The Jewish shuk, found in the Machane Yehuda neighborhood, is the traditional retail center for well over 100 years. The people working in the shuk try very hard to give you that traditional feeling of shopping by people who do not have running water and yell at you.
Known as The Shuk, it is a place where they charge you more than the supermarket. They will yell at you to force you to buy stuff. You may not think you wanted grapefruit, but they will convince you. They will also let you know the correct etiquette. You do not pick a banana off of the batch. You buy the whole batch. If the guy is not looking, he will still hear the cracking. You will buy the whole stalk, once he yells at you.
They will also touch your stuff for you. Everything in the shuk is touched by a lot of people. The shuk is a communal experience. Do not take a pastry unless another couple hundred people have touched it. The tiny pastries have been rubbed up with every passerby. The cashews and sunflower seeds have had every hand massaged in them.
Israel is like a family, which is why everybody will let you know when they think you are doing something wrong, such as not dressing warmly enough. Because people care. Even though you are just touring, you are part of this family; a dysfunctional family where everybody yells at you and salivates in your food.
Point is, come ready. Do not fear. As scary as these guys who speak not your language are- when reprimanding you, if you give them money, they stop yelling.
The yelling is all with good intention. They are berating you to help you. They are screaming to let you know where the fruit is. Sometimes they are not even yelling. The shuk people are a very loud people. They have not developed microphones to fit the voices of the people at the shuk yet. They have still not developed microphones which can hit the resonance and volume of an average shuk employee. However, some day, we are hoping- with the help of Gd, to create a microphone that muffles the voice of the vendors.
What can you buy here? That guy is selling fruits. Another guy is selling fruits. You can find people selling fruit. You can find some other great stuff in the shuk, like nuts and nuts. Maybe even some peanuts. You can also find Botnim Americaim/American Peanuts, which don’t exist in America. The fruit and nut business were successful and we in Jerusalem stick with success. Location is key to success, which is why the fruit and nut business is right next to the fruit and nut business.
You can also find Marzipan Rugulach, a traditional site for the tourist who likes their baked goods not finished.
You have to know the shuk shopping techniques of creating your space. Use your elbows to find your spot. Do not look to your side to see if somebody was waiting patiently, as it can cause discomfort if you have to look into the eyes of the person you cut. It is much easier to be shameless when you don’t confront your dis-concern for others.
Political shopping is why I do stay away from the shuk. I am not a huge Betar Jerusalem soccer/football fan. I generally want to make sure the people I am purchasing from have the same political and religious views as myself. You do not have to adopt the political shopping traditions of Jerusalem on your tour. Nonetheless, it is suggested to not wear any name brands or any logos of any teams. For this reason, I try very hard not to ask who shop owners vote for when it comes to elections, as I do need staples like milk and bread, and I do not want to have to boycott my makolet. I know he does not wear a yarmulke. However, he might still keep Shabbat, and I will accept that assumption for the convenience of bagged milk.
The Makolet is your local ‘bodaiga.’ That guy screaming at you is probably the owner of the makolet. He is angry at you for giving him business. As the makolet guy is a relative of the shuk people, you will notice an overwhelming business tradition in Jerusalem of trying very hard to create an atmosphere of no repeat customers.
You will notice that we are not in the USA right now. Prices on many of the objects are not marked, as that would mean that it would be predetermined and based on a fair cost for all. But you are a tourist and they would not be able to raise the price for you. With this in mind, do not become paranoid, as there are some places with prices marked on the products who are ripping everybody else off too. And yes, there is nothing more annoying than hearing a tourist bargain for falafel in a pita, when he is paying 12nis.
I feel it is important to educate you on how to get a deal. You can also use these techniques in the Arab shuk.
The best way to get a deal is to not want the product. If you want the item and they think they can sell it to you, you have no bargaining hand.
