Israeli Food Markets

The shuk in an Israeli city can offer a glimpse into the lives of those who visit it.

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The open-air food market (called a “shuk/souk” in Hebrew and Arabic, respectively) is a vital part of Israel’s culinary and social ecology. In addition to providing residents with access to fresh produce and other goods, they serve as a showcase for the country’s myriad ethnic cuisines, and offer a space to gather and–most importantly–eat. With their swirl of smells, tastes, and sounds, markets are by far the best place to tap into a community’s personality.
 
Nearly every major city in Israel has a food market, ranging from established municipal markets housed in massive indoor/outdoor structures, to ad-hoc souks that consist of little more than a few blankets spread out and covered with freshly picked greens. The list below, while far from comprehensive, offers a glimpse into some of Israel’s most beloved markets.

mahane yehuda

Mahane Yehuda,
Photo courtesy of Leah Koenig.

JERUSALEM

Mahane Yehuda

City Center, Sundays through Fridays
Jerusalem’s most famous produce market dates back to the 19th century, when Arab merchants began selling fruits and vegetables to residents in an empty lot owned by a Sephardic Jewish family. (In contrast, virtually all of its shop owners now are Jewish.) Today the market always bustles–especially on Fridays when the city descends upon the narrow strip of stalls in search of produce for Shabbat, or just a leisurely lunch. Colorful bell peppers sit next to fish, spices, and stacks of chocolate-swirled halva. Tucked throughout the market, diners can find restaurants featuring delicacies from Israel’s many ethnicities.

Emek Refaim Market

Emek Refaim, Fridays
Shoppers looking for a quieter shopping experience can head to the Emek Refaim Market in one of Jerusalem’s most American-populated neighborhoods.  There, farmers and food producers sell artisanal goat cheeses, preserved lemons and jams, cured olives, organic produce, and baked goods. One-stop shopping is not the goal here. Rather the market offers visitors a chance to sample specialty products, pick up a gift, or find a delicious treat to savor at home.

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Leah Koenig is a writer and cookbook author whose work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, CHOW, Food Arts, Tablet, Gastronomica, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Leah writes a monthly food column for The Forward and a bimonthly column for Saveur.com called “One Ingredient, Many Ways.” She is the former Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning blog, The Jew & The Carrot, and she is a frequent contributor to MyJewishLearning.com, where her recipes are very popular, and highly praised. Her first cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen, was published by Rizzoli in 2011. The book was named one of the “Best Books of 2011? by Library Journal and The Kitchn called it “a big, beautiful book that is also down-to-earth and completely accessible.”

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