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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Israel: Land of Diversity

Hedge arch in Akko Baha'i Gardens. Israel.

Take a seat and enjoy the view in the Baha’i Gardens in Akko, surrounding the Shrine of the Baha’ullah

I just finished guiding an American family for the past two weeks, and we traveled all over Israel. We left out the Negev (south) because it is too hot in the middle of August, but beyond that, we pretty much hit the rest of the country and got at least a taste of all of its diverse regions. I designed the itinerary, and when planning an itinerary of this nature, the main guiding principle is going to be geography, i.e. we visit things that are close together on a single day, and move from region to region in logical sequence. In this case, we basically made a circular route, heading from the airport to Tel Aviv, then up the coast, across the Galilee to the Golan Heights and Kineret region, down the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea, and then to Jerusalem and the Shefelah/Lowlands.

Of course, in designing such a tour, I also aim to present things that show various aspects of what this country has to offer. No one wants to spend two weeks seeing the same things over and over. But it wasn’t until I was on the tour with this family, a few days in, that it hit me just how diverse were the sites we were visiting. I know I’ve discussed Israel’s diversity before, but I was still impressed that we literally visited almost no sites that were redundant with each other.

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Walking in a Byzantine-Era Synagogue

Bimah in Umm el-Kanatir Synagogue. Golan Heights. Israel.

The Bimah at the front of the Umm el-Kanatir Synagogue

Almost anyone who has traveled throughout the north of Israel, especially if you have gone with a tour guide who took you to places you might not have visited on your own, has seen the ruins of Byzantine-era synagogues. There are many, with some of the more famous or impressive ones found at Bar’am, Tiberias and Tzippori. But on a trip to the Golan Heights this past week, I had the pleasure of revisiting a very exciting Byzantine synagogue that I had first seen almost exactly a year ago.

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ONLY in Israel – Top 5

View Across the Dead Sea. Fun Joel Haber. Israel Tour Guide.

A View Over the Dead Sea from Mount Sodom

Frequently, you hear people comment “Only in Israel,” in response to various things they overhear or see here. Often, it is meant to try to capture some of the unique aspects of the character of the Israeli people. But as we all know, these things don’t only happen in Israel, even if they are somewhat demonstrative and capture the spirit of the country.

For that reason, however, I wanted to write a post about the things that you truly can only see in Israel. Nowhere else in the world. Tour guides typically speak in hyperbolic extremes. I know that I am certainly “guilty” of this at times. We’ll tell you how a spot is the highest, largest, newest or furthest south of its kind. But while those extremes may be interesting, and can be mildly significant, they rarely are very important. They are typically little more than gimmicks to maintain interest.

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Israel Mystery Photo #17

The next Israel Mystery Photo. Fun Joel. Tour Guide.

A lot of you will probably recognize this

I’m in a good mood, so I am giving you guys a fairly easy Mystery Photo this time. If you have ever been at this site, you should recognize this. And even some of you who have never been might be able to guess it!

Why am I in such a good mood, you may ask? Because I passed my oral exam! I am proud to say that I am now officially a licensed Israeli tour guide! I’ll post more about the exam soon, but I did want to let you all know, and thank you for all of your support and kind wishes. Next step for me is to now fill out the paperwork, and start the process towards getting my actual physical license.

But now on to the heart of these Mystery Photo posts — the part where I write about the previous Mystery Photo!

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Israel Mystery Photo #15

Israel Mystery Photo -- Tour Guide. Tourguide. Joel Haber. Fun Joel.

Where in Israel can you find this?

I am truly in full-on study mode now, with my written licensing exam in exactly a month. So my next post after this will likely be Part 3 of my series about the exams, in which I will tell you how I’ve been going about studying/preparing for the exam.

But first, I need to address the last Israel Mystery Photo. As I predicted, it was easier and many of you recognized it or figured it out. And those who did not get it right at least made logical guesses. I hope that this mystery photo is also something many of you will figure out!

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Tour: The Mysteries of Ein Gedi Archaeology

The beautiful Dead Sea oasis of Ein Gedi. (Seen from Nahal Arugot.)

(Catching up on writing about the siyurim/tours we’ve had so far, this one is from a little over a month ago.)

When most people think of Ein Gedi, they think of a beautiful oasis sandwiched between the cliffs at the end of the Judean Desert and the highly saline Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth at 422 meters (1385 feet) below sea level. Popular images that spring to mind related to this oasis include gorgeous waterfalls, colorful flowers and delicate ibex bounding along sharp cliffs. Others might think of the date crops that were so closely connected with this area.

But what is somewhat less prominent, but still highly significant, is the wealth of interesting (and at times perplexing) archaeological finds within the Ein Gedi area. I wanted to highlight a couple of the archaeological sites that you might want to see on your next trip to the Ein Gedi park.

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