The 10 commandments for hosting a great gathering – Israeli style
We live in the Mediterranean. The sun is shining on us most of the year, our land is hot and full of sunshine, our homes are airy and bright, our neighborhoods are close and communal, and our hospitality is warm and friendly.
When we invite friends and family to our homes, we open our home and our heart to our guests. We don’t need a special occasion to invite people over and we do so very often. It is a very common practice for Israelis to host friends and family at home all year round. The term MI CASA ES SU CASA is in Spanish (exactly the other side of the Mediterranean) but suits our ways perfectly.
We enjoy hosting for brunch, lunch, dinner or anything in between. We are very informal people, and our hospitality is kindhearted and honest.
So, here are our 10 best practices for hosting at home in our famous Israeli hospitality style:
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- Smile and hug at the door
When your guests arrive, open the door with a wide smile and a friendly warm hug, that truly makes them feel welcome and at home. Bruchim Habaim – בְּרוּכִים הַבָּאִים
2. Good background music
Good music always creates a great, fun & relaxing atmosphere. Prepare a good playlist that suits both your guests tastes and your own, and make sure you have a decent sound system to play it on.
- LOTS of Food!
We LOVE Food! Every get together is ALWAYS around food. Food will be on the table, even if your guests are only invited for an afternoon tea, or as we call it CAFE ve Uga.קָפֶה וֶעּוּגַה – Coffee & Cake.
How does an Israeli table look? Here are some entertainment ideas:
- Many salads (we call them salatim סָלָטִים) on the table for starters or appetizers. These dishes are prepared in a variety of cooking, cutting and seasoning ways, to open the palate. They are often served with bread, and left on the table until the end of the meal.
- Olives and Pickles – Hamuzim – חָמוּצִים – a great nosh, a great bite alongside or in between dishes.
- Everything is served on beautiful serving plates and dishes in the middle of the table, so all of your guests can enjoy the variety of choice and help themselves for seconds… or thirds….
- Sharing is caring.
Typically, the guests bring a home-made dish with them. Some might say it is to ease the load on the host, workwise or expense wise, but we believe that bringing something with you when invited, something you have created yourself, and sharing it is one of the ultimate ways of true togetherness.
- Drinks baby, drinks.
A wide variety of cold and hot beverages to quench your guests’ thirst, adapted to the weather outside:
- A great bottle of wine to suit your menu, perhaps some beers, or some sparkly alcoholic drinks
- Coffee – Black or Turkish – aromatic and hot, served in small cups. Or Nes-Café – נֶסקָפֶה (instant) coffee with milk
- During summer, a large cold jug of fresh lemonade with lots of fresh mint or NANA נָעְנַע leaves inside can cool down any guest in seconds
- In winter, a hot pot of freshly brewed tea with fresh cut citrus fruit, such as oranges or lemons, warms you up inside and makes your guests feel all cozy and happy
- The best part is the sweet(s) part
The dessert part of the gathering is for many, the most anticipated and fun part of the meal. We like the “sweet part” very much, not just because it is SO yummy, but also because eating sweet things, requires less focus on your plate and allows for more conversation and socializing. We take it easy… and serve lots of sweets and deserts over a longer period of time. Together with the drinks it gives you and your guests more time to enjoy each other’s company.
- Flowing conversation, no politics!
So, speaking of conversations….. We do talk a lot. Israelis are known for voicing our opinions and thoughts without much hesitation. Around your table, our tip for a great get together is to keep the conversation flowing, think about topics to talk about before, even prepare a pic or a quote or a clip you saw lately to open up a discussion. We do recommend, wholeheartedly, that if you wish to keep the atmosphere light and happy AVOID POLITICS and touchy subjects.
- Keep the Kids BUSY
We are family-oriented people. Did you know that Israel leads the OECD countries with the number of kids we have? 3.1 babies for the average Israeli mother… (the U.S is # 8…) SO when we host at home, it is usually with lots of kids involved. So, if this is the case for you too, do what we do: make sure you prepare activities to keep the kids entertained and busy: in your own kids’ rooms, in the backyard, games, movies, music, so they could be excused from the table early to go play and the grownups can enjoy some quality time together. They enjoy it best that way too
- Keep it Fun
When we invite people to our homes we like it when they are at ease, relaxed, laughing and enjoying themselves. A good tip for keeping it fun is playing games together: card games, board games or for us an all-time favorite – an Israeli original game of TAKI. www.Shafirgames.com
- On the Mirpeset מִרְפֶּסֶת
Israel is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Summers are hot and humid on the coast, and hot and dry inland. Winters are coldish… but not really. Most of the year it is warm out, so our favorite place to sit together is out on the “mirpeset” מִרְפֶּסֶת which is porch in Hebrew. If you have one with a nice view and a good breeze… or perhaps your home prides itself with a glorious well-groomed backyard, enjoy the outdoors a little.
These are our best practices for a great get-together with people you enjoy spending time with. Next time you have guests over, try hosting an Israeli-style gathering!
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