Buy your challah last, or it will get squished in the melee
Ditto figs (but oh, yes, make sure to splurge on figs).
There’s no point in politely asking, “May I sample one of those olives?” Just reach in with your grubby little fingers and grab, as everyone else has done already that day. And when you buy them, try not to think about that.
If the shuk were in America, people would undoubtedly take advantage of the chaos to a) steal b) pickpocket and c) cop a feel. I’d be quite easy to do all three. There is not only none of that in Israel (none that I know of, anyway–would love to hear from folks if they’ve had less encouraging experiences) but no sense that anyone would. The flip side to such a paternalistic culture is, sometimes, feeling safer. What’s interesting is that I did not feel this comfortable in the markets in Morocco and India, even though they’re of a similar cultural piece (back in the day they’d call it “Oriental”). I’m guessing that was in part because in both of those other places I was an outsider–white, American, traveller–whereas here I’m an insider. I’m Jewish, I speak the language, I have an address, etc. There are all sorts of shades between them–the white American who speaks Arabic and has an address, the Desi (Indian-American) who’s visiting family, etc. Don’t know how that shakes down, or even if this is a theory worth pursuiing (after all, I’m talking about my perceptions of my safety, which is different than the actual reality) but half-baked theories are what blogs are for, no? Anyway, paternalism, safety–not that I’m endorsing the total package–it’s complicated here, complicated at home, I’m still waiting for a way to live that doesn’t involve subtle shades of a Margaret Atwood novel.
Not about the shuk per se, but it turns out there are 3 words listed next to coriander in my dictionary, and all of them correspond to different spices (none of which smelled like coriander).
A group of Christians came storming through the shuk at some point, waving Israeli flags, singing in Hebrew and blowing on a shofar. I have no idea what that specifically was about (though generally it was clearly about the state of Israel helping to bring about the Second Coming of Christ.) The shuk employees around me when they stormed in didn’t know either.
That is all.
When I visited Israel with my mother in 1998, I remember that our tour guide (a very sweet Arab guy whose name I’ve forgotten) touched my arm and shoulder often, as Mediterranean men often do. I found it charming; my mother seemed kind of agitated, and I got the sense it was weirder for her to see an Arab tour guide touching her daughter than it would be to see a Greek tour guide doing the same thing. I wrote a poem about that, actually. Hm: do you have my chapbook? Perhaps a care package will wing its way to you soon…
In Italy a crowd is also an excuse for a little pickpocketing or groping – at least in Rome in the 90s.