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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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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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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All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda – Part 5: The Shuk Calendar

Machane Yehuda Seasonal Produce Calendar

The Israeli seasonal produce calendar I created. Link is below, in the post.

Click Here for Part 4 of “All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda”

Now that I’ve covered the history and development of the Machane Yehuda Market, I want to focus on the “whens” of the shuk. The market is not the same every time you visit there. It shifts and changes with the hours of the day, the days of the week and the months of the year. Different seasons bring different produce to the stands. The rhythms of the Jewish holiday calendar also affect the things one might find in the market. And the shuk even feels different on different days of the week.

If you were to drop me in Machane Yehuda without telling me when it was, I could probably tell you the time of year and the day of the week just by looking around. I refer to this as “The Shuk Calendar,” and I want to share it with you now.

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All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda – Part 4: Making Improvements

Brand new roofs over Machane Yehuda

The new roofs over the shuk in March 1990

Click Here for Part 3 of “All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda”

The shuk today is much nicer, cleaner and developed than it once was. (I know some people still think it is too dirty or smelly, but I disagree. Not trying to convince anyone though!) The improvements began in the 1970s, and have continued until today.

The Big Cover-Up

Nowadays, almost the entire shuk is covered by roofing, except the wide open street of Machane Yehuda, the Shuk HaGruzini and the courtyard off of the Iraqi Shuk that holds Azura Restaurant, a backgammon club and public bathrooms. (I will tell you where all the public bathrooms are in a future post as well.) Over the years before the official roofing, shop owners put up makeshift, ramshackle tin covers. The first street to receive public roofing was HaTapuach Street, in 1978. It was not, however, the same style of roofing that we have today. Rather, the street was covered tightly in a solid, gabled roof.

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All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda – Part 3: Building Permanence

Sculptured Apple Street Sign

A creative street sign on Rachov HaTapuach – Apple Street

Click Here for Part 2 of “All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda”

Following the early developments at Machane Yehuda Market through the first few decades of the 20th Century, the shuk found a permanent home in Jerusalem. This called for other changes that would solidify this permanence, over the decades of the mid-century.

Is There Only One Shuk at the Shuk?

As should be clear from the early history of the shuk, the changes and developments that occur in Machane Yehuda come about organically and due to necessity or external changes affecting the life of the city. Thus, the market developed and grew in stages, with at least 6 different sections built at different times by different groups of people.

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All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda – Part 2: The Early Years

Shoppers at Shuk Machane Yehuda

Jerusalemites of all types shop and meet in Machane Yehuda

Click Here for Part 1 of “All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda”

In my last post on “the Shuk,” I gave you some of the background information. What the shuk is, why it is located where it is and where its name comes from. But I also mentioned that I see Machane Yehuda market as the city in microcosm, with the changes there reflecting the changes in Jerusalem itself.

So in this and the next two posts, I want to explore that a bit more, and discuss some of those alterations throughout the 125-or-so years of its history. How did it move from a bunch of produce crates in an empty field to the bustling, developed warren of shop-lined alleys and streets that we are all so familiar with today?

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All You Want to Know About Machane Yehuda – Part 1: Background

The shuk from above

Machane Yehuda Shuk on a sunny, not very busy afternoon

One of my absolute favorite places in Jerusalem — and not just as a tour guide but also as a city resident — is Machane Yehuda, the outdoor market at the heart of the city. I’m a real foodie, and this market (commonly just referred to as “the shuk” — the Hebrew and Arabic word for market) is a gourmand’s playground. I’ve given many a tour there, and love bringing people to what I consider my second home.

And yet, I realized that there is so much more to the shuk than just the delicious food. So much history and complexity. To me, Shuk Machane Yehuda is actually the city of Jerusalem in microcosm. The people who shop and visit there reflect the diverse populace of the city. And the changes that have taken place in the shuk over time mimic the changes that have transformed the city itself.

So I decided to create a series of blog posts that will try to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Machane Yehuda market. I first thought about all the things I wanted to tell you about the shuk, and then I also asked friends if they had any questions they wanted answered. This will be the first of at least five different posts, and will deal with background information — some of the what, why, where and when. So if you have questions of your own, please send them to me so I can try to include answers in future posts!

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