Thursday, March 13, 2008

And the song remains the same

Originally posted Thursday, April 12, 2001

Well, it's Passover and the good news is that for 5 days I didn't read/hear any news. I don't have a tv at home and I no longer have internet at home either. I can't listen to the news on the radio in Hebrew because I don't understand enough to understand the whole story. And just getting the gist of it isn't enough because I want to make sure that the bombing they're talking about was the one from 3 weeks ago, and not a new one.

The immediate area, thank God has been quiet-ish this holiday. Seems the Arabs are concentrating in the 'Gush', southwest of Jerusalem. Mortar attacks from the Arabs, the IDF retaliates by returning fire.

I'm sorry but this is really getting old, annoying...a band-aid on a sucking chest wound.

The week before Passover is usually a very busy time at the Shuk. People buying not just food but housewares for the holiday.

This year the week before was depressingly empty. Of course that week there were bombs and attempts every day and since the shuk is generally a favorite place to blow up, people were naturally afraid. The girls were already off from school and I had some chicken to buy, so we walked through the shuk and I did my shopping. The butcher admonished me and told me this was no place for children. We walked out quickly and went home. He was right.

The good news is, this week, the week OF the holiday, the shuk is crowded. It could be the increased security.

The shuk is an experience. It is an explosion of color, a riot of scents and a myriad of sounds.

Stalls of fruits and vegetables, deep green of parsley and dill, bright yellow of lemons, the gradation of rosy red tomatoes to brilliant orange carrots and citrus and the blue-black eggplants sit side-by-side with the fish mongers. Frozen salmon and tuna steaks sit in freezers with huge Nile perch fillets. Tubs of live carp, spraying water rest by cases of fresh fish nestled on crushed ice.

Scattered among the produce and fish stalls are the butchers (no live animals here) with display cases of chickens, beef and lamb in all their assorted forms (whole, ground, pieces), and an occasional turkey. There are also stalls that sell cheeses, smoked fish and a staggering variety of pickled vegetables. No less than 10 types of olives, 5 kinds of pickles, spicy pickled mixed vegetables, pickled baby eggplant (which are a surprisingly brilliant magenta), pickled turnips in a beet juice, pickled baby lemons (which look more like some gourd than a citrus) and pickled hot peppers.

There are a few stalls that offer fresh spices, quasi-burlap sacks of fresh teas and herbs, meter high cinnamon sticks and a large variety of dried hot peppers. Interspersed among the stalls are places to buy by the kilo dried split peas (green and yellow), lentils, 10 different types of rice and dried pasta of all different shapes. There are the bread bakers, where you can buy fresh pita and 'lafa', which are a cross between a pocketless pita and a flour tortilla.

And finally there are the housewares and clothes stalls...pots, pans, glasses and silverware. Dresses, shoes, pants and socks. Even shopping carts and oversized bags to buy to put all your purchases in.

There's nothing quiet about the shuk either. Shopkeepers, primarily the produce vendors, not content to write out on cardboard the price of their products, shout out their enticements... "Strawberries! 4 shekel a kilo!" (US$1 for 2.24 pounds) "BananaBananaBananas!"

Man, I love this place.

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