Ha’Carmel Shuk in Tel Aviv is the place to be on a Friday afternoon. As the country prepares for Shabbat, the market is bustling as locals pick up their meats, groceries, and pastries for the weekend.
For hundreds of Maccabi USA athletes, the Shuk is where they spent day two of Israel Connect.
Max Meyer, an athlete on the U18 Boys Tennis Team, described his time in the Shuk with a word that the entire delegation could agree with: “busy.” A walk through the Shuk is nothing like strolling through Market Basket or Trader Joes in the United States. The Shuk is a full body experience, one where you are swallowed up by masses of people, it has a contagious energy, including sights, sounds, and smells that will stick with you for years to come.
Wafts of freshly shaved shawarma mixes in with the calls of vendors shouting out prices of their products, luring in locals and tourists. The colors of shirts, candies, fruits, and shelves full of spices awaken your senses in ways you’ve never felt before.
Bennett Klein’s time in the Shuk was “exciting”. Klein, who plays Squash on the U18 team, was visiting the Shuk for his first time. “The food was amazing. They have really good falafels and sandwiches. The amount of people flowing in and out of the Shuk was crazy.”
For tourists, a major source of excitement in the Shuk comes from trying to land a bargain. As an American, that’s a difficult task. Storekeepers pick us out from a crowd with tremendous ease… granted our Team USA hats, backpacks and shirts probably make us stick out like a sore thumb.
At least one person on the delegation had success bargaining. Though his experience in the Shuk was “overwhelming”, Eli Boshak got a deal on a new bucket hat. An athlete on the U18 Boys Tennis team, Boshak negotiated five shekels off of the initial price. He had a little bit of assistance from his tour guide, who helped tell him what a good price would be for the hat.
The successful bargaining was just a start for Boshak. The next time he heads back to the Shuk, he’s “going to try to bargain a little more to bring the prices down as much as possible. I probably left some up there that I could have brought down more.”
For Meyer, Klein, Boshak, and the hundreds of Maccabi USA athletes who visited the Carmel Shuk Friday it was a full body experience they’ll remember for a lifetime. As for me, I’m already craving another shawarma.
Noam Watt is a Class of 2022 Graduate from the University of Connecticut. He is a native of Lexington, Massachusetts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org