finding beauty in the market place

as close as you can get by car

Like many others, I too have had to overcome a lot of what I was taught in my early education. It took a while, and sometimes it was hard to figure out what to keep and what to throw away. Some things stayed with me all my life, like finishing everything on my plate… and staying away from the market place. Neither of these instructions seem important to me now. The first came from my mother, who spoke of starving children in China. But that was only because she didn’t want to talk to me about the starving children in concentration camps. It was a time when people felt guilty about eating, let alone throwing food in the garbage. As for the market place… that came from a very different source. Maimonedes wrote that a scholar, aspiring wisdom, should stay away from the market place. I was kept so far away, that it was only as an adult that I began to learn what it was all about. I have since come to the conclusion that the warning to stay away from the marketplace was to protect the young scholar from vulgarity. But in my few visits, I have discovered that there is a lot one can learn about the human personality at the market.

she isn’t looking at the candy

We call the market place ‘shuk’. And perhaps, because I don’t spend much time there, I appreciate it all the more, and often feel like a visitor from a far away planet, when I walk through the lanes filled with plenty. The marketplace offers meetings between people from many different backgrounds, and we are exposed to a great variety of tools, clothing, and especially foods of all sorts. I usually find myself intoxicated by the colors and shapes. And I find the people quite friendly, and so it’s possible to ask about the many different products available there… even how to cook some food item that I have just discovered.


For me, there is something exotic about the many aspects of the market. It is wonderful that we are able to find coffee shops and eateries in the lanes, hidden away… the different areas are filled with sound and smells so special, and so different from all other places. We were on our way to the poetry festival the other day, which just happened to be in the same neighborhood as my favorite shuk, Machaneh Yehudah… and I just couldn’t go by without taking another stolen look at the market. The lady friend I was with knew the area better than I did and she easily found the coffee shop I was looking for. We had a couple of beers there, and some pastry. My eyes pulled me in every direction. If I had been there alone, I would probably have gotten lost in the shuk and never have made it to the festival. But I don’t mind getting lost. It’s all a part of living.


Over the years, I’ve learned ways to live without a lot of personal commerce in my life. Friends do my buying for me, and usually I only buy computers and cameras and their accessories. And the hat that I wear. Even my shoes are bought by others. My food, my clothing, and most of my needs are bought for me by my friends. There are even a couple of stores where I am known, and a telephone call, or a mail, is enough to have them send me whatever it is that I may wish to purchase.


Actually, I have quite a collection of photographs of the market, including a series I did of panoramic photos of the different stalls there. And I’ve been tempted to post some of these photos, but unfortunately, it’s a little hard to appreciate panoramic photography on the computer screen, and all the more so, when they are just illustrations on a blog. And then, even the best of pictures are missing those wonderful smells and sounds. But I’ll continue to think about it, because it’s a very important part of town. And the people who live in that area of our city are part of a very characteristic culture that we find there.


66 responses to “finding beauty in the market place

  1. I love the market Shimon, the hustle and bustle, colours, sights and smells. Visiting a new country, the market is a great place to go to experience the new culture. I don’t go to the market so much now. Most of my shopping is done online but I do still go occasionally, usually for fruit and veg that is superior to the stuff the supermarket deliver to my door. I haven’t as yet ventured there with a camera. Perhaps one day. A very enjoyable post as always Shimon.

    • Yes, the market is a bit like a bubble that reflects all of society. I am lucky, in that I have friends who are willing to make up for my many faults and failings, and among other things, do most of my buying for me. But it is very impressive to venture into those ‘other’ places now and then, and see bits of the real world.

  2. I love the market and Mehane Yehuda is one of my favorites. Your post brings back a lot of memories.

  3. I love the thought about the market providing such a variety of goods, shapes, colors, sounds, people, and so on …. after all, the market is about local life … and as an outsider, I appreciate that.

  4. Love the markets in Israel! You don’t appreciate it all that fresh produce year round until you live in the US Northeast and tomatoes taste like paste in the winter months.

    • I do appreciate the wide variety of fruit and vegetables that we have in the markets. But you know, Lisa, the seasons are so ingrained in me, that I still eat according to season, as I did when I was young. I wait for summer for the green salad.

