Machane Yehuda Market (official site) is the most famous market in Jerusalem. In recent years it also became a popular tourist attraction with plenty tours and workshops.
Map of the area:
Today this marketplace incorporates not only standard food, clothes, utensils lots/stores but also bars and restaurants.
History Of Machane Yehuda Market
Machane Yehuda Market dates back to the Ottoman period. An empty lot as the 19th century drew to a close, it was developed by local peasants who brought produce to sell in this central location. Slowly the open grounds were turned into an organized market. The success of the shuk was attributed to its location, which was a much closer walk to neighborhoods and villages located outside of Jerusalem’s older and more established Old City. The Ottoman rulers did not have a particular interest in the market, however, and did not develop any infrastructure for it, such as drainage ditches or stalls for the sellers.
A significant difference in the outer appearance of the market began to develop during the Mandate Period (1917-1948). The first governor of Jerusalem (Ronald Stores) saw how important the shuk was to Jerusalem’s unique atmosphere. Stores also wanted to encourage the citizens of Jerusalem to support themselves financially; he couldn’t bear the sight of the shuk, and so he appointed a city planner, Charles Robert Ashby, and an architect to create a formal design for the market. Ashby’s plan included desperately needed infrastructure, such as proper sewage and garbage disposal, lighting, and running water. Ashby planned a large market, surrounded by a walls on each side. He proposed Oriental-style gates, with arched domes, which matched well with other Mandate Period designs.
Despite his great efforts, Ashby’s design was not executed (mainly because of budget restrictions ), and the market continued to maintain its ramshackle appearance. Over time, larger crowds began to attend the shuk. The merchants began to change (a certain percentage of the Arab merchants sold space to new Jewish immigrants). At that time, the Etz Chaim Yeshiva showed a spirit of initiative. Located in the midst of the market, the yeshiva established a row of shops alongside the wall, collected the rent from the merchants, and by doing so managed to increase the income of the yeshiva.
Although the British did not implement Ashby’s proposed improvements to the market, the government asked the merchants to renovate the dilapidated stalls and instill order and cleanliness in the shuk. The city government managed to disburse some loans to merchants, but, overall, the merchants were dissatisfied with their conditions. Merchants who owned permanent structures in the shuk, though they did not have to pay rent, had to pay high taxes and pass health inspections. Renters, who were not subject to these rules, were able to undercut their prices and win customers while avoiding all the restrictions.
In 1930, the merchants all came together, and, with the help of the city committee, they acquired a portion of land located south to HaAgas St. They established a new market here. Again, the British did not make it easy for them, and stated a number of requirements as to the appearance of the shops, but city hall did take care of the sanitation and the cleanliness of the new market.
About a year after the new market was built, about 20 merchants and stand owners decided to go to the city committee for financial help to allow them to build their own permanent shops. The traders of the “loan and save” market where extremely apprehensive about their livelihood, and therefore they were against these demands. Nevertheless, a portion of land was acquired, west of the first market, and in 1931 a new and additional market was launched. Many of these merchants were immigrants from Iraq—and this area is still know as the Iraqi market.
At The Market
Thursdays and Fridays are probably the busiest days, as everybody prepares for Saturday (Machane Yehuda market is closed on Saturdays). And on these days you can also find street performers in the market:
During another visit to the market, we had lunch in one of the restaurants. More can be found here.
The term halva meaning “desserts” or “sweet”, is used to describe two types of desserts: Flour-based and Nut-butter-based. In Israel the halva is nut-butter-based. The simplest recipe is mixing sesame butter or paste (tahini) with honey or sugar.
Machane Yehuda Market become a touristic spot for a reason. You can find authentic people and tasty food. Thus if you like such places, it definitely worth visiting.
Have you ever visited Machane Yehuda Market? Let us know in the comments below.
That’s all for today and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional points of interest nearby check out Jerusalem page.