The Holy Trinity of the Old City of Jerusalem consists of the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sephulcher and the Dome of the Rock. Even a short visit to Jerusalem is not complete without a visit to the main market – Mahane Yehuda – a short 10 minute walk from the Post Hostel, in the city center. The market integrates old and new, observant together with secular life. It blends shopping, food, drinks, spices, dried fruits, restaurants and bars. The busiest days are Mondays, Thursdays and Friday morning leading up to the beginning of Shabbat (the Jewish Holy Day). In order to fully experience the Shuk, it is bed to visit not only during the day, but also at night to the pubs, bars and live music concerts that fill the alleyways of the market.
In the late 19th century, as Jerusalem was growing
and neighborhoods began to develop out outside of
the walls of the Old City, Jerusalemites needed a place
where they could come together to sell their goods,
fruits and vegetables. The location was spontaneously
chosen between the residential quarters of Nahlaot
and Mahane Yehuda on an empty lot owned by the
Jewish Valero Family. Initially, the Ottomans failed to
develop the infrastructure necessary to foster the continued
growth of the Market. With the commencement of the
British Mandate, Ronald Storrs, the first colonial official of the district,
was bothered by the neglected appearance of the market. He encouraged Ashbee,
the British architect, to design a new structure for the shops, however, only a few stands were completed.
After Israel independence, in 1948, the market was restructured into its current appearance.
Today, the main market is referred to as Mahane Yehuda, by locals, and is divided between the main
covered street, the open market and the so called Iraqi market.
Jerusalemites view the market as a place that represents
their city and gives them a unique identity in comparison
to the larger Israeli social context.
Throughout the day, the market is a wonderful place to meet
local Israelis: Orthodox Jews, Secular Jews, Muslims and
Christians alike, old and young citizens, as well as tourists
from all over the world! The market has something for everyone.
The locals tend to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables while
the tourists flock to the spices, dried fruits and sesame products.
The most famous sesame products are Tahina sauce
(one of the main ingredients in Hummus) and Halva
(a Mediterranean confectionery), both of which are worth
a taste while wondering the alleyways of the market.
The market also hosts excellent food stands with both Israeli
and international food. The cuisine contains but is not limited to Hummus, Kibbeh, Falafel,
Mixed Jerusalem Grill, Pasta, Stir Fry, Sushi and Fish & Chips.
In the area surrounding the market, you can also find Georgia, Syrian and Ethiopian restaurants
as well as upscale chef restaurants. In addition to the food, you can also purchase clothing,
jewelry and handmade ceramics within the market. If you contain to wander through the allies,
you will even come across a small synagogue within the market!
Mahane Yehuda is the first place in Jerusalem where you
can truly feel the changing of the seasons.
Various fruits appear and disappear according to the seasons.
A walk in the Mahane Yehuda also indicates what time of yea
r it is in the Jewish calendar as there are several food products,
cakes, and pastries that indicate the next Jewish festival
or holiday. Hamantaschen cookies for Purim
(the Jewish carnival), Sugfaniyot or donuts for Hanukkah
and Matzah bread for Passover are some of the special
products linked to Jewish holidays that pop up in the market
in the weeks leading up to the festivities.
During Sukkot, a special festival, there is a unique market
that pops up in the empty square in front of the Mahane Yehuda
market. Orthodox and Secular Jews congregate to purchase
the four species – Etrog, Lulav, Hadas and Aravah.
These are the four plants mentioned in the Torah to be used during prayer throughout this special holiday.
Machane Yehuda at night is a whole different story.
After all the shops close for the day, a young, alternative
Machane Yehuda comes to life!
The market is crowded with young people as well as those
who are young at heart, native Jerusalemites as well as those
who are just visiting. The market is the place where it all
happens whether you are coming to party till the early morning
hours or just stopping by for a drink.
Live music stages intermingle with the various pubs
of the market. If you are lucky, you may even come across
poetry slam in Hebrew and Arabic. Whether you like jazz,
electronic, ethnic or folk music, there is a place for you
in the market. Be sure to fill one hand with a drink and
the other with something to nibble on.
Another thing to do at night is to explore the Street Art
of the area. In 2011, the city-sponsored project
“Tabula Rasa” (Blank Slate), supported urban artwork
by decorating walls, concrete surfaces and even the trash
bins of the market. Street artist Itamar Paloge,
curator for the project, recruited 30 other artists from
Jerusalem’s top photography and art schools,
including Bezalel, Hadassah, and Musrara, as well as
local sculptors, painters, photographers, and street artists.
In 2015, the metal shutters and doors of the shops became
an after-hours attraction as they were spray painted by
street artist Solomon Souza.
Usually the owners of the stand choose the subject
or the composition.
Very often you can notice the owner’s portrait on the shutters of their shop.
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