Flash90’s Olivier Fitoussi on Wednesday went out to discover groups of Jerusalemites with and without facemasks shopping and enjoying the restaurants, cafes, and stalls of the Mahane Yehuda Market.
The Mahane Yehuda Market, a.k.a. The Shuk, is a partially-covered, open-air market in Jerusalem. It is bounded by Jaffa Road to the north, Agrippas Street to the south, Beit Yaakov Street to the west, and Kiach Street to the east.
In 1887, the neighborhood of Mahane Yehuda was established on the north side of Jaffa Road. It was founded by three business partners Johannes Frutiger (a German Protestant and owner of the largest bank in Palestine), Shalom Konstrum, and Joseph Navon, and was named after Navon’s brother, Yehuda. On the south side of the street to the west stood another neighborhood, Beit Ya’akov, which had been founded in 1885.
By the end of the 19th century, a marketplace was established on an empty lot to the east of Beit Ya’akov and across the road from Mahane Yehuda, which was owned by the Sephardi Valero family. It was known as Shuk Beit Yaakov. Here Arab merchants and peasants sold their goods to the residents who lived outside the Old City. As the new neighborhoods outside the Old City grew, the Beit Yaakov Market grew apace with more stalls, tents, and pavilions.
Under the Ottoman rule, the market expanded haphazardly and sanitary conditions worsened. In the late 1920s, the British Mandate authorities cleared out all the merchants and built permanent stalls and roofing. From that point on, the market began to be known as the Mahane Yehuda Market.
Changes in the market have transformed the area into a nightspot, with bars featuring specialty drinks, live music, and singers. The change has been so pronounced that one newspaper article listed a shuk restaurant among the five highest-rated restaurants in the city for romantic dates.
The shuk also hosts special events like the Balabasta dance and music festival, launched in 2010, which attracts large crowds that remain until late at night, in areas that used to be deserted. The annual festival includes street performances, artwork, puppet shows, and events linked to the market’s foods, such as chili-eating contests and produce-carving workshops.