Taking the Shuk to the Next Level

crowds in the covered market

A typically crowded day in the shuk

Anyone who has spent any time on my blog, or just getting to know me, knows how much I love Jerusalem’s famous outdoor market, Shuk Machane Yehuda. I’ve written a lot about it, I guide there all the time, I’ve been featured in videos and magazine articles about it, and I even like to hang out there on my own free time, too.

Many of you may also know about the tools I’ve created to help tourists (and local residents) maneuver through the shuk more easily and find what they need. I made the only comprehensive and updateable map of the market (and yes, I know it is in serious need of another update — soon, I hope), as well as a calendar that showed when various fruits and vegetables came into season in Machane Yehuda market.

Still, I felt that even with all of the things I do connected with the market, I wanted to do some special things to deepen my connection. After all, I see the market as the beating heart of the city I love, so what better way to express my love for Jerusalem than by kicking my relationship with the shuk up another notch. And so I’ve done a few things of late to take it to the next level!

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A Peek into Jerusalem’s Future

New Jerusalem train station

The escalator that descends to the new underground Jerusalem train station.

I have written before about Batim MiBifnim – Jerusalem Open Houses, both my general appreciation of the free event and about a tour I guided in a previous year. For those who are unfamiliar, this is an annual event that lasts three days. There are walking tours, entry into architecturally interesting private homes and public visits to normally closed, private institutional buildings — all for free! And even though most tours are in Hebrew, there is still plenty to see even for English speakers. In short, it is a peek into a secret side of the city, a real treat for those who love Israel’s capital.

Of course, there is no greater secret than the future. So at this year’s event (a few weeks ago), I focused much of my time on tours that would allow me a window into where the city’s development is heading.

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State of the Shuk – December 2015

Wall of bottles of Israel Beer

The new Beer Bazaar, featuring 100 Israeli craft-brewed beers

As you all know, I love the shuk (Machane Yehuda Market), and am there multiple times a week, often giving tasting tours, or just going there to hang out. So therefore I notice every single change that takes place there, from the smallest stand closing, to a change in what a stand sells, to a restaurant moving from one location to another.

That is why, when I made my map of every stand in Machane Yehuda last year, I specifically sought a way to make it easily updateable. Other maps I’d seen attempted were out of date virtually before the ink was dry on the page (or before the webpage updated). So I labeled the sections of the shuk, and then made a text list to go with it, knowing the stores would change but the streets wouldn’t.

That map came out over a year ago, so I realized it was long overdo for an update. And so I recently did a walk-through at the shuk, writing down all of the things that I needed to change. So today I proudly present you with a fully updated map!

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On the Radio This Friday

Logo of the Nachum Segal Network

I’ll be in the Nachum Segal Network this Friday

I am pleased to announce that I will be interviewed as a call-in guest this coming Friday (January 9th, 2015) on the Nachum Segal Network. I will have the pleasure of “appearing” on the show “Table for Two with Naomi Nachman” to discuss culinary travel in Israel. The show starts at 9 AM, Eastern Time.

In particular I will be discussing my tours of Machane Yehuda Market, but we will obviously discuss many other things as well. So I hope you will all tune in to listen. And I am fairly certain the show will be archived later, so if you miss it live, look for it afterwards. I will be the first guest of the show.

“Table for Two with Naomi Nachman” is a weekly show hosted by Naomi, the Aussie Gourmet. Naomi interviews many personalities from the kosher food world, and I am excited to be one of her guests this week. As it turns out, though we’d lost touch, Naomi and I knew each other in our younger years, so it is nice to be able to reconnect with her via food!

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Fun Joel’s Shuk Tours Offer a Taste of Jerusalem

Achema from Hatchepuria

Achema, from Hatchepuria, a Georgian restaurant

One of my more popular specialty tours has always been my Machane Yehuda tasting tour. And lately, following all of the posts I’ve written about the shuk, and the popular reception of my map of every stand in the market, these tours have become even more popular.

Still, a lot of people ask me, “So what do we do on a tour of Machane Yehuda together?” To answer that, I figured I should write a brief post to describe my tours there, and give you a taste (pun intended) of what is in store for anyone who joins me on a shuk tour. If after reading this, you are feeling hungry to join such a tour, please contact me to schedule one!

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All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda – Part 7: What’s In the Shuk?