  5. I love these images. I can remember every Friday before Shabbat going to the shuk to get laffa bread and snacks for the coming weekend. These images bring back all those wonderful memories of the time that I lived in Geulah, and I feel like I can smell all the wonderful smells of erev shabbat. The hustle and bussle is something that can not be duplicated anywhere else! Thanks for bringing back those wonderful memories.

    • So glad I was able to bring back some good memories, Yes, living in Geulah is really getting to know the heart and soul of Jerusalem. Thank you for your comment, Abby.

  6. Thank you for this adventure. I would very much enjoy this in person.

  7. I enjoy open air markets, the farmers’ markets and craft/art shows, etc., because of the uniqueness and, as you say, the smells and colors and sense of community, but I loathe “shopping” at malls…I think I would enjoy strolling through the market your wonderful photos portray, Shimon. Thank you for this post and the lovely windows to your world that your words and pictures offer. It is so hard to unlearn some of those early lessons and to discern between those and the ones we need to relearn and deepen. 🙂

    • Yes, I suppose it’s better being a tourist at times, than living the life. Not always though. When I walk through the mall, I find I’m fascinated by that world too, though I don’t go shopping there. I always feel like I’m visiting an alien planet. Thank you for your comment, Kitty. Always very good to share with you.

  8. Wondeful photos of the market, Shimon. I love the markets in Europe. On our last trip to Barcelona, we visited several and while there, my greatest wish was to have a kitchen so I could cook!

    • Thank you so much, Cathy. Yes, it’s best when you can just buy something and take it right to your kitchen and prepare it. I do have a few memories like that.

  9. I love that shuk too. It’s a bit cleaner than it used to be and even somewhat respectable today, but it’s still great.

    • It does look a bit more civilized or citified these days. But I remember that it always seemed quite clean to me even fifty years ago. Thanks for coming by, Bumba.

  10. I love to visit market places… and also to take pictures there… I loved them all dear Shimon, Thank you, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • Yes, it is great fun to visit. Now that there are more tourists, it’s easier to photograph, but the sellers didn’t always like it when they were photographed. Thanks, Nia.

  11. It made me laugh (though I shouldn’t have): Your mum scared you with starving children in China. My mum scared me with starving children in Africa! It was very interesting, as both mums referred to faraway places to warn their kids about starvation. Sometimes, I made mistakes and I unconsciously said the same thing to my son when he wasted food. He answered that Africa has many rich countries and I was wrong to stereotype Africa.

    • I can understand your laughing about that. But actually, we thought about China quite a bit. We knew it was an ancient culture, and we learned about it a bit. I remember, when I was still a small child, hearing someone I respected predict that they would be a great world power in the future… and now we see it happening. Thanks for your comment, Janet.

  12. It seems as if mothers are similar the world over. We always had to finish up the food on our plates too – waste not want not, we were told – a habit from the war years. Proper markets are great fun. Yours is obviously ‘proper’!

    • I suppose in our generation there was much more awareness of the preciousness of food and materials. I see a lot of waste these days. And yes, there was a time when I thought that all mothers were pretty similar. But since I’ve started blogging, I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of people around who suffered from ‘unusual’ circumstances. Thanks, Gill.

  13. Thank you for sharing. The closest thing that I can think of that is like your market, is a Farmer’s Market, here in Colorado. However, many of them have become more commercialized.

    I understand what you mean about not getting the full impression of the market, without the smells. Smell can trigger very clear memories. One of my favorite memories is when, as a young child, I went with my Grandmother, into a shop that sold coffee in Greenwich Village, NY. The coffee beans were in huge barrels and the aromas were amazing!

    • Yes, when I was visiting in the States, I always had the feeling that food had been sanitized, and seemed disconnected somehow from the earth. I’ve seen bits of earth stuck to carrots and radishes here. But I did see a ‘farmers’ market’ when I was in LA, and was very impressed by it. Here, farmers’ markets are quite common. Thanks for your comment, Robin.

  14. We don’t have permanent markets here. At least, not anywhere that I have lived. There used to be an old market in San Antonio. I visited there once, and it was very much like I envision all markets to be. I visited markets in Mexico and they were filled with wonderful handmade things to eat and to buy. There is a special atmosphere in such places that I don’t this could be replicated anywhere else. It was fun to see one of your markets.

