I live in the South of Israel, in the Negev. One of the cities in the Negev is Netivot. Now if this name sounds sort of familiar to you, it is because Netivot has been the recipient of many Grad missiles fired by Hamas. Netivot is nine km. from Gaza.
In Netivot, like many other cities in Israel, one or two days a week is shuk day.
Tuesday is shuk day in Netivot. In Hebrew, shuk means “marketplace.” For hundreds of years, Jews from all over the world have vended and shopped in marketplaces. Merchants would travel by ship to sell their spices, fine perfume, material etc. My ancestors going back to the early 1700s traveled by ship from Spain to Romania, where they eventually settled, selling all their wares along the way.
In Bibical times, our forefather Abraham met with caravan merchants on the very land where Netivot and the surrounding communities stand today.
Every Tuesday, merchants and farmers from the villages and kibbutzim in the area set up their wares in the open-air market. You can buy almost anything in the shuk from fruits and vegetables, clothes, toys, Judaic, cheap costume jewelry, paper products, plastic ware and there is always a surprise or two.
The shuk in Netivot is on a large piece of land in the industrial area. Shopper’s crowd onto the bus with their shopping wagons and hand held baskets. Young mothers with babies in carriages and a toddler or two trailing behind are a common sight. Everyone is going to the shuk to look for bargains. And if you are patient and have the time to really look carefully, you will find the bargains.
But you need patience when you arrive at the shuk. The traffic on the street of the shuk and around the entrance is always crazy. Early bird shoppers block the entrance putting their purchases in the trunk of taxis. Bus drivers honk their horns wanting to pass. Venders are unloading produce and merchandise and security is checking each car as they drive into the parking lot.
As you walk into the shuk, you are entering a very interesting and entertaining place to shop. The noise level is very loud. Vendors are hocking their produce and wares. Knowing how to bargain is part of the game. The secret is knowing prices and know how much you are willing to pay.
After you ask the vendor how much, he/she will usually give you a high price, figuring you are going to bargain. I usually say too expensive and walk away. The vendor will call you back “g’veret, g’veret” [literally Mrs.] and give you another price. If it is a fair price, you buy; if not, say no and as you leave, he will ask how much. Give your price [it has to be fair, no cheating allowed], and in most cases, you have a deal.
The villages and kibbutzim in the area have buses that take residents for an “outing” to the shuk. The older women love to meet and shmooze. For many, it’s their only time away from home.
Shuks in the South Had to be Closed
As I started this blog, I told you that Netivot has had many rockets fired at it citizens. Because of this, Pikud Oref, Israel’s Home Front Command, has ordered that the shuk be closed during the war. It is just too dangerous. Shuks, in other southern cities have also been closed.
Many vendors travel from city to city, setting up their wares. With the shuks closed, the vendors are suffering. Their income has been taken away because of rockets.
If you are visiting Israel, the famous Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem and Carmel market in Tel Aviv are must-stops for every tourist.
No matter if you are a native Israeli or a tourist, if you have never shopped in the shuk, you owe yourself the experience.
Postscript. One of the farmer families that sell their produce in the shuk lives in my yishuv (community). They decided that since the people can’t come to the shuk, the shuk will come to them. On Tuesday they set up a veggie shuk on the lawn outside of their home. Many residents came to buy and appreciated their efforts.