They have different ways of getting you to buy stuff. They do the scare sale, where they show you the knives they are selling. The anger sale, where they get mad at you. The scream sale, where they make a scene about you not wanting the product as though you have shot his wife…No matter what, you must remember that you are not friends yet.
They will call you ‘my friend,’ but you are probably just acquaintances. If you never met him before, I am guessing he has something to sell. Friends give stuff away for free. Do not be taken in by anybody’s friendliness. Once you purchase the product, they are not your friend anymore. If you leave without buying anything, especially once they already made a decision that you wanted it, you will not even be acquaintances.
Never go into a store. Once you are in a store, they can use the knives and that means an automatic sale. You do not want them cursing your family for generations, because you hoaxed them into thinking you were going to buy something, by looking. If you look, that means sale. And to them, it does not matter how much they charge you: you look, you enter, you buy for a lot. You do not have any say on how much it costs, once they have made the decision you are going to buy. This is why you must purchase stuff from a good 100 meters away, by yelling back at them and not looking. This is another reason why there are many fights in the shuk, as people sometimes think they are being yelled at when there is a business interaction taking place, down the block.
There are different kinds of sales and other ways to get deals. However, you must haggle. No matter how good the deal, you must still haggle. If you do not want it, haggle more. This will all be discussed in the shopping section.
If you already closed on a price, get the add in. The post purchase free item is always used after you purchase a very expensive item. This helps you get the feeling that you did not get ripped off. As you purchase the 500nis chair, with legs, while you are leaving mention the jellybeans. You will then get free jellybeans. With the loss of the jellybeans, the vendor will start to feel like he got ripped off.
If they give you a 150% off deals, they are lying.
The point to remember in any deal, is that you should only buy stuff you do not want, as that is the only way to get a really good deal.
How do you know which vendor to buy from? The one who is the most enthusiastic about his fruit and tehini is a good way to tell. If they are yelling the cost of their product in your face, that is a good sign that they believe in what they are selling. Even chocolate barakas can be exciting. For that reason, you better make sure they are loud. Has a color war team ever won with bad cheers?
If they have pictures of rabbis, then that is definitely a good shop to buy from. You will notice that all of the stores in the Iraqi shuk, sell the same stuff. As such, you must be able to discern. The best looking picture of a rabbi, that is an even better way to tell if it is a good rabbi and shop to buy from. A nicely combed beard translates to good prices. Another way to tell who is a good vendor is the one who has the best quote. If they have an excellent quote like, ‘Be honest in business,’ then you know he is going to make sure you pay full price. That is how you tell who has the best guava.
Shopkeepers in the Shuk have pictures of rabbis. Some pictures are there to make it look like you can trust them. This is important, as they are trying to speak to you. You will notice pictures of rabbis and family members, or just family members. It is hard to tell. They did not have shavers back in the early 1900s. They all look like rabbis.
I understand it is hard to pay attention with all of the girls and guys walking around. Take a moment and see the different kinds of local natives- the long skirt and long sleeved girls, the girls with tight long skirts and long sleeves, the guys with the long skirts…This is the moment in my tour where I check out some of the ladies.
Sorry, as my attention shifts away from you. We are back.
Let the shuk lead to your own experiences. The colorful society allows for you to share in experiences such as a guy throwing mangoes at you while yelling, somebody putting a yarmulke on your head- as that now means you must buy it, or even some random people removing you from your place in line. No matter what your experience, the shuk is always a lot of fun. Who would ever forget a tourist experience as such?
The Etz Chaim Yeshiva is one of the first Yeshivas for young children, built outside the Old City walls and was located right outside the shuk, on Jaffa Street. It appears as though they were losing money, according to my friend Eli. As any good Yeshiva, they got involved in business. Thus you will notice the closed shuk on a street named Etz Chaim. I do not know of any Yeshiva or institution that is not asking for money. Donations are never enough. That is why they are always asking for money and never building the new building. Thus, Yeshivas are known as institutions.
