This June and July, I had the valuable opportunity to volunteer and intern at a vegan bakery in Tel Aviv for one month. As part of the volunteering/internship programme run by GoEco, I first travelled to Jerusalem for an Orientation Day, where I met my GoEco Field Coordinator (Yan) and fellow volunteer in Tel Aviv (Abby). Yan went through everything with us, including how to get to the hostel in Tel Aviv and our placements, as well as more general things like the local currency and public transport. Afterwards, we embarked on a walking tour, and Yan took us to several sights of the city including the open-air Mahane Yehuda market, all of the quarters of the Old City as well as the “cushions” art installation at Kikar Safra City Hall Square. This was before we met up with other international GoEco volunteers who had already been volunteering in Jerusalem for a week and had a very traditional hummus dinner together!
The next day, we set off for the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, which was my home for the next 4 weeks. I was in a female dorm room with Abby and 4 other women who would always come and go. I had barely stayed in a hostel before and was expecting the worst (after almost always being at hotels) but the hostel was actually an amazing place! They actually had a very spacious lounge where we could have drinks from the bar, play foosball and pool, and it was so big that it could host band concerts every week! Also, another thing that I didn’t expect was how there were events going on at the hostel every day and tours departing from it, so I basically never felt bored or lonely there. Above all, since there were so many like-minded travelers there, it was literally the perfect place to make loads of new friends from all over the world 🙂
The next day Yan took us to the Azrieli Tower Observatory where we had a glimpse of the entire Tel Aviv metropolitan area (even neighbouring cities like Ramat Gan!), before setting off for my nearby vegan bakery. This was the place I was going to be at for the rest of the month, from Sunday to Thursday every week (Israeli weekends are from Friday to Saturday for religious reasons). At the bakery, I learned a lot about how to make vegan substitutes for common baking materials like eggs, milk, butter and cheese (for example, we would use cashew cream instead of using dairy milk to make a vegan quiche and I remembered we used sweet potatoes for our chocolate cakes). Apart from that, I helped the staff members there with other tasks such as packing ingredients and boxes, weighing ingredients, making bread and dough bases as well as putting ingredients into and final touches on products! Not only was the sold baked food that we made vegan, but also our family-style lunches every day! The food there was just so amazing that I eventually stopped paying attention to the fact that it was all 100% vegan, because it either tasted just as good as the non-vegan versions or even better!
During the evenings, I would go with Abby to try the food at the city’s abundant vegan restaurants (yes, Tel Aviv is like the world’s vegan capital). One restaurant that we liked so much that we eventually decided to go back, is a vegan pizzeria called “Green Cat” (Khatul HaYarok in Hebrew) on Levontin Street. All the pizza is decorated with their own signature cashew cheese and 2 toppings including artichoke, seitan and pineapples. Above all, the food is filling and affordable (less than 40 shekels each if you share a large pizza with someone else, which is pretty cheap for Tel Aviv)! It’s even cheaper if you’re staying at the nearby Abraham Hostel also on Levontin Street (how convenient!) and bring a map from the hostel, because you get a 10% discount as well. The only downside is that there’s no English menu, but don’t worry because the staff will always be happy to explain everything in English 😀
On my days off, I definitely seized my opportunities to travel. For example, in Tel Aviv, I went to the Hall of Independence where I experienced the Declaration of Independence by David Ben-Gurion (the first Prime Minister of Israel) at the same place as 1948. Other weekends were much wilder, with me leaving the hostel at 2am (and I’m not kidding) to do a sunrise hike at Masada before going to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea and then carpooling with absolute strangers to a northern Arab village to see the guy who runs the Nas Daily page on Facebook the next day! I also went to visit other places in Israel like Caesarea, Kibbutz Maagan Michael and Jisr az-Zarqa, and even went to Palestine twice (once to Ramallah, Jericho and Bethlehem and the other time to Nablus)!
I just can’t believe how quickly these four weeks had passed. The last day I was working at the bakery, it still felt like my 2nd day being there – I loved it so much there that I’d stay there until 6 or 7 in the evening most of the times and couldn’t even bear the thought of leaving. Not only did I learn so much about vegan baking and the world of work there, but most of all, the people there were all ultra cool. The owner Assaf is honestly such a dedicated and hardworking wizard who creates all of his amazing recipes ALL by himself and even arrives at the bakery every day at 4am to do ALL the deliveries to many different cafés (how does he even do it with such a busy family life as well?). Dor is a chef who’s beyond amazing (he’s the one who makes the healthy and tasty 100% vegan lunches every day that I really miss now) but at the same time is so so humble about his skills and always strives to improve his already (to me it’s basically perfect) culinary skills. Hili is literally the most non-judgmental person ever and you can always feel comfortable to have a conversation with her about basically anything, and not to mention that she’s a master at making babka! I also missed not having Maisie working with me for the last 2 weeks because she was a genuinely kind and friendly person who I could relate to as a fellow volunteer who was also a student and coming from overseas (lol I also wonder if our banter and graffiti on the wall is still there!).
Toda raba Israel (thanks a lot Israel) for making this month an absolute blast and insightful experience. It’s guaranteed that I’m definitely going to come back ultra soon, be it just for a casual holiday, another internship or language course. I really miss everyone at the bakery, hostel and on all of my trips and I can’t wait to be reunited with all of you again 😀
Hope to see you all super soon! Lehitraot!