I want something neat from Israel!
April 27, 2010 10:55 PM   Subscribe

My mother in law is going to Israel, and I want her to bring me back a cool souvenir!

Obviously, it should be something small (or can be rendered small) and durable, so it survives the trip back home. I would like some unique ideas of neat souvenirs that transcend the traditional. Let's assume money is no object, but the space premium is key. I will be fronting her the cash to bring me something back.
I don't know her complete itinerary, so let's just assume Jerusalem for the time being.
Thanks all in advance.
posted by msali to Travel & Transportation around Israel (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What do you like? Food, booze, ancient coins, beauty products made with Dead Sea salts, carpets, jewelry, books in Hebrew?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:32 PM on April 27, 2010

It might be helpful to have a little more information about what you like and your religious views. There's lots of interesting things in Israel and what you may want might depend on your religion.

Last time I was in Israel I brought myself back a really nice mezuzah. If you're not Jewish, then that probably wouldn't interest you. So ... more info please :) Another popular item that people asked me to bring back for them is Microcalligraphy art. That site is just an example. It's by no means a recommendation of that particular artist. Safed has a lot of microcalligraphy artists. That was just the first one I found on google.

Another thing to keep in mind. You can legally buy some antiquities in Israel (if they were found before 1978). If you are interested in that sort of thing, there is a lot to choose from. BUT make sure your mother-in-law buys from a reputable dealer. The Israel Antiquities Authority maintains a list of permitted antiquities dealers. Only buy antiquities from them.

If you decide to get some antiquities from a licensed and permitted dealer, make sure to get an EXPORT PERMIT! They will offer you a certificate of authenticity, which is nice and all, but you need an EXPORT PERMIT in order to leave the country with what you bought. The dealers are not required to tell you that, or offer you one, so you have to ask! Why would they not give you one? So they can sell illegal items that have recently been looted. So make sure to have your mother-in-law ask for an export permit!
posted by Arbac at 11:36 PM on April 27, 2010

I'm a taste traveler, so I'd say: Olive oil (or similar). Love me some foodstsuffs (that travel) from faraway, makes cooking dinner a bit like sharing the trip with whomever brought the item.
posted by dabitch at 1:42 AM on April 28, 2010

Well if its transcending the traditional and small and durable that you want, my grandmother nailed that for me when she went to Israel.

My first name is David, and she brought me back five smooth stones from the valley of Elah. They remain one of my prize possessions.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:06 AM on April 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yemenite silver filigree is special, interesting and beautiful.
posted by Jode at 4:16 AM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Really depends on what you like.

Personally, I have a weakness for very fine (and cheap!) hand-made jewellry.

I'd be tempted to also look into calligraphic/religious texts/books. Or local crafts with cultural/historic details. Fine details.
posted by xm at 6:10 AM on April 28, 2010

I had my brother bring me back sand from the Dead Sea. It travelled well in a water bottle, and now I have it in a glass jar on the shelves in my living room. Additionally, he surprised me with some Dead Sea spa mud which very nice as well.
posted by questionsandanchors at 7:14 AM on April 28, 2010

My parents brought back some really nice ceramic tiles for my sister.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:20 AM on April 28, 2010

I would like someone to bring me back one of those inexpensive (around 60 bucks) cell phone zappers! would be handy in restaurants and public places to shut down loud cell users.
posted by Postroad at 7:37 AM on April 28, 2010

I'm not really a souvenir person but at the Dead Sea you can pick up salt balls and they are pretty cool.
posted by phoenixy at 8:01 AM on April 28, 2010

My own most cherished souvenir from Israel was a string bracelet, given to me by an old woman at the Wailing Wall, when I gave her 5 NIS. If you're a believer, don't hesitate to send your mother-in-law with a note to place in the wall itself.

I also am very partial to the Elite chocolate bars with the red wrapper with fireworks on it. It's like a chocolate bar filled with pop rocks, and you can't get them in the USA. There are days I crave them.

If your mother-in-law is an outdoorsy type, perhaps she'll plant a tree in your name? She can get a certificate stating the location of the tree for you. The JNF can point her and you in the right direction.

There is some amazing jewelry to be had. I bought a beautiful silver hamsa necklace from a jeweler near the King David hotel, who charged by silver weight. It was a reasonable price and I wear it often. Costume jewelry also abounds, especially in the souks in Jerusalem, so if you like beads, bangles, etc., that's a good idea.

A friend purchased a beautiful silk/cotton scarf, pink with gold threads running through it, from a stall in the souk in Jerusalem. I regret not getting one myself; it's versatile and she wears it often.
posted by juniperesque at 8:07 AM on April 28, 2010

Krembo, obvs.
posted by contessa at 8:15 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is this place in Jerusalem's Old City which does on the spot engraving of bracelets and ring, all which have Jerusalem motifs (think palm trees, Old City walls, the Western Wall). You can get a name engraved or a particular verse which you choose - they have books of the stuff. Very nice stuff, very reasonably priced and it sticks out from most of the jewelry you would pick up in the US.

You can also ask her to stop at a military surplus store to pick up some army gear; dog-tags, pins and whatnot. Unfortunately, that pretty much epitomizes Israel.

Last suggestion - there is this amazing retro poster store in downtown Jerusalem which has reproductions of posters from the British Mandate and after, all very cool things. Feel free to MetaMail me for addresses for these places.
posted by eytanb at 8:54 AM on April 28, 2010

Ceramics (especially the Armenian style), small silver things (jewelry from the Israel Museum and dreidels) and kefias (sp?)- the bright red or black checked scarves the Palestinians wear. Dead Sea spa stuff as well. I also bought a gorgeous tapestry vest that I've worn for 15+ years now.
posted by pentagoet at 9:21 AM on April 28, 2010

I lived in Israel for a while in the 80's and if someone offered to bring me back something, it would definitely be the super cheap scarves with the silver lurex threads you can get for a few shekels a piece in the souk. Also, I agree with the jewelry posters above. There really is some brilliant jewelry in Jerusalem.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:40 AM on April 28, 2010

When I was there I picked up an Israeli police t-shirt that I really like and always get comments on
posted by Fun Bobbie at 11:26 AM on April 28, 2010

There's a lovely workshop for elderly & disabled artisans in Jerusalem called Yad L'Kashish. The art and craft work is lovely, handmade and unique - so you're not just getting something made in China & sold in the souk.
posted by judith at 3:47 PM on April 28, 2010

A locally Palestinian made keffiyeh would be top on my list, though I doubt it is for you. And I hear something like that would be confiscated.
posted by SollosQ at 4:22 PM on April 28, 2010

Thanks everyone, I appreciate all of your suggestions. I think I am going to as for a keffiyeh and some scarves.
posted by msali at 1:09 PM on April 29, 2010

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