Across from the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, you will notice a smiley face clock, on the side of a building. There are three different types of clocks. All the clocks represent different forms of time and none of them work. Moses Shapiro developed the clock in the early 1900s. Later on, people developed clocks that work and move with time. Whomever built the clock on the Tachana Merkazit stole Moses’ idea.
There are houses above the stores. Just to let you know why the buildings are higher than one story and why there are no awnings on the porches. There is Banai Street, as the Banai family was there. If you become a singer, you also get a street.
One of the beautiful aspects of the shuk is how everything comes together. Now, that there are late night hangouts, you can witness somebody’s house, where they sell fruit and host prayer services with a Torah, and have a bar later at night where people pee. It all comes together at the shuk.
You will notice the man asking for Tzedaka/charity. He has also been there for well over 100 years. He is a Jerusalem monument, moving through the shuk.
And as the Shuk still stands, it is where all greatness of Jerusalem shopping tradition stems from. As such, it is where Rami Levi first began on Beit Yaakov St.. Now, Rami Levi is an icon in Israel, as he found a way to have supermarkets with prices that you do not have to haggle aver. You cannot haggle in supermarkets, which makes supermarkets a pointless place to go to, as they have decent prices and there is no frustration.
Surrounding the shuk are many small communities. You will see Jerusalem Stone buildings. Cool. You saw them.
The Meurav Yerushalmi/The Jerusalem Mixed Grill- Big in the shuk area. Developed at time when most people were throwing their trash in the garbage, the powers of the shuk made a decision to make it a dish. The eco-friendly Jerusalem Shukmen began to grill all the rubbish. Kidneys, intestines, eyebrows are all mixed into this chicken based delicacy. Sphincter on the grill makes for some tastiness. If you are lucky, the leftover armpit sweat from the falafel guy joins to make an aromatic Jerusalem cuisine, with the ember like taste and smell.
Instead of wasting and throwing the garbage in the trash, we have made food out of it, as that would be known as waste and ‘Ba’al Tashchit’ (forbidden from the Torah to waste things that people can benefit from- another reason I still have all of my plastic bags).
Chamara neighborhood, a beautiful tourist site for seeing Israelis gamble. As there is backgammon going on, it is legal. The perfect place for an addict who likes coming home late at night and getting yelled at by his wife, after getting yelled at in the shuk. This spot has been re-gentrified, so that the tourist also feels comfortable gambling and fleeing the country.
Talking about food, in Jerusalem, you can see Kosher Burger King. Pronounced totally differently, it is the beginning signs of redemption. Everything is Kosher in Jerusalem, unless you are Ashkenazi on Passover. Then you cannot eat anything, as everything is a legume. I thought using the English word, legume, would help. Now that you understand, we can move on. Kosher Burger King, now called Burger Ranch is the sign that the Messiah is on his way; fast food is now in Israel and it is kosher. It is now easier to put on weight as a religious Jew, who feasts at least twice a week, on a food that is not Chinese. Now oily foods are not just what you eat on Shabbat. Burger Ranch has taken over the Burger King chain in Israel. Still keeping to the Burger King tradition, it tastes totally different and is not Burger King.
The Shul- There is one infront of you, as on most streets. Shuls were historically built to avoid taxes. The same reason as you will notice most businesses turning into amutot/non-profits; where the people make money.
That guy is walking down the street and talking to himself. This is the Holy City and that is normal. He is praying.
Now time for the Shuk Strong Man Competition: Carry as many bags of groceries as far as you can, while getting on the moving bus, with the bus driver screaming at you, after the people in the shuk were screaming at you and one guy still screaming at you from the other end of the shuk with a sale idea- because you looked, with the bus driver closing the door on your feat, and guava falling out of the bottom of your bag. Other competitions are the Marzipan approach, where you elbow anybody who showed up before you. The final competition is the Ein Gedi Carry. Here you try carry two 6 packs of Ein Gedi water, as far as you can, until the handles break on you. The longest distance for this has been 8 meters.