    • I loved Mexico, and many things about it reminded me of Israel. And the markets were one of those things. And you’re right about the atmosphere. People talk to each other, and you can get free samples, and sometimes they’ll cook something right there. You only got a peek, George. I’ll have to go back to this subject.

  15. That is a wonderful shuk to experience, Shimon.

    I can almost smell it again. Thank you for the photos!

  16. That must be a wonderful experience to have so many smells and tastes all available in one area. The closest we come to that in our small US community is what is called a Farmers’ Market. Local growers bring their fresh produce, baked goods and flowers to our town square once a week for everyone to purchase and enjoy. Your markets look fascinating!

    • Yes, I was just reminded of the fact that I saw a market that really appeared to me in LA. It too was called Farmers’ Market, and it was a lot like ours in Jerusalem. Though I have to say, that we are already seeing changes in the market as a result of the fierce competition of the supermarkets. The Jerusalem market is getting more sophisticated, with coffee houses, and cultural events. I’m sure you’d like it, Bev.

  17. What a fantastic place, so vibrant and bustling!!! I’d love to have a potter around there. I’m glad you ignored the advice and found the place.

    I’m smiling at the thought of everyone buying your clothes and things…..I loathe shopping so would love to have people buy for me…….I only enjoy shopping for plants and seeds….and visiting curiosity shops and auctions filled with unusual things.

    We were always taught to waste not want not too…..xxxx

    • I got a rather unusual education by western standards. And there was a time, I deeply regretted missing out on some things. But I’m fortunate in that I do have friends who take good care of me. When I was young, I wanted to join a kibbutz, where each gives according to his ability and takes what he needs. But I can’t complain. Life has been good to me. I have a feeling you’d really like this market, Dina. It would give you some new ideas of what to grow… xxx

      • I too had a very strange upbringing, especially by western standards, so I do get where you’re coming from…kibbutz, what a wonderful system. When I was in Oz with Jen as a baby I joined a mother’s co-operative that sounded very similar, a marvelous organization….I’ve never come across a better system since.

        Oh….I know I would to see different plants, it really does excite me, I had that problem when travelling, I did bring seeds back but I was conscious of invasive plants that could overwhelm our native species….I did grow some in the greenhouse, and made sure they didn’t run to seed. xxxx

        • You are truly enlightened, Dina, to be conscious of the problem of invasive plants. It warms my heart to hear that this was one of your concerns. But unfortunately, I fear that many are unaware of the threat coming from that direction, and that this period of ‘globalization’ will cause a nasty revolution in the development of plant and animal life in our world, and the future of living beings on this planet will change beyond anything we could have imagined. xxx

  18. Markets are where you can buy the authentic things of life. In the UK everything we buy in the Supermarkets is somehow sanitised. In the fruit and vegetable areas of the Supermarkets all the cucumbers have to be straight, all the apples the same size. Anything that isn’t perfect is rejected before it reaches the shelves – I dread to think how much is thrown away because it is bent or out of shape. What does shape matter – a bent cucumber will taste just as well as a straight one! Markets deserve to be supported – It’s a colossally hard task setting up and taking down the stall every day. Great images Shimon. It’s difficult taking pictures in those areas – you need courage to use a camera when people are concerned.

    • Agree with you completely Andy, regarding the sanitized look in the supermarkets. As a young man, I actually worked for a while as a banana farmer. And watched the way all the farmers went from a really sweet and tasty banana to one that was less so, just because the other banana looked better. I never really understood that. As for photography in the market, you’re right about that too. In the beginning people really didn’t like my taking pictures there. They thought I might be investigating for the tax man. So I learned to introduce myself, and offer my business card. They were much nicer after that.

  19. These pictures are beautiful and they capture the community spirit wonderfully. Reading your words and looking at theses pictures I am transported back to the times I have been in Asia, walking through their marketplaces. The stalls run by small families, including their young children who have often suprised and endeared me when I consider the level of ‘life’ education and knowledge they gain at such a young age because of their socio-economic circumstances.

    What I consider mostly when reading your post is the reference to the education we gain as children. This is very profound to me – as is the idea of building on that and having the opportunity to learn ideas that contradict our early lessons in life.

    As a young girl, my mother was an alcoholic, and after doing genograms for my family tree in my early 20’s it appears that there is a long line of substance abuse, alcoholism, incest, domestic violence and other abuses throughout the generations.

    Generational Curses can travel through our lineage unless we have the opportunity to know differently and consciously advocate change.

