Machne Yehuda Market – aka “The Shuk”

May 24th 2011

The shuk.

If you’re traveling in Israel on a private Israel group tour of the hottest spots in Israel, there is no way you are not going to pass through this intense, bustling marketplace in the heart of the heart of Jerusalem, between Agripas and Yafo street.

So to be a truly informed Israeli tourist, you gotta know the lingo. Technically, the market place is called “Mahane Yehuda”, so jot that down in your tourist notebook for your Israel vacation. But to be one with the natives, call it simply, “The Shuk”, arabic for marketplace.

The shuk is well known all throughout Israel. It contains within its assorted narrow passageways 250 vendors all beckoning at you to buy their precious merchandise. This merchandise includes everything from juices believed to enhance your concentration, to diamonds ( yes, there is now a diamond store!) to assorted knick knacks, kitchenware, clothing, bistros, boutique wines and cheeses.. you name it. And lots and lots of choices for fresh fruits and meats.

The infamous “Marzipan” dessert store is located on Agripas, about a hundred feet away from the opening of the shuk.  It’s rugales, hot and oozing chocolate, are enough to make you think that you have reached the highest possible place separating Heaven from Earth.

Unlike America, it is still possible to do some good old fashioned bartering here, if you’ve got the nerve.  Watch your Israel tour guide for Israeli bartering tips.

The shuk, or Machane Yehuda, has been in existence since the late 1900s.  Three business partners decided to get together and establish a neighborhood that they called Mahene Yehuda ( the tribe of Yehuda) after one of the partner’s brothers. The neighborhood consisted of, in its infancy,  162 families. The marketplace established there, between Machene Yehuda and the adjacent neighborhood Beit Yaakov, was originally called Shuk Beit Yaakov. When the British in their cleanliness decided that the Shuk needed to be sanitized and reconstructed in the 1920s, the newly renovated marketplace complete with more permanent stalls and roofing was given a new name; henceforth the place was known as Mahane Yehuda. All types of people from the rich to the poor to all of Israel’s ethnic groups and the spectrum of Israeli’s tourists, including families on Israel bar mitzvah tours and Israel bat mitzvah tours, frequent the shuk. You’ll be sure to find all sorts of characters selling random things and playing instruments on the side streets.

Be sure to find yourself at the shuk on any day of your Israel travel except Thursday nights and Friday before Shabbat. Unless you really like being stuffed in like sardines, moving around at a snail pace, grumbling at all of your fellow shopper who are, like you,  pushing their way to delicious pre- Shabbat festivity purchases. Those times are the hottest hours for people to do last minute Shabbat shopping.

However, if you are at the Shuk right before they close down for Shabbat, you’ll be witness to a hilarious comedy show, as vendors desperately try to get rid of all of their produce before closing up shop, dropping prices and competing with each other in good humor to attract the final straggling customers to their shops.