MJL contributor and generally awesome person Leah Koenig has an article at Tablet right now about about a mini-shuk in my favorite Jerusalem restaurant, Marakiya (loosely translate: The Soup Depot).
The market sells locally grown and produced foods (dried figs, almonds, creamy labaneh, bottles of grape honey, briny stuffed olives) that are brought in from Palestinian farmers and artisans in the West Bank. Buying locally grown produce has become de rigueur for many food lovers, and in a sense, the Marakiya market is no different from any other sustainable-food venture. The West Bank is densely speckled with agriculture, including vegetable plots, orchards, and olive groves that paint vibrant green brushstrokes across the hilly landscape where sheep and goats graze amongst the scrub. But some of this locavorism is not by choice.
No longer able to afford the chemical pesticides and other conveniences used in conventional growing techniques, some Palestinian farmers have reverted to traditional growing methods. According to a recent article in Haaretz, many farmers plant â€œancient seeds,â€ which are indigenous to the region and more resistant to disease than hybrids. They also use â€œorganic compost [made from] goat droppings,â€ the article reported. Their resulting crops are, by default, sustainable and organicâ€”the kind of produce that makes a foodie swoon. But in Israel, the trendy notion of supporting regional growers is complicated by geopolitics.
Go read the whole article, and if you’re in Jerusalem, find out when the next market day is and please go. Stay for some soup–you won’t be sorry.