As promised, a bit more about the Machne Yehuda.
The open air vegetable market (Shuk Machne Yehuda or שוק מחנה יהודה) began to develop during the Ottoman period, at the end of the 19th century as peasants from the nearby villages of Lifta, Deir Yassin, or Sheich Badr began to bring their wares to sell on Jaffa Street, next to the neighborhood of Machne Yehuda.
In this wide open area, the villagers would peddle their vegetables to passersby as well as to residents of the surrounding Jewish neighborhood of Nachlaot. The geographical location (about 700 meters from the Old City) was convenient for the residents of these outlying neighborhoods, and so the vegetable marked thrived.
The local Ottoman government took no notice of the growing market and never built any sort of stable infrastructure to house the market. This became apparent over the next century as the market suffered from easy access for trucks and vendors, easy drainage or sewage, and shelter from the hot sun. Over the course of several years, the market began to develop and the local vendors began to erect roofs and proper stalls. Within about a dozen years, tin roofs were added. I remember when I began to shop at the shuk those tin roofs were still there and you could always hear cats running around on them, and feel the rain dripping through them in the winter.
During the last dozen years, the shuk has changed drastically. It is now a favorite tourist stop, for both international and local tourists. In Israel, every city has a shuk, but Machne Yehuda is the jewel in the crown.
Today, you can find almost anything you want in the shuk. Vegetables, meat, fish, fruit, kitchen supplies. I love the colors and textures and always think that the shuk is so very visually pleasing.
One of the nice things about the shuk, especially for those of us who have been shopping there for a long time, is that we have our regular stops. In each stop, we have to chat a bit, discuss the week’s events, talk a bit about politics, and nibble a bit. It’s a great ritual!
It’s always worth a visit. If you come to Jerusalem, make sure that you spend a good half-day in the market. Not only for the shopping, but also make certain that you have a nice break in one of the many nice cafes and restaurants!