Our time here has blessed us with so many amazing encounters and budding relationships with Jewish families who call the Holy Land their home. Recently we spent an afternoon in Jerusalem with one such family: Dave and Hannah Mason and their son Ari Lev.
We met up with Hannah at the Mahane Yehuda Marketplace, known to locals simply as “The Shuk.” The Shuk consists of a massive arrangement of vendors selling spices, produce, clothing, meats, cheeses, snacks, bread, and a wide variety of other products. Much of the produce is local and kosher, and vegetarian and vegan options are easy to find.
We made our way through the bustling crowds as Hannah brought us to her favorite places. After sampling some freshly made tahini (sesame paste), Hannah took us to her favorite spice shop, where spices and tea mixes are ground in-shop. All along the walls were huge jars of spices, both those familiar to us and many we'd never seen before. Among these many spices was sachlav, a flour-like powder made of actual flowers (sahlab orchids), which is used primarily in hot milk beverages.
We continued on to sample produce that, though exotic to us, is native to the region. We also sampled some baklava, nuts, and halva (a sweet confection made with sesame paste). One of our favorite stops was a kosher deli that was divided into two separate storefronts in order to avoid crossing meats and cheeses. We've really come to admire the dedication observant Jewish people have to following the law, and the cheese and olives we bought there were amazing!
Next we stopped to buy fresh bread, and then we sat down together at Hannah's favorite "hummuseem," a restaurant that specializes in hummus. Hannah told us all about the Shuk's history, how it had started as a small place for locals to buy basic groceries back in the 19th century, and how it had grown into what it is today. Having lived in Jerusalem for about two decades now, Hannah takes joy in the Shuk's growth and development, which reflects that of Jerusalem and Israel as a whole. She expressed an even deeper joy, though, over living here in the Holy Land, a reality so many of her ancestors had longed for.
After a long and exciting tour of the Shuk, we headed over to Dave and Hannah's apartment for a teaching and Q&A time with Dave about his book we had all been reading! Dave is the author of The Lamp of Darkness, a "Jewish Harry Potter" novel, of sorts, that takes place during the time of the Biblical prophets. It was so cool to hear about the research and time that went into his novel, and we're all really looking forward to the second book.
It's been such a blessing to get to know families like Dave and Hannah during this trip, and we're looking forward to more encounters in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!