    Thoughtful post, Thank you for sharing.

    Miss Lou

    • So glad you enjoyed the post, Miss Lou. I’ve never been to Asia myself, though I have traveled widely in Europe and the Americas. But my children have traveled there, and I loved the stories and the pictures. I am sorry to hear of the difficult behavior and substance abuse that you had to encounter in your family. The world that greeted me was difficult too. I was miserable as a child. But I do believe in personal choice. And life got better for me as I grew older. Now, as an old man, I’m really happy with my life. And I wish you a long and fruitful life, with a lot of happiness and understanding. I look forward to getting to know you better.

  20. “..the warning to stay away from the marketplace
    was to protect the young scholar from vulgarity…”
    O.K., avoid vulgarity,
    but enjoy the fresh food!

    • I agree with you, Frizz. But I was raised a little like a monk. I had very good food to eat. I just didn’t have freedom.

      • religion can be a good frame to support a wise lifestyle, but on the other hand, sometimes religious rites can construct a kind of prison – not in your religion, but for sure in others 🙂

        • Dear Frizz. I have studied a number of religions, and found that basically, they are all meant to enable the enlightenment and freedom of the spirit. If a person feels imprisoned, it certainly isn’t the fault of religion. It is either caused by circumstances, or by people who themselves don’t understand the religion. In my case, the sorrow was the result of the work of an enemy that tried to annihilate me and my family, and my people.

  21. Hi Shimon.
    What’s a “shuk”? One of the most enjoyable and rarely frightening experiences in life is getting lost. My Dad tells me of meeting a guy in a bar who told him, “I’ve never been lost. I’ve been mighty bewildered for two or three days, but I’ve never been lost”! As a youngster I was never allowed to go into pool halls because of the type of people in them. I guess this was like your having to avoid vulgarity. I suspect it is for an age that can comprehend it. I’m quite amazed that your friends buy for you. My wife buys a lot of necessities for me but I can’t imagine friends doing it unless it is a single need and I know they are going to the store for me. I know that everybody I meet sooner or later gets a notation from me that if they are travelling out of the USA, they be sure to include a market/grocery store in their experience. I can still recall my first visit and I didn’t speak the language and one would have to guess what the item was and what it might taste like. Imagine, a baby octopus on a popsicle stick. Very common in Hawaii. People not from that civilization can not comprehend that!
    Thanks for another wonderful post.

    • ‘shuk’ is our word for the marketplace. And yes Bob, I think your being forbidden from going to a pool hall was a bit like the sort of education I got… only that I had very little freedom to try anything except for study. I have been lost a number of times. Once in Greece, many years ago, when there were fewer tourists there, and no one knew English. It’s a story I should tell on the blog. Actually, getting lost doesn’t scare me so much. But a baby octopus on a popsicle stick. I just hope that never occurs to me in a dream. Thanks for your comment. I always enjoy them, but this time you’ve given me something I wish not to think about (smile).

  22. It’s wonderful to get a glimpse of your sense of the world. Of course, there are similarities and differences anywhere, but I’m thinking about my father, raised during the American Depression, admonishing us to finish everything because of the “starving Armenians.” Of course I don’t think there was the subtext that you experienced, of not wanting to discuss a painful tragedy. But markets! I think there is so much to be learned, and so much insight to be gained about the human condition. But I can see how one might wish to shelter the scholar, to keep him focused. Still, I’m glad you venture into the marketplace, with all it’s temptations, and take these wonderful pictures for us to enjoy and learn from.

    • What you say, connects to an interesting issue; that of values. In some cultures, it is still one of the most important issues. I think that in certain places in America, that is true as well. But since the 60s (and there are those who blame Dr Spock and others in the 50s), there has been a change in attitude. The world has become much more tolerant and open minded. Now the emphasis is on self-realization of the individual, where once the importance was given to the society at large. Now it is thought better not to impose our values on our children. Everyone is free to choose his own path. But sometimes there are subtle results of such a change that aren’t noticed for many years. Thanks, bluebrightly

      • “But sometimes there are subtle results of such a change that aren’t noticed for many years” —— True! The transfer of values from one generation to the next happens both consciously and unconsciously, so even if people are trying not to impose their views, it’s happening – for better and/or worse, right?

