Written By Alex Burstein
In Tel Aviv, the Shuk Ha’Carmel always gets a little busier on Fridays.
As the weekend kicks off in Israel, ahead of Shabbat, the streets of Tel Aviv fill with pedestrians, vendors gear up for negotiations and smells and sounds both familiar and foreign to a tourist fill the air.
On Friday, the already busy Ha’Carmel Shuk got a little bit busier as Maccabi USA’s Israel Connect program took to the streets of Israel’s second largest city. As some locals made last minute shopping trips for Shabbat preparations, flocks of blue t-shirt wearing Maccabi USA members shop, ate and learned more about the growing, bustling city.
Students from the Shefayim hub hopped on the group buses around 10:30 Friday morning, as the Israel Connect portion of the day kicked off. Stepping foot in Jaffa after a forty minute bus ride, a quick history lesson ensued. Or Ben Ami, one of the group tour guides, explained the significance of the area, which is one of the oldest port cities in Israel. Jaffa, which sits at the Southern part of Tel Aviv, was a prominent Jewish community, and being the trade port that it was (sitting right on the Mediterranean Sea), led to Jaffa becoming a key immigrant location. When Jaffa became full, immigrants spilled into the then-empty nearby land. By 1909, it would become Tel Aviv.
Over 110 years later, the city has grown to a diverse city, which draws people with its “progressive” nature, according to Or. Without the sea allowing the area to flourish in trade, the area would have likely had a much different fate. While in the past it was an outlet for a booming economy, now the coast along Tel Aviv has turned into a modern beach area, with Israel Connect members viewing beach-goers, scooter riders and other locals enjoying a Friday morning in Tel Aviv..
After a walk along a beach trail, the groups split up, heading into the shuk to explore the area and grab some lunch. For Jeremy Marks, a Maccabi USA weightlifter, the shuk experience was highlighted by “absolutely delicious” food. While delicious food was one common mainstay through the first two days of Israel Connect, day two provided a stark contrast in most other aspects compared to the quiet walking and hiking the previous day.
Marks, who had been to Tel Aviv three times prior to this experience, had noticed small changes to the area, but the hectic nature remained the same. “I mean I’ve noticed a lot more things,” Marks said. “Lots of buses, crazy amount of people in the market, but that’s the same as always.”
Hailing from a large, urban city like Atlanta, the large crowds in small areas stood out to Marks.
“[Tel Aviv] is definitely much more crowded and tight knit, because I live in Atlanta and that is a very big place, compared to this at least,” he said.
After a couple hours of exploring the shuk and surrounding areas, athletes and coaches returned to the buses and came back to the kibbutz to prepare for their first Shabbat of the trip. As members of the group reflected on the trip upon return, sentiments of excitement and exhaustion from the market’s fast day came out.
A quick, but historical and hectic, day two of Israel Connect.