Betzavta (Hebrew for ‘together’) is a new dining concept launched earlier this year by co-founders Niv Saar and Ori Pearl, with a focus on bringing tourists and locals together. “Ori and I traveled together after finishing our service in the army intelligence unit. This allowed us the opportunity to meet new people, experience new cultures and dive into the local dining scene abroad,” says Saar. “We had so many special stories to share upon our return, which sparked the idea to develop a home dining experience in Israel, where both travelers and locals could connect and learn from each other.”

The online initiative works by matching guests with hosts, of which there are currently around 40, who prepare their own Israeli style menu for up to four guests at one sitting. “We aim to keep the number of guests limited at each meal, for an intimate setting  that allows hosts the time to engage in conversation and take advantage of the opportunity to foster overseas friendships,” explains Saar. “We’re not providing a dining service, rather an authentic setting where visitors can sample new food, see inside an Israeli apartment and share conversation around the dinner table.”

Visitors are requested to complete an online form and provide details of any special dietary requirements, before being matched to a suitable host. “We don’t require our hosts to have advanced cooking skills; rather, we look for people who enjoy cooking and the company of others and are willing to answer any questions their guests may have,” says Saar. Since the launch in February, guests from the United States, Europe, Russia and Asia have been hosted at various locations across Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Givatayim. “We’re expanding into other territories too, including the neighborhoods surrounding Tel Aviv, and also Jerusalem. The company is starting off small, but we plan to gradually increase our network to provide home-cooked dining experiences in more pockets across Israel.”

Betzavta is currently being marketed through social and local media, in addition to local organizations. “We’re not trying to commercialize, that’s a different business model. Our goal is to create an initiative that will generate meaningful interactions among guests, who can develop friendships for years to come.”