Israel Trek: Jerusalem Markets

In today's installment of the Israel Trek storyline, I'm sharing photos from our tour of the shuk in the Old City. I'll admit that the shuk was a highlight of the trip, but there is so much more to see! Check it all out here.

Throughout our trip, I was continually impressed with the freshness and the quality of the food that was readily available wherever we went. Most of this post will be devoted to the delights of the Arab Souk in Old City, but before we get into that, I have to sneak in a couple photos from the little corner market that was literally a block away from our flat, located outside of Jerusalem's center.

Here we would stock up on grab-n-go essentials for the day, like juicy pears, refreshing mini cucumbers, nuts sold by the pound, and healthy sweets like figs and dates. In the mornings, the neighborhood woke up with calm murmur in the form of breakfast cafes and city buses, feeding and transporting people on their way to work.


One afternoon, we took a deliberate tour of Jerusalem's famous Machane Yehuda Market, otherwise known as The Shuk.

The shuk has rows and rows of vender stalls, selling all manner of goods, like spices, soaps, fresh produce, cooked meals, hand-crafted items, and traditional souvenirs. And I'm sure I missed a ton of categories in that list.

There is just no way to take it all in with one visit. 

With so many food options as gorgeous as this, making decisions was very difficult!

So instead of limiting our options, we decided to take a self-directed walking food tour called Shuk Bites. For approximately US$25/person, we got a sampling of ten different food stalls throughout the market.

The above card consists of ten little tear-offs that allow you to redeem food samples at your own pace. Here's a funny little brain fart moment though: We started with Hava Brothers Bakery (#1), and as we looked for it in the market, we noticed all the signs were in Hebrew rather than English. (Fair enough.) So I say,

"How are we going to find the stalls?"

NS says, "We just need to match the Hebrew characters on the cards."

I say, "Okay, good point, but we need to make sure we start from the right!"

Hmmm. I might have missed the point about "matching" rather than "reading"...

Anyway, our first stop, as I said, was Hava Brothers, where we found the occupants hard at work making an Iraqi-style naan bread. 

They excitedly motioned for us to join them right inside the bakery, peering into the open oven, where the "laffa" bread baked on the hot stone.

Before I knew what was happening, the baker-in-chief ordered me to hand the camera over to NS so that I could jump right in and make my own dinner. It was at this point that I remembered: I have a fear of tossing dough (or anything else, for that matter) in the air.

Fortunately, the baker had me stretch the laffa dough out over a pillow to give it a nice round shape.

Then it was into the oven for a few minutes, and before we knew it, my creation was out, packaged and ready to go! We also got another laffa covered with olive oil and zaatar seasoning, as well as a loaf of sesame bread.

Shuk Bite #1 was a huge success!

Spoiler alert: The Hava Brothers Bakery was our favorite stop. What fun to be a part of the baking process - it made the food that much more interesting!

Our next stop was Chochmat HaBourekas. The staff in this stall were not all that interactive, but we did enjoy two small bourekas (puffy bread filled with cheese), hard boiled eggs, a pickle, tahina dip, and lemonade. Can't argue with delicious basics!

We skipped ahead to our first dessert at Mamlechet HaHalva's large display. Here there were many tempting dessert-looking objects, and as halva was a delicacy new to both of us, we were offered any number of samples.

Oh. My goodness. I'm not sure how to describe this. So it's sesame-based, using tahina (aka tahini) as a main ingredient. I'm sure there is a heap of sugar in there as well, but essentially they mix this sesame base in any number of wonderful combinations (like espresso or chocolate or cinnamon or pecans) and create amazing flavors in a grainy-textured sweet treat.

By the time we were done with all our tastings (including their original tahina, which was divine all by itself), we had purchased two kilos of halva to share with friends back in Cayman. It was just so good, and since it's dairy-free, it packaged well and required no refrigeration.

Take me back!!!
Some stops along the way were more noteworthy than others. The pictures speak for themselves; there was no shortage of food on this tour.

Pastries that we saved for later from Mifgash HaShiech.

Along the way, I was absolutely taken with the vibrance of the produce. Who knew that these colors occurred in natural edible forms?!

Gorgeous dragon fruit.

Another tasty and interactive stop was Bashar Fromagerie - a small cheese shop that boasted 800-1200 types of cheese! (I know there is a lot of variance in that statistic, but this is what the shop girl told us.)

The girl that helped us was passionate about quality cheese (who isn't?!) and seemed more than happy to explain each sample, despite the line of customers.

Inside the shop of Pereg Tavlinim, we tried different spice combinations that could easily be paired with meats or salads. This was another instance where I probably wouldn't have entered the shop without the prodding of the Shuk Bites tour, but I ended up buying a bag of chicken seasoning (that I could eat by the handful) before the day was over. 

Another stop that offered up standard Middle Eastern fare that we saved for later was Tzidkiyahu Delicacies. While we waited for our sample container of olives and picked vegetables, I was entertained by the shopkeeper's gruff manner while waiting on the daily customers.

Careful; you're entering "No soup for you!" territory!

People watching is such a fun part of traveling somewhere new. While we wandered about, I snuck a shot of some young female IDF soldiers eating their dinner. After N's four years in the USAF, I marveled at the long-haired ponytail norms that their girls were allowed!

At Uzi Eli, we sampled fresh-pressed juices, which was just the cleansing force we needed before ending our tour with... cream from The Blender.

By this point, we needed to be rolled home. Definitely the best $25 we've ever spent!

If you're traveling to Jerusalem and are interested in taking this tour, I highly recommend visiting the Shuk's website and purchasing a punch card. As of this writing, the tour has been changed since we visited, so here's one tip: If your tour doesn't include The Halva Kingdom stop (as per my photos above), stop by their stand for some free samples. It will change your life.

And that's what Israel is all about.


  1. When I was reading this I was like, oh I've had that sesame sweet stuff. And then I wracked my brain to remember where I've had it and remembered that it was at your house:)

    I love markets. Lovely pictures!


    1. That stuff keeps forever! I should learn to make it.

  2. Mouth watering experiences! Thanks for all the pics and descriptions!