Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mahane Yehuda Market and Mea Shearim

Today, we took a diversion to the market.  
I had been asked by a friend to bring back halva, an Israeli sweet, 
so we were on a quest to find it.  
We traveled to Mahane Yehuda Market, also known as "The Shuk" with our guide and 
she promised a sensory overload - which was totally correct! 
The dates, the figs, the apricots and other dried fruit looked heavenly.
Oh - the breads......
...and the pastries - YUM!!  
It made us want to dig in and start eating right then.   
By the way, I've decided that the chocolate croissants are my favorites!  
The pastas had such variety...

And the grains were plentiful.  
I just love shopping in these markets.  The energy, the crowds, 
the noise and the vendors just make me smile!  :) 
The produce here was absolutely incredible! 
I wish that I could have loaded my suitcases full with items to bring back to Lagos, 
but we were still days away from leaving.  It was still fun to look!  

And then... we stumbled on to Halva Kingdom!    
Oh. My. Goodness!! 
 I was a wonderful customer and stayed and sampled the different flavors of 
halva until I had a true sugar high.  And it was SO, SO WORTH it!  :)   
Halva Kingdom manufactures over 100 different flavors of Halva at its 
factory in Mishor Edomim, including pistachio, cherry, cashew and 
chocolate chip.   Shop keeper Eli Mamman knows all the Halva-making 
secrets, which have been passed down through his family from father to son. 
The sesame is imported from Ethiopia, ground with a millstone and then 
blended with sugar to give it that wonderfully sweet taste. The first Halva 
Kingdom was opened in 1947 in Jerusalem’s Old City, but when the Jews 
were deported from the Old City, the shop reopened in this local market.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single piece that I tasted, but my 
favorites were the almond, the cinnamon, the white chocolate and the 
coffee.  It had a gritty, but fabulous flavor and it apparently lasts for months!!  
I purchased about 5 different flavors which were sliced and wrapped
 in wax paper and placed in Halva Kingdom's labeled plastic containers
 making it easy to bring home.  What a treat and I enjoyed every bite!! 
 This is a "MUST DO" on any trip to Jerusalem. 

We walked through the neighborhood around the 
market, which was so interesting.  
Going through the narrow streets into the 'regular' neighborhoods 
gave us a touch of real Israeli life.  
Once we were back on the bus, we traveled through the famous area of 
Mea Shearim.  This is one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in 
Jerusalem and is populated mainly by Haredi Jews, an ultra Orthodox sect. 
For Haredi Jews, life revolves around strict adherence to Jewish law, 
prayer and the study of Jewish texts. 
Traditional dress may include black frock coats and black or 
fur-trimmed hats for men, although there are many other clothing 
styles, depending on the religious sub-group to which they belong.  
In some groups, the women wear thick black stockings all year long, 
including summer, as well as long-sleeved, very modest clothing.  Married 
women wear a variety of head coverings, from wigs to headscarves, 
since most shave their heads upon marriage.
 The men have long beards and some grow long side curls, called peyos.  
The residents speak Yiddish in their daily lives, and use Hebrew
only for prayer and religious study.  They believe that Hebrew is 
a sacred language only to be used for religious purposes.
I was fascinated by these framed pictures - all of Jewish men.  
"Modesty" posters in Hebrew and English are hung at every entrance
 to Mea Shearim. When visiting the neighborhood, women and girls are 
asked to wear what is deemed to be modest dress (long skirts, high 
necklines, covered shoulders and arms) and tourists are requested 
not to arrive in large, conspicuous groups. 
During the Shabbat, from sunset Friday until it is completely dark 
on Saturday night, visitors are asked to refrain from smoking, 
photography, driving or use of mobile phones. 
When entering synagogues, men are asked to cover their heads. 
 Many Heredi Jews do not recognize the government or the State of Israel. 
Residents have been criticized for attacking police and other government 
officials entering the area by throwing stones, blocking the streets
 and setting fire to garbage.    
Many of Mea Shearim's residents reject modern technology, so 
residents resort to the printing house. On each block, white signs 
with black Hebrew letters invite neighbors to weddings, meetings, 
and announce the deaths of members of the community. The signs 
also inform residents of changes in the neighborhood and other social events. 
The town walls also remind visitors that they are not welcome. 
Signs by the entrance  read: “Groups passing through our neighborhood
 severely offend the residents. Please, stop this!” and “Please do not 
disturb the sanctity of our neighborhood and our way of life as Jews 
deeply committed to G-d (God) and his Torah." 

There are approximately 800,000+ Haredi Jews in Israel and over 
60% of the men do not have jobs.  They have an average of 8 children 
and almost all live below the poverty line, preferring to study
 the Torah instead of work.  Currently, they are considered 
to be a "drain on Israel's economy" since most receive government assistance. 
 Due to lack of upkeep Mea Shearim is termed a 'ghetto' in West Jerusalem. 

As we headed back to the hotel, we passed this 
building painted as a busy building including the balconies.
 I've seen these type murals in print, but never in person.  Incredible!!  

What a fun day! 

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