My friend Julia Radice recently returned from a Birthright trip to Israel. A highlight was her stroll through the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.
Over 250 vendors sell at this market. Their offerings include everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to breads and pastries, spices and grains, dried fruits and nuts, plus a slew of clothing, housewares, and souvenirs.
Activity picks up as Shabbat approaches. Although the main market closes for Sabbath, a few cafés and restaurants remain open.
Julia arrived at Yehuda market a couple hours before Shabbat to see it at its peak. And sure enough, the aisles were jam-packed. Families trailed carts while stocking up for the coming days, and throngs of tourists were eating everything in sight. Vendors called out, sometimes in Hebrew and sometimes English, for shoppers to come by. Julia saw more varieties of baklava than she knew existed, as well as at least one stall that sold only tahini. She sampled boureakas (a savory Israeli pastry) filled with potatoes and mushrooms, which she described as delicious and filling. Israel is not an inexpensive country, so eating at markets seems to be the way to go for cheap, yummy, and authentically local food.
The remarkable mix of smells, tastes, colors, and sounds in the Yehuda market will remain among her most vivid memories of the whole excursion.