The Shuk

Jerusalem, Israel

It’s our first time in Machane Yehudah, also called the Shuk, the most famous outdoor market in Israel. The sky is a beautiful blue. The Jerusalem streets are sunny and bright. We enter the sea of bustling feet passing locals, travelers, and an endless array of diverse faces.

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“Anavim, anavim, anavim” street vendors yell out with a deep bellowing voice. We see the grape bunches everywhere, hanging from the coverings of shops, piled high on top of each other, red ones, green ones, every type. There are fresh fruits everywhere, bright red pomegranates, and ripe figs as close as you can come to picking them off a tree. Sabras; prickly pear cactus fruit, Pitayas; a pink dragon fruit, and golden quinces.

We meander through the crowds and see rows of colorful bowls piled high with delicious smelling spices; earthy green za’atar, rich red saffron, coriander, sumac, to mention just a few. A little farther down, there are almonds, walnuts, pistachios, dates, apricots and dried fruit of every kind. We try a couple to make sure they’re the best and we point to the ones that we want as the man puts them in bags for us.

Then around the bend, there are endless types of olives and savory goat cheeses and bakeries filled with all sorts of fresh breads. We weave our way through the narrow streets and tiny alleyways walking by hundreds of vendors, savoring the sunshine and tiny samples.

The Shuk is full of sweets and treats of all sorts; Rugelach, Baklava, French tarts, Morroccon cookies, Malabi; a sweet creamy milk pudding sold in tiny cups flavored with rose water topped with crushed pistachios  and pomegranate seeds. So pretty. Although its hard to pick between them all, the shop filled with rows and rows of different flavors of Halva, is almost impossible to pass by. Halva is a delicious honey and sesame candy similar in renown to chocolate in Belgium, pastries in France, or fudge in America. We ask the seller which is his favorite and then leave with a box full of delicious pecan Halva.

We leave the Shuk with more food than it seems possible to eat. We make one last stop at a spice shop and buy some spices. As we leave we hear the shopkeeper say “you forgot something” and he gives us each a tiny dried pink rose bud.

Life is beautiful.