Bukhari Jews in Israel
Updated: May 6
Israel is home to many different types of cultures. We went on a hunt to bring you a different type of culture every week, here in beautiful Israel. What is the coolest culture in Israel in your opinion?
Where do they come from?
They are a group of Jews from Central Asia, mainly in regions of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Where does their 'name' come from?
The term "Bukharan" was created by Europeans who visited the region. Most of the Jews there at the time were under the rule of the Emirate of Bukhara, hence the name. In the middle ages, the largest settlement of Jews in Asia was in the Emirate of Bukhara, and that is where many remain, although many have also made Aliyah to Jerusalem or moved to the United States.
Fun fact: The largest population of Bukharan Jews lives in Forest Hills, Queens -- 50,000 of the 70,000 in America! This area has tons of Bukharan shops, places to try the food and experience the culture. They even call it "Bukharlem" because of the population.
Where in Israel do they live?
They mainly live in the Bukharim quarter (שכונת הבוכרים) in Jerusalem, but there are also high concentrations in South Tel Aviv and Or Yehuda.
What language do they speak?
Originally, they spoke Persian, but then they created their own language "Bukhori." It's similar to Persian but has traces of Hebrew.
When the USSR took over the region, they began to speak Russian. Many of the younger generations now exclusively speak Russian, although they understand Bukhori.
What type of Jew are they?
Bukhari Jews are Mizrahi Jews with Sephardi traditions and customs. A lot of this culture has been maintained over the years. For example, the style of dress at weddings is often traditional. Their unique style of music, called Shashmagam, infuses stringed instruments, Klesmer style, and traces of Middle Eastern/Muslim influence.
Do they have traditional food?
In terms of food, there are many traditional cuisines from this region. Here are the most popular:
Oshflov -- this is sort of like a rice pilaf with meat. It's a mixture of rice, lamb, spices, and onion. It's warm and deliciously spiced.
Bachsh -- this is not so different from oshflov in that it's also an aromatic rice dish. It's more of a one-pot meal. with lots of fresh spices, chicken, and onion.
Osh Savo -- this is a dish typically served on Shabbat. It's sort of like a cholent served with rice.
Want to taste some Bukhari food in Israel?
Here are some amazing restaurants we recommend:
Fergana Restaraunt in Ramle (kosher) -- open Sunday-Thursday, 10:30-24:00.
Ha Achim Restaraunt in Petah Tikva (kosher) -- open Sunday-Thursday, 9:30-16:00.
Beit Haochel Habuchari in Ashkelon (kosher) -- open Sunday-Thursday 10:00-22:00 and Friday 8:00-15:00.