Welcome to Berman's, the oldest bakery in Israel
This legendary shop in Jerusalem has stood the test of time by combining centuries-old tradition with modern food trends.
You know how your local bakery sells day-old bread for a reduced price? What if your bakery offered bread from 150 years ago, would you buy that? Israel is home to a bakery that’s been producing bread for that long – and although none of the original loaves survived the centuries, the family behind the name is still running the show at Israel’s oldest and second-largest bakery.
Berman's Bakery was started by Kreshe Berman, the wife of Todrus HaLevi Berman. They moved from Russia to Israel in 1875 and lived in Jerusalem's Old City. When money ran tight, Kreshe started baking honey cakes and black bread to sell to visitors. Business blossomed, and soon the oldest son Yehoshua joined his mother in the bakery business.
The store was located on Jaffa Street, and products were transported by horses and carriages bought from the Austrian army. The bakery soon expanded and was reopened in the Mea She’arim neighborhood, and became the biggest bakery in the area, drawing visitors from all over Israel.
In 1965, the bakery moved its headquarters to its current location and in 1999 opened a bakery and cafe alongside the factory. They currently employ 800 workers, and utilize a fleet of 135 trucks (much faster than horses) to serve 3,000 clients. They have also incorporated many smaller, specialized bakeries into their brand. Yitzchok Berman, a fourth-generation family member, is one of the current owners, and his daughters Teda and Avital work there, as well as son-in-law Gabi.
On my visit to the Berman headquarters, I met with Chava, a manager who has been with the company for 18 years. I asked her what the most popular product was, and she pointed to small, round, pizza flatbreads, and bourekas filled with mushrooms, potatoes, or cheese, saying they sell by far the most of those products.
Posters around the store touted the gourmet donut flavors the bakery would soon produce, and I heard from many Israelis on the street that they look forward to those donuts eagerly.
Berman’s line of E-Free breads are made with whole wheat flour – and no preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, or sugars are added. At the other end of the health spectrum, they sell custom wedding cakes, gourmet chocolate and cheesecakes, and many delicious individual treats like fruit and nut-filled rugelach and other pastries.
But what’s most impressive is the way the family has always been able to meet the needs of the people, accommodating the dietary needs and culinary wishes of thousands of customers around the country. I had the chance to personally visit two of their three bakery locations, tasting several products at each one, and let me say, they’ve come a long way from honey cake and black bread.
But don’t take my word for it – you have to visit this bakery for yourself. And if you happen to visit during donut season, eat a halva donut and keep me in mind.
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