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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wednesday Wednesdays

I suppose that everyone has certain rituals that they get stuck with.

I shower in the evenings, never the morning. I look forward to my main meal of the day in the evening, rather than the afternoon -- that's how it was when i was growing up.

And every Wednesday morning, when i wake up, my first thought is 'shuk day'.

A 'shuk' is an open-air market, and Safed's shuk runs every Wednesday, rain or shine. If a holiday gets in the way, the local paper makes sure that everyone knows which day is the alternate day, though shuks on alternate days are much smaller....people want to come on Wednesdays, or not at all.

The shuk is an experience. True, you can buy all your fruits and vegetables there, fresh and tasty. One can also find clothes, shoes, disposable items, canned goods, nuts and dried fruits, materials, pots and pans, dishes, pickled items, and just about everything that doesn't need to be plugged into a socket in order to work.

All of these items can be purchased in stores however, and the price difference isn't so great.

We go to the shuk because the atmosphere can't be replicated anywhere else. Vendors yell to the shoppers -- the women, never to the men...I don't know why, but it's always 'Geveret, Lady, come and see my bananas', never 'Adoni, Mister... -- and at each other, but 2 seconds after a vendor has given his competitor a tongue-lashing, he'll be pouring him a cup of coffee and asking him for change.

The vendors are either Israeli or Arabs, but most have learned rudimentary Russian and Amharic in order to speak to the Russian and Ethiopian immigrants who populate the shuk. Shoppers often leave their bulging bags behind a vendor's stall, saying 'Yehuda, I'll be back soon' and as far as I know, no one has ever had their bags removed, even though 'coming back soon' might mean in two hours time.

The vendors are some of the softest-hearted people around. At the day's end, most vendors will 'employ' some of the young Ethiopian boys who hang around, allowing them to help pack up. The amount of produce that these boys are allowed to take home in return for their services is way out of proportion to the actual work that they do, yet each vendor checks to make sure that he has a couple of these kids around to help him at the day's end.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Wednesday.

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