Paloma Aelyon of San Francisco, CA, graduated from George Washington University in Washington D.C. with a degree in communications and psychology and is currently interning at Delicious Israel.
I initially decided to come to Tel Aviv with a desire to tackle Israel’s evident need for a rebranded global image. Before embarking on a Taglit Birthright trip in 2013, I myself feared traveling to this sliver of the Middle East. I was victim to the misconceived notion that Israel was scary, a much-too-simple, but easy to believe idea perpetuated by seemingly credible media reports full of grief and gore. It was only after two days of my two and a half week experience of Israel up close and personal that the many other facets of this colorful country came to life. Israel wasn’t merely war. Israel was celebration. Israel was soul. Israel was sexy. And, Israel was Delicious!
With an altered perception of Israel and a desire to spread my newfound awareness, I contacted Career Israel. Prior to graduating from The George Washington University, I took a year off from my studies to work in culinary consulting in San Francisco. Bringing with me a long-time love for food, my role required me to tap into culinary trends, conduct extensive market research, and identify brand-positioning strategies primarily for fast food chains. My day-to-day tasks were fun, but the fulfillment in the results was fleeting. I was hungry to contribute to something more meaningful. Something human. I thought that meant that my time with food was up.
Fortunately, I was wrong. With an enthusiastic introduction from Career Israel, I met Inbal. Born to Israeli parents in the US, Inbal visited Israel yearly, each time growing more in love with and empathetic to the country’s rough and radiant reality. Although unsure of her long-term role in Israeli advocacy, Inbal led pro-Israeli movements while attending UC Berkeley, followed by a career as an attorney in New York, training as a yoga instructor in Mexico, and a run in Tel Aviv’s startup scene.
Still searching for a way to share a vividly accurate Israeli story, Inbal found her answer in food and in the often-unrecognized Israelis who knew it best. Collecting stories from an Arab hummus hole-in-the-wall to a Jewish Polish owned babka bakery, from an old Yemeni bread recipe to a modern Japanese-inspired take on shakshuka, she found the perfect parallel between Israel’s multiflavored cuisine and its multidimensional narrative. She found culinary tourism company, Delicious Israel. And I, arriving on the scene almost three years later with what appeared to be diametric desires to develop myself as a foodie and as a humanitarian, found the link I was looking for.
Instantly bonding over our shared passion for sharing authentic, human stories through the discovery of cultural cuisine and travel, Inbal and I spent our first workday together creating an action plan for my subsequent months as Director of Delicious Development. While agreeing to maintain the flexibility of wearing multiple hats, my day-to-day tasks fall into three categories: marketing, business development, and outreach. To drive marketing initiatives, I’ve created comprehensive promotional materials and newsletters, and maintain Delicious Israel’s blog and social media outlets with fun foods news, such as our quest for Israel’s 2014 Hummus Hotspot, accompanied by my photography. In the realm of business development, I’ve worked on designing and promoting new offerings, such as cooking workshops in Inbal’s Neve Tzedek home, aka the Delicious Israel ‘Atelier’. Also with the goal of expanding the Delicious Israel brand, I’ve personally reached out to potential stakeholders such as Culinary Backstreets, proposing a partnership that would harness a larger worldwide audience for Tel Aviv food tours.
For me, the icing on the cake, or on the rugelach, however, manifests itself once or twice a week, when I join Inbal in leading Delicious Israel culinary walks in Tel Aviv. Through these tours, I’ve watched four Catholic-converts from North Carolina salivate over eggplant börek, I’ve spent almost an hour comparing my grandmother’s matzo ball and gefilte fish recipes to Hazel’s, a guest from Johannesburg, South Africa and I’ve practiced my Turkish over tea with my new friend Simcha, the mother of the men who own a replica of Istanbul’s Yom Tov Deli in Levinsky Market. While these moments aren’t your conventional resume builders, they are the ones I am most thankful to Inbal, to Career Israel, and to myself for. They are shaping who I am as a global, community building, food-loving, person with passion, and that I can confidently take with me wherever I chose to be next.