could think of!
Of course, there are still plenty of scams out there so you’d do yourself a favor by seeking out an expert to help you in case you’re looking for something seriously valuable.
Israeli wine might not have the international recognition of, say, a French Pinot Noir or an Italian Chianti, but you’d be mistaken to ignore it for that reason alone.
Over the past two to three decades, the modern Israeli wine industry has gone from being virtually unknown to one of the most competitive and beloved in the region — that’s quite something!
Wine is grown all over Israel, from the desert to the highlands of the Galilee and in the Mediterranean plains close to the coastal areas.
There’s a lot of variety out there, and plenty of Israeli wineries have won prestigious international awards over the past few years! This makes a good bottle of wine one of the best gifts to buy in Israel, and one that will surely leave a lasting impression long after you’re back home.
You might start to notice a pattern here, but it’s true: Israel is a delight for the senses, and some of my favorite cool souvenirs from Israel revolve around taste, smell, and touch.
It’s no different with Halva. If you’ve never had it before, brace yourself. Halva is a kind of super-sweet dough that is formed and often processed to make a huge variety of traditional cakes, confectioneries, and pastries.
Still, it’s not so uncommon to just buy a block of halva and eat it on its own as a little treat for dessert.
Halva exists all across the Arab world and beyond – there is even a sunflower seed-based form of halva that’s surprisingly popular in countries like Poland and Ukraine.
But in the end, the Israeli variety is unique since it’s made from tahini (or thina as we call it in Hebrew), giving it a uniquely different taste and consistency than what you might be familiar with elsewhere.
9. A Hamsa
Though I’ve encountered Hamsas in just about every country I’ve traveled to (in the unlikeliest places sometimes), Israel and its neighbors are where the symbol is at home, and it shows.
It sometimes feels like almost every single person living in Israel has a Hamsa hanging on a wall in their home somewhere, or a Hamsa-shaped air freshener in their car. Or how about a Hamsa-styled necklace or a keychain?
If you’re not familiar with the Hamsa, it’s a symbol representing a hand with five fingers (though usually symmetrical, with a thumb on each side) that is meant to protect your soul from the bringer of every misfortune that can befall someone in the Mediterranean: the evil eye.
In Israeli Hebrew, even when you don’t have a physical charm at hand, quickly chanting “Hamsa Hamsa”, often with a matching rhyme to boot, is meant to ward off evil spirits and bad luck.
If a lifelong protector and bringer of good fortune isn’t one of the best things to buy in Israel, I don’t know what is!
10. Bauhaus Collectibles
It’s not a very well-known fact abroad, but Tel Aviv during the 1920s and 30s used to be one of the biggest hot spots for Bauhaus and Modernist architecture.
Within an iconic borough known as the “White City”, thousands of examples of this style still exist, making Tel Aviv the city with the largest single representation of Bauhaus works in the world.
It’s no wonder then that Tel Aviv today remains an excellent place for souvenirs following that theme!
On Dizengoff Street, there is a whole Center dedicated to the preservation of this architectural era, and they offer plenty of Bauhaus-themed memorabilia, from rare biographies to period artwork, scale models, and more.
Physical media, from CDs to vinyl records and even cassette tapes, are fully en vogue again, so they make for perfect souvenirs.
While you’re in Israel, you’ll likely see all the usual, internationally popular chart-toppers that you can recognize.
However, the world of Israeli music, whether in Hebrew, Arabic, or other languages, is extremely rich and deserves exploring too!
From current stars like Idan Raichel and Eyal Golan to classics such as Yehoram Ga’on, Shoshana Damari, and of course the eternal Arik Einstein, Israeli music is full of amazing melodies and talented artists.
Since it’s incredibly tricky to find any of it abroad (trust me, I know), do yourself a favor and pick up a song or a few while you’re there.
Okay, I promise this is going to be the last food-related item on this list – but what do you expect from the land of milk and honey?
Eshel is not exactly a delicacy by itself. It’s much more commonly used as an ingredient, for example when making sweet, yummy Sufganiot for Hanukkah.
Eshel is a dairy product with a consistency and taste that is like a cross between Greek yoghurt, kefir, and cream cheese. It is made with the extract from a tree of the same name.
The thing is, this species of tree only really grows in Israel and a few neighboring regions, so if you have any traditional Jewish or Israeli family recipes that call for using eshel, or if you just enjoy baking with something fresh and different once in a while – better stock up on it while you can.
13. Armenian Pottery
Israel, and in particular Jerusalem, harbors a large Armenian community, which forms the majority of Christians living in the Holy Land today.
Their unique aesthetic style and often religiously-influenced motifs have given Armenian artists in Israel great recognition.
Especially if you’re Christian yourself and are going to Israel to connect with your faith’s history, genuine crafts by some of Jerusalem’s most talented Christian artists would be an excellent choice for some souvenirs from Israel.
14. Hebrew Gifts
Israel is the only country in the world where Hebrew is an official language, and most native Hebrew speakers in the world are Israeli.
So why not celebrate your visit with some cool Hebrew-language souvenirs from Israel? Jerusalem especially is full of talented artists in the fields of wood carving, jewelry-making, and metalworking, so you have plenty of options.
How about a necklace or a ring spelling your (or a loved one’s) name in Hebrew letters? Others might enjoy a small passage or prayer from the Hebrew bible as a little keepsake. Look around, there’s plenty to discover!
15. Games and Entertainment
If you have kids, you know that a simple gift often just won’t do, not if it’s not entertaining. So what better to bring back from your Israel trip than some genuine Israeli games? They’re plenty of fun for adults too, I swear!
Probably the most internationally successful example is Taki – a game so widespread all throughout Europe that I have yet to meet a single person aware of its origins. Taki is a simple card game, not too different from Uno, but with its own little twist that makes it very addicting to play.
Of course, there are dozens upon dozens of other kinds of games of Israeli invention. My personal favorite has to be Havilah Higi’ah, which translates to “The package has arrived”. Made by renowned Israeli comic Efraim Kishon, it’s essentially a satire of 20th-century Israeli bureaucracy loaded with some of the best humor you’ll ever come across in this genre.
While Havilah Higi’ah might be a bit too Israeli for some, especially as English-translated editions are hard to find, other Israeli hits like Rummikub, Halli Galli, and Mastermind can be great fun for all ages and are a lot more accessible to the average family.
What other souvenirs would you bring home from Israel? If I missed something out, share it in the comment box below!