Israel’s markets share a glimpse of everyday life as it’s been lived for generations.
Although the commercial nature of some markets means that they have changed over time, in particular, to meet the needs of tourists, there are still markets to be found which have retained their original character over the passage of time.
There is something about the colorful displays, the local goods and delicacies on offer, the loud, jovial shouts from stallholders and the milling throngs that somehow conjure up the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a bygone era.
Discovering the individual character of Israel’s markets is important from a filmmaking perspective. The most popular markets are not necessarily the most traditional. Some markets are tiny and may be tucked away in a side street, frequented by locals alone. Finding out the location of the best markets in Israel can make all the difference between a run-of-the-mill production and one that distinguishes itself with the ultimate locations that accurately convey the authentic flavor of Israel.
Biblical Productions have in-depth knowledge of Israel and are able to advise you about the best locations for filming in Israel. This article will focus on Israel’s markets, highlighting the range of colorful bazaars and street markets that are scattered throughout the country.
Tel Aviv Markets
Let’s start off our market tour of Israel in Tel Aviv, which has a multitude of markets, all of which have their own individual charm and some of which are better known than others.
Carmel Market in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv’s vibrant Carmel Market is a hub of activity and is probably the best-known market in Israel. It’s filled with a range of colorful stalls selling goods ranging from clothing and CDs to an amazing array of dried fruits and multicolored, exotic spices that are freshly ground, sweet-smelling and, even on their own, somehow capture the real Middle East market experience. There are fragrant flower stalls, as well as fruit and vegetable stands piled high with richly-colored, local produce; all with wonderful scents and which appear giant-sized compared to their western counterparts.
Stall vendors hawk loudly to attract customer’s attention to their wares and the milling crowds reflect the diverse society of Israel; secular and religious Jews, Arabs, Africans, tourists from across the globe and foreign workers from the Far East, all searching for bargains.
Production Notes: The market has a real buzz about it and film crews can easily capture the hustle and bustle of this thriving general market. The main thoroughfare of Carmel Market represents a modern, tourist-centered market that is popular with the beach crowds as well as with locals. However, sometimes you have to poke around a bit to find the real gems. At Carmel Market, there are stalls on both sides of the road but take care not to walk past the small alleyways that lead off from the main walkway.
Hidden from the unassuming eye, these little passageways contain the less commercial, more traditional side of Carmel Market. They contain specialist stalls such as family-run delicatessens selling smoked meat, olives and other delicacies, stalls displaying full rounds of aromatic cheese, as well as shops selling herring and smoked fish from traditional barrels. You can also find stalls selling every variety of halva you could possibly imagine, fabric shops selling reams of rich-colored materials and bakeries with bread, pita, pastries (bourekas) and Middle Eastern sweet treats too. The colors, scents and sheer variety of specialist goods on offer are a far cry from the more commercial main market street.
Nahalat Binyamin Arts and Crafts Fair
On Tuesdays and Fridays, the Nahalat Benyamin quarter hosts a lively street fair. This artists’ market includes handmade jewelry and Judaica, as well as hand-crafted household items including wooden, copper and ceramic artifacts, crafts and paintings. As added entertainment the street is frequented by performers and musicians, adding a lively atmosphere. Performers cover a diverse range of skills, including fortune tellers, palm readers and clowns, alongside singers and dancers. This bustling bazaar has a reputation for originality and attracts tourists and locals alike who are after something a little out of the ordinary and want to enjoy a pleasant afternoon out.
Jaffa Flea Market
This market offers a vast range of goods from clothes, shoes and homeware to fresh produce. Some of these stalls need to be scoured carefully to find the best buys. There are homeware stalls with wonderful antique items and impressive brassware, all mixed up with low-grade tat. The stalls have an enticing mix of new products as well as retro, second-hand goods, of variable quality; the trick here is to separate the bargains out from the junk.
Production Notes: The Flea Market is the place to bargain and you can pick up the theatrical antics of stallholders haggling with their customers to get their best price. The market also has it fair share of unusual goods, so it is worthwhile having a good scout around prior to rolling the cameras so that you can highlight the weird and wonderful items you will no doubt find on display.
