I had breakfast at Sea Executive Suites with some of my Israeli friends on Tuesday. The food was breathtaking and the buffet service, flawless. Whilst guzzling down strong black Turkish coffee we spoke about all the remarkable types of ethnic food available in Israel, each flavor building from Israel’s exceptional and diverse blend of cultures.
“Shakshuka,” a dish of Tunisian and Maghrebi origin sat on my plate, whilst one of my companions ate “Jachnun” a deep-fried staple of Yeminite food and the third munched down on bagels and cream cheese, which immigrated from Poland to New York and London, along with much of European Jewry #seasuitebreakfastrocks
I devoured my plate of Shakshuka and ran back to the buffet to grab several cheese bourekas before anyone else could get there. My friends smiled at my “gimme-all-the-yummy-food” attack and suggested I stroll to the Hatikva market to sample other types of Mizrahi foods at a relatively low cost. Eager for more foods like the breakfast I had gobbled down at warp speed, I got my backpack and set off immediately in the direction, the concierge pointed towards “Shuk Hatikva” - the Hatikva Market
I entered Shuk Hatikva looking for tasty snacks, and I left full to the brim with a complete experience that excited all my senses. The feel is one of a genuine and authentic market where you can pick up great bargains and absorb knowledge regarding the local community and Middle-Eastern or “Mizrahi” Israeli culture in a fanfare of spices, melodious loud voices and striking, fresh, local produce.
Located in the southeast area of Tel Aviv and established in the 1930s in the Hatikva Neighbourhood, “Shuk Hatikva” is one of the city’s older markets. Due to the centrality of Shuk HaCarmel, the more well-known and popular market on Allenby, Shuk Hatikva has also avoided the hipster, bohemian vibe that permeates other more chic markets in the city .
The side streets and main road of the market, Etzel, are brimming with unique items, and you can almost hear the clash of Eastern and Western civilizations knocking into each other with selfie sticks and phone chargers packed in between stands overflowing with nuts, spices and coffee – tradable goods with a history as far back as the Nabateans.
The reality of street life in Hatikva is that nothing is out of place in this market, and everything is negotiable.
Where else can you find someone selling live parrots as pets next to breaded chicken fillets?
Enriched by its lack of predictability, the tempo of Shuk Hatikva is edgy and distinctive.
As you enter the stalls and the shops, be prepared to face questioning and sporty bartering over everything. In a country where “How much do you earn?” is a legitimate question to a complete stranger, no question seems taboo and haggling is a part of the experience. If you don’t enjoy bartering, I think it’s safe to say you are in the wrong place, even the wrong country. Negotiating over prices courses through every Israeli’s blood and provides a fascinating and comical street theatre for tourists and locals alike. Haggling is not only appreciated but also enjoyed – so jump in whenever you are ready !
Try something spiritual
Aside from the high quality and cheap fruit and vegetables, the delicious breads and snacks, the amber composed of pickled mangoes and the incredibly suspect fish being sold, don’t miss out on the more mystical trinkets and charms available. Apart from pictures of great spiritual leaders, a spice called “Bahur” is for sale at several spice stores across the Shuk. Bahur is burned like incense to ward off the “evil eye” and costs 15 shekels for 100 grams.
Try something highly edible
I strongly recommend the Suluf bakery, a sit down or stand-around restaurant within the shuk itself, serving beer from 10am (my kind of place) with a uniquely Yeminite menu complete with jachnun, lohuh and kubana. The atmosphere is jovial, the music is loud, and the food is hearty.
Try something cheap
Grab a cup of limonada for a mere 2 shekels, or its bright green alternative which the vendor just called “Fruit drink.”
Try something genuine
If you want to test out a real Israeli market in action, Shuk Hatikva is the place to be. Trade in a morning drinking lattes at the beach for a rough and ready Israeli “happening.”
The market is open every day, apart from Saturday officially from 10am, actually from around 9.30 through the early evening.