The coronavirus pandemic provoked a positive thing: people are more alert about hygiene and cleanliness.
The Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem is an icon of the city, especially on Fridays, when people come to buy things for preparing Shabbat family’s dinner.
I wasn’t the chairman of its enthusiastic admirers association, as I found the place dirty and too noisy. I also did not enjoy people pushing me and stepping on my toes, but the shuk is truly paradise for a photographer: a display of the Jerusalem human mosaic, where the contrasts of light, colors, and faces can stop you in your tracks.
On Thursday morning, with the reopening of the shops that were closed in the framework of the Health Ministry regulations due to the coronavirus pandemic, I found the market cleaner, much more tidy, and much less crowded.
The entrance is limited and visitors must go through a checkpoint where municipal workers check each person entering the market for fever.
The vast majority of the people wear protection masks, some of them cover both mouth and nose (as the regulations stipulate), and a smaller group takes the protection even more seriously, and adds a plastic mask that covers the face.
I could feel the joy of the buyers and of the sellers in meeting again. Coming to the shuk is more than a commercial activity.
Enthusiastic and hungry customers stand on the line for falafel, after almost two months, and the scene reminded me of the opening of the first McDonald’s in Moscow (many eager customers, to say the least).
I came to Machane Yehudah a second time on Friday morning to see if there would be any change. I found that, although there are no crowds and the atmosphere is much more quiet than before the coronavirus crisis, you can feel Jerusalem’s Shabbat without waiting until sunset.