December 31st 2014
It’s hard to imagine a spot in Israel that says, “You’re in the Middle East,” more than Machne Yehuda. Known to locals as “the shuk,” new Jerusalem’s main bustling outdoor market is a popular attraction for Israeli shoppers and tourists alike. With more than 250 vendors, Machne Yehuda offers the best prices and freshest selections for fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, nuts and dried fruits, cheeses, spices, wines, baked goods, housewares, clothing, Judaica and more.
In recent years, a number of upscale vendors have moved in and exist side-by-side with the vendors whose booths seem frozen in time. For example, there’s Uzi-Eli, known as the “Etrog Medicine Man,” whose stall is just meters from a spice merchant, just a few steps away from Pasta Basta, a café that would be equally at home in any cosmopolitan locale.
Machne Yehuda is an unparalleled place for people-watching. Grab 100 grams (about ¼ pound) of Israeli pistachio nuts, which are much richer than their California cousins; a frozen limonana, a slushee of lemon and mint; and soak up a distinctly Israeli experience, complete with the vibrant colors of handmade textiles, the fresh flavors of organic herbs and the mouthwatering smells of freshly baked breads, sizzling falafel and spicy shwarma.
Walk through Machne Yehuda and try to find foods you’ve never seen before. Take photos of the gravity-defying piles of fresh spices. Have some British-style fish and chips at Fishenchips, run by brothers Shlomi and Aviram. The fish they use is extraordinarily fresh because it comes from their father’s fish stall nearby. The shuk even has its own tiny, exceedingly humble synagogue near Fishenchips. Morning and afternoon prayer times are posted on the door.
Buy pottery at a women’s artists’ cooperative called Pri HaAdama (literally, “fruit of the land”). Everything at Pri HaAdama is made in Israel, and here you’ll find housewares and gift items for sale in a dozen different styles. Grab a sample of halva made with Ethiopian sesame seeds from the hawker wearing a golden paper crown at Halva Kingdom. In the evenings, the restaurant and bars of the shuk host special events that include live music performances, food and wine tastings, art exhibits and events that focus on specific food themes. For more hands-on activity, ask your tour agent about organizing a shuk cooking workshop for your group.