        • Yes, that is for sure. We influence our children… sometimes much more than we realize. But what I was referring to, is that when there is a body of values that is transferred from one generation to another, it is usually the result of fine tuning over many generations. But when we decide to give our children greater choices, and more freedom, we might not be aware of where they may go with that. We might not be giving them the tools to handle certain situations that they might encounter.

  23. I love the vibrancy of market places. I have shopped in large ones in Asia and loved being able to buy fresh fish, fruit, and vegetables. We have seasonal farmer’s markets but the weather makes year-long ones impossible.

    • Strangely, when they started offering vegetables and fruits year round, I found it hard to adjust. I still eat according to the seasons… though sometimes I make a little exception. And I know that I’m too conservative, but I’m so used to foods reflecting the season and the weather. Thanks, yearstricken.

  24. Markets are fantastic 😀 Most of the time when I go to a market I don’t really buy anything, but where I live now there are really no true markets (they’re still shops, just not owned by a giant company), but even then they’re still better. It doesn’t always look it, but the products there are usually superior.
    Interesting comment I noticed regarding year-round food: I’ve grown up always being surrounded by year-round food, and it was only when I was overseas did I have to adjust to seasonal food (or pay a big price for imported food that was out of season there). It was a little eye-opening, and introduced a new facet of gratitude for food 🙂

    • We’re very lucky here, in that we have great food the year round. But when I was young, there were different foods in every season. We didn’t have so many vegetables in winter, and every season had it’s flavors. Bananas and avocados were only available in winter, for instance. Then somehow, they managed to have anything anytime. Most people loved the progress, but I had trouble adjusting. It is wonderful though, to eat fresh food, and I’m glad you have that advantage. Best wishes to you, Jess.

  25. Markets are always fun places to explore. And you have really captured the bustling spirit of Machaneh Yehudah in these pictures and your words. Very nice, Shimon.

  26. Markets are a culture unto themselves – markets engender a sense of community, they become a meeting place – it is sadly lacking in North American society.

    • Thank you for coming by, Lynne. I enjoyed visiting your blog, and loved your paintings. I do get the impression that the community identity has changed in the west, and wonder sometimes if it hasn’t been replaced by the internet community. Always something to learn.

  27. Shimon, your photos are simply gorgeous. Supermarkets have murdered the shopping strips in my country. I stay as far away as I can. It takes longer to shop and is less convenient (what makes supermarkets so successful) but I have found myself an independent grocer, fruit shop and butcher. No shuks nearby for practical shopping, but when I can, I visit the Queen Victoria market in the CBD.
    I’m absolutely longing to ask a question, Shimon. I often get myself into trouble when I ask questions better left alone, but since you’ve brought it up yourself, I feel that you won’t be too offended if I ask why other people are buying your necessities for you? It can’t be because you aren’t able to leave your home, you obviously have. Perhaps you’re leaving your mind free for the more important and interesting things and have wonderful friends who cooperate?
    My mother also used to talk about starving children. My rebellious and clever younger sister suggested that perhaps mum could send them her food.

    • Good to hear that you found shops that satisfy you for food purchases, Mary. I know what your saying about Supermarkets… I usually find myself hypnotized when I visit such places. As for your question, I have to say that I do have wonderful friends. And since they know I don’t care for shopping, and contribute in other ways to our common existence, they enjoy pampering me, and I enjoy their kindness. I suppose I’m something of an eccentric, but lucky in that I have friends who are willing to suffer me. Thanks very much for your comment.

  28. Dear Shimon,
    I loved your photos of the market. In Seattle, we have our Pike Place Market, a farmers market where arts and crafts can also be purchased. My favorite item to bring home is the fresh flowers. Bea’s favorite was the honey, and Eli’s was the piroshky. A market is one of the most interesting places to go people watching! Thank you for another wonderful post.

    • Oh, how wonderful to hear of the things you find in the market in Seattle. I would never have guessed that you could find piroshky in the far west. But all the things you mention bring me joy. Especially honey. And yes, I love to go people watching too. I’m so glad you have a farmers’ market there. That sounds wonderful! Thanks for the comment, Naomi.

  29. In addition to culture that a marketplace presents, it just a happy place for people to meet informally.

    • Yes it is, Amy. And in recent years, they’ve built a couple of coffee houses and restaurants within the area of the market, and it makes that even more fun.

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