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Birthright Israel | Eight steps to get the best deal at Jerusalem's shuk

May 29, 2016
Jerusalem's Shuk

Let's start with addressing what your first question might be. What exactly is a shuk? It's a huge outdoor market that sells all sorts of goodies. Jerusalem's infamous shuk is packed with tons of shops, foods, and of course, people.

We went on a Friday afternoon, which means that it's extra crowded. Once Shabbat sets in, the shuk shuts down, so everyone wants to stock up for the weekend. It's a crazy place that has all different kinds of foods for sale, gifts, clothes, and some of the best challah you can find. Haggling is absolutely necessary to get decent prices and to make sure we tourists are not getting ripped off. To survive the streets of the shuk and get the best bang for your buck, there's a special way to do it. Here's an eight-step survival guide.

1. Use your marpakim (מרפקים), your elbows, to navigate the overcrowded streets of the shuk. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there so you need to be prepared to work your way around all of those slow turtle walkers. Apparently Niv, our Israeli-American homie on the trip, had some difficultly doing this. 

2. Haggle hard or go home. Some of these salespeople will try and sell their knick-knacks for a ridiculous price. My pal Rebekah saw a necklace selling for 140 shekels for what was probably made from a healthy mix of silver metal, aluminum, and who knows what. Long story short, she simply told the salesman that it wasn't worth that much, turned around, and started walking away. The salesman stopped her and said, "take for free," in his strong Israeli accent. 

3. Look around first before you buy anything. The shuk can be pretty overwhelming, and it's important to explore a bit before jumping at the first thing that looks cool. The salespeople towards the back might have better prices. You have to look first and commit later. 

4. Don't worry about your squad getting split up. It's not so bad if you get lost and end up wandering with just a couple people. In a way, I find this more relaxing. The shuk is so hectic and crowded that it gave me anxiety to constantly be worrying about where my friends were. It's a better experience when you don't have that constant thought about losing the six friends you came with. My advice is to stick with one or two people. Believe me, it's much better. 

5. Always watch your bag. As I've said, the shuk is insanely crowded. You never know if pickpockets might be on the prowl for anyone who's not being careful. Always have a hand on your bag or if you're wearing a backpack, make it a "frontpack"  and wear it on the front.

6. It's ay-okay to walk away. Some people won't haggle with you. It's their loss. 

7. FOOD SAMPLING. I ventured around the food sections with Rachel D., sampling dried fruit, cheeses, and challah. Because, why not? 

8. Prepare to play our favorite game: Jewish geography! Real talk, it's awesome running into the 20 other Birthright groups at the shuk and finding out who knows who. I ran into about 10 people I knew, some who I haven't seen in years! I love Jewish geography because it represents how close we are as a community. It's special how connected everyone is, and that's not something many other communities can say. 

Andie Migden is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill from Roslyn, NY.

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