Fruits for sale in Shuk Machane Yehuda

A colorful array of fresh, seasonal produce from Machane Yehuda Market

Click Here for Part 6 of “All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda”

Now that you’ve all seen my map of every shop in Machane Yehuda Market, it is time for me to use that map to highlight all of the wonderful, the surprising, the delicious and the downright strange things that you can find in the shuk. Some of these are in response to requests I got for where certain things can be found. Others are things that I know are important, based on the number of times I have guided tours through the market. And some of them are simply my personal favorites, on a non-scientific level!

For starters, let me say that in my opinion, anyone who tells you they know the best place to find anything, is full of… last week’s leftover Machane Yehuda produce! People love to claim that they know the best chummus, fish store, falafel or butcher. As if there were some kind of objective “best.” Sorry folks, their ain’t. What I will tell you in this post is which places are some of my faves, from a purely subjective angle. Sometimes I think the quality is the best. Other times a stand has the best prices or selection. And sometimes, I prefer one place simply because the proprietors are nice people.

You don’t have to agree with me. I’m very opinionated, but that comes with the shuk being my “second home.” But I encourage you to wander around, try many places, and form your own opinions!

All places listed below refer to section numbers on the map I posted last week (and linked to above).

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All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda – Part 6: THE Map

A map of every store in shuk Machane Yehuda

A section of my new, detailed map of Machane Yehuda Market

Click Here for Part 5 of “All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda”

Though not massive in size like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, Machane Yehuda Market can still be somewhat confusing to the casual visitor. It’s not as if you will get lost and not be able to find your way out, so if you just want to wander and take in the atmosphere of the shuk, there is no problem. But if you go there looking for something specific, you may find it somewhat challenging.

To that end, I have produced a true labor of love: the most comprehensive, up-to-date map of every stand in Machane Yehuda Market.

There are other maps of the shuk available, both online and printed, that have attempted to highlight some or all of the stores. The problem with them, however, is that things change in the shuk on a frequent basis. For example, at the time that I am writing this post, two stores have recently changed, and there are currently three more doing construction work to change to something new. (I have actually included the new places on the map, even though they have yet to officially open.)

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Jerusalem Walking Tours for Sukkot

What's the connection between Bob Marley and this famous house in Rehavia? Come to the tour on October 13th to find out!

What’s the connection between Bob Marley and this famous house in Rehavia? Come to the tour on October 13th to find out!

It is about time that I brought back my “Jerusalem: Meet Jerusalem” walking tour series. And while I am nearing completion on a few new ones that I hope to publicize and guide over the next few months, I want to reprise the first three I did.

What better time to do that than when many of you have vacation: Chol HaMoed Sukkot.

So, if you missed any of the three tours previously, and/or you are just visiting for the holiday and are looking for something to do, these interesting tours are for you.

I’ll help you learn more about this awesome city in a few short hours!

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My Tour at Batim MiBifnim This Week

Collage Mt. Zion

The Many Faces of Christian Mount Zion

I’ve written here in the past about the always popular and equally awesome Batim MiBifnim event in Jerusalem. Though the name literally means “Houses from Within” or “Open Houses,” the annual event features so much more than just a peak into private homes. Numerous private institutions and historical buildings also open their doors to the public, and a number of theme-focused walking tours are also included.

At this year’s event, scheduled for later this week on Thursday to Saturday, I am proud to be giving a tour (twice) on Mount Zion, outside the Old City walls. For the second year in a row, the JCJCR – Jerusalem Council for Jewish-Christian Relations is co-hosting “A Window to Mt. Zion” — a series of tours and lectures focusing on the various religious communities who call the area home. My tour will be the only one in English, along with a few of the lectures as well.

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Helping Tourists Say Thanks

IDF soldiers guarding Iron Dome, on a visit by American tourists

The Frumer’s Visit an Iron Dome Installation

While a number of tourists cancelled their Israel visits this summer due to the Gaza war, many others would not let the upheaval ruin their plans. I had the pleasure of guiding one such family, the Frumers of New Jersey, late in August. And since they were coming, and valued the amazing work of the IDF’s Iron Dome, they asked me to arrange a visit to an Iron Dome facility so they could thank the soldiers who were stationed there.

Since I too love the Iron Dome and all it has done to protect us, and since one of Judaism’s major values is hakarat hatov (showing appreciation), I knew I had to help this kind family with their request. So I started doing some research, making some calls and sending some emails.

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