Cheese in the Holy Land

Har Haruach Goat Farm

Har Haruach Goat Farm

All of the Biblical forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,) and many of the biblical prophets raised goats and wandered in the desert with their flocks before the word of God made them give up the good life. Israel is known in the bible as Eretz Zavat Halav U’dvash- a land flowing with milk and honey. According to the egalitarian minyan of Chicago, Illinois, “The Talmud relates that our Sages saw goats eating from fig trees. The figs were so luscious that they were dripping with juice; the goats’ udders were so full that milk flowed out. These two liquids mingled into a sweet stream, and the land was literally “flowing with milk and honey.”

Although modern Israel’s leaders may not be of Biblical stature, the land is definitely still flowing with milk, honey and….cheese.

On my recent trip to Israel, I visited two goat farms and cheese producers with my friend Shirley. Har Haruach, translated as Wind Mountain is in the hills west of Jerusalem. It’s a gorgeous spot with about 130 goats and is open for Israeli and tourists to visit, see the goats, and sample or buy the cheese.

Sataf Goat

Sataf Goat

I also visited Sataf Goat Farm where I watched the bucks  fighting and head butting. Sataf Goat Farm is run by Shai Seltzer who founded it in 1974 and has been making cheese there ever since. I don’t thing he’s cut his beard since and he definitely looks the part:thecheese2

If anyone is visiting Israel, I highly recommend visiting some of these goat farms and cheese makers. It’s quite an experience to eat fresh goat cheese and to watch the goats wander on this special land.

If you want a more organized tour, there are organized culinary and dairy vacations run by Cooks in Israel. They can take you and your family on a bonafide dairy tour of the holy land.

To round things off, check out the boutique wine scene in Israel. From the Judean hills to the galilee, there are more than 100 boutique wineries producing quite good wines. Check out the Israel Wine Company for more information on the wineries and how to get some shipped to you in the US.

Last but not least, the goat cheese and fresh vegetables in Israel are incredible. After a hard day making cheese or hiking in the hills, a good Israeli recipe is for Israeli Couscous, goat cheese and fennel:

Find the whole recipe at FoodDownUnder

1 med fennel bulb
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 x garlic cloves minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 x red bell pepper diced
1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
1 bn green onions chopped
1 cup Israeli couscous cooked
6 x Bibb lettuce leaves
1 pkt goat cheese – (2 1/2 oz) crumbled
Fennel fronds for garnish
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