Ever since biblical times, when the image of a date palm was etched on Israelite currency, the fruit borne by those majestic, flowering trees has been in high demand. According to tradition, the nectar promised to Moses in a “land flowing with milk and honey” was in fact date syrup, establishing the fruit it was made from as a delicacy with no equal. That’s certainly the case in modern-day Israel, where dates—many cultivated locally—are prized stock. In the Carmel Market, just steps from my apartment in Tel Aviv, they’re priced according to their size, with the largest and most expensive clocking in at about 80 shekels per kilo (about $11 per pound). Tourists buy boxes of luxurious Medjools for gifts, and Israelis seek them out for special occasions, but locals often turn to a paler, smaller offering, the Deglet Noor. If the Medjool, with its meltingly thin skin and dense, fudgy interior is the couture gown of the category, then the Deglet Noor, which is smaller and cheaper, is a more modest ready-to-wear frock. In my Tel Aviv apartment, I love nothing better than ending a Shabbat meal with glasses of steaming hot mint tea and ja’aleh, a platter of nuts and dried fruits served by Arabs and North African Jews alike.
Adeena Sussman is a New York Times best-selling cookbook author based in Tel Aviv.