The Flea Market also has concealed areas along the tiny lanes off the main walkway. Here you can find a real hotchpotch of shops selling all manner of strange items. You can find old toys and household goods from yesteryear, old books, newspapers and journals as well as postcards, stamps and other collector items.
This market in the Florentine quarter is noteworthy for being one of the few places you can observe market vendors crafting their items beside their shops. Many produce hand-crafted furniture but there are also products ranging from cheese, pickled vegetables and exotic spices too. Production Notes: This is a grass-roots, blue-collar area that is off the tourist map. It is a visually exciting location to film in Israel as it contains the largest concentration of Bauhaus architecture in the country. It doesn’t have the busy throngs of the large Tel Aviv markets but it has a very local, timeless feel about it and captures the continuing craftsmanship present in the city.
Levinsky Spice Market
This small market is also located in the Florentine Neighborhood. The stalls spill into the side streets and include specialist teas, coffees, herbs, spices, dried fruits, nuts, pickles and more. Goods are displayed in simple hessian sacks, barrels and other traditional means. The colors of the products on display provide a rich tapestry that captivates, stimulates and enthralls.
Many of the vendors originate from Greece, Iran, Turkey and Morocco. They sell traditional products from their original cultures and are a font of knowledge for recipes and herbal remedies. They all have their own colorful characters, are alive with banter and give the market a vibrant atmosphere that is second to none.
Production Notes: This is a wonderful, traditional market, specializing in authentic Middle Eastern food products, in contrast to the more general markets that have become so predominant. These specialist markets were they way business was carried out in ancient times. The old traditions live on here in the Florentine Neighborhood, making it a great place to capture authentic scenes. Fridays are particularly hectic here but are a good time to capture Shabbat treats and cooking ingredients being snapped up by busy shoppers. The colors, aromas and traditional atmosphere here make it an authentic location for your production in Israel.
Tel Aviv certainly has some interesting markets to capture on film but Jerusalem also has its own very special blend of Middle Eastern markets. There are some great locations in Jerusalem to film market traders pushing barrows down narrow alleyways, jostling for space with shoppers and selling a wide range of goods.
Creative filmmakers can give viewers the sights, sounds and smells of these bustling bazaars. They can capture the wafting steam and aroma of freshly brewed Arabic coffee, take in the cacophony of music belting out from numerous stalls and listen to the noise of market traders calling out to customers – shouting about today’s special offer or just vying for attention among the competition. Markets are full of activity that excites all the senses. Filming the colorful fruit, vegetables and spices, the hanging rugs and reams of bright materials present an amazing array of colors to add vibrancy to any film.
Biblical Productions are keen for crews to discover the exciting range of markets on offer in Israel, each having its own distinct flavor. Below we share with you our knowledge of the exciting range of ‘shuks’ in Israel’s capital city.
Machane Yehuda Market
This market is famed for having a wide selection of goods at bargain prices. It includes fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, homeware products, bread, cakes and all number of other produce. This market attracts locals and tourists and is an example of a bustling modern market.
Old City Markets
Jerusalem is probably most famous for its Old City markets, which have been a social and commercial hub since Byzantine times. The ancient markets in the Old City used to have their own individual specialism but the tourist market today and the higher demands of modern shoppers mean that many markets in the region are now general.
If you know where to go, however, small, specialist markets retaining the old traditions can still be found in Jerusalem.
The Arab Quarter
The Old City has had markets since ancient times and many of the street names in the Arab Quarter refer to the markets which used to be situated there. Suq el-Lahamim, for example, means butcher street and has been in use since 70 AD.
The Arab Souk actually spills over into the Christian Quarter and offers a plethora of products. There are tourist souvenirs, some quaint, others tacky, as well as jewelry, clothes, spices and nuts. Local products include an interesting array of olive wood crucifixes, Bedouin embroidery, hand-blown glassware and strands of beads. There are also stalls selