A pastry chef at Roladin serving a customer in Tel Aviv, March 7, 2017. (Andrew Tobin)
A pastry chef at Roladin serving a customer in Tel Aviv, March 7, 2017. (Andrew Tobin)


Tel Aviv – Cheesecake, amaretto or goat cheese and onion jam?

Those are just some of the new hamantaschen options this year at Roladin, a popular Israeli bakery chain. On Tuesday, the Dizengoff Center branch in Tel Aviv, one of dozens around the country, was bustling in advance of the Purim holiday, which starts on Saturday evening.

“The public trusts us to expose them to new flavors,” said the branch owner, Itzik Shamsian. “Roladin takes pride in innovating and changing.”

In recent years, Israeli bakeries have increasingly offered gourmet versions of the three-cornered cookie — marzipan, say, or gluten-free varieties — alongside the classics, like poppyseed. The change reflects the growing sophistication of Israel’s culinary scene, which is focused on updating traditional dishes and fusing them with cuisines from around the world.

Purim — which commemorates the Jews’ deliverance from Haman, an evil adviser to an ancient Persian king —  is a festive holiday for both religious and secular Jews in Israel. Like Halloween in the United States, it is characterized by costumes and parties, including in the streets of some cities.

But perhaps the most iconic symbol of the holiday are hamantaschen — called oznay haman, or “Haman’s ears,” in Hebrew. In the weeks before Purim, they pop up in bakeries, cafes and kitchens around the country, and the treats are included in the mishloach manot, or Purim gift baskets, Israelis traditionally exchange for the holiday.

Ashkenazi Jews, about half of Israel’s Jewish population, have been making hamantaschen on Purim for generations, and little has fundamentally changed. A piece of dough is folded into a triangle around a sweet filling and baked. In Israel, the classics are poppyseed, chocolate and date, with jam not nearly as common as in the United States.

As reported by Vos Iz Neias