Do you want to get to know the locals when you visit Israel?

There’s no better way than to share a meal and conversation in someone’s home. A new option for arranging such an encounter online is the recently launched Betzavta.

Betzavta means “together” in Hebrew and it’s meant to bring travelers and locals together and maybe even create friendships.

“The host prepares a home-cooked meal that allows the traveler to taste Israeli homemade dishes and get an impression of what a real Israeli dining table looks like. The Israeli hosts, on the other hand, get the opportunity to meet new people and show their guests a closer, authentic viewpoint of Israel,” says cofounder Ori Pearl.

Pearl, 31, and cofounder Niv Saar, 29, met as officers in the IDF intelligence corps. After post-army travels, they began working as software engineers but wanted to do something voluntary in their spare time that would make a positive impact.

“We both had interactions with locals when we were traveling abroad and that’s what we remembered most from our trips,” Pearl tells ISRAEL21c.

“We see Betzavta as a way to engage in meaningful interactions outside the hospitality industry and a great opening for the creation of long-lasting friendships.”

Still in beta mode, the self-funded Betzavta so far has 20 active hosts in the Tel Aviv area and has organized a total of 20 dinners for guests from China, Japan, Switzerland, Russia and the United States.

“We make sure we match our guests with relevant hosts. For example, a guest family with children will be matched with a host family with children at similar ages. This allows for more intimate and meaningful interactions,” says Pearl.

Hosts are encouraged to prepare the same local dishes they enjoy and make for themselves.

Travel bloggers from three countries share a Shabbat dinner with a Betzavata host in Israel. Photo by Or Kaplan

Recently, travel bloggers from the United States, Luxemburg, and The Netherlands had a Shabbat dinner with a Betzavta host during their weeklong tour in Israel via Vibe Israel, a non-profit organization connecting online influencers with Israel.

Pearl says that Betzvata is different than services such as EatWith, which was founded in Israel in 2012 and is available in 12 Israeli cities and in other countries.

“Usually an EatWith event is for a group of around 10 or more guests who signed up for a dinner with a culinary theme not necessarily related to the local cuisine. For the hosts, these dinners are a for-profit business. They host these events a few times a week, and after the event, they usually do not stay in contact with the guests.

“Our hosts do not see these dinners as business transactions. They are getting paid just enough to cover the costs of ingredients for a three-course meal.”

As Betzavta expands, the cofounders plan to take a small fee from each booking to cover their own expenses.

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