October 23, 2017

The Sounds and Smells of a Jerusalem Market

If anyone doubts that Israel has emerged as a food Mecca, especially if one is kosher, a walk through the historic Machneh Yehudah market will put those doubts to rest. I actually spent a great deal of the recent holidays in an apartment just a block or so from this “shuk” – marketplace. It has been many years since I took a leisurely stroll through the market, allowing my eyes to feast on fresh breads, pitas, pastries, beautiful produce, and even a variety of sweets that seemed endless. Then there was the tahini based halva in almost every flavor and shape, including fancy halva cakes.

The fusion of smells from exotic spices to freshly baked laffa bread and the freshest bourekas I had ever seen made for a festive stroll for my senses. But Machne Yehuda is far from the smelly stalls it was in several decades ago. It is a trendy market place with the freshest of ingredients, many gourmet restaurants with some of the best fish I ever tasted, and, of course, some of the best falafel, hummus and tahini. Less than two hours before the holiday of Sukkot was set to begin, the shuk was still teeming with vendors shouting last minute bargains and shoppers rushing to catch the light rail just beyond the shuk. Oh incidentally, it is also a happening place after dark with bustling cafes, live music and singers. And for me, the bonus was that almost everything was kosher and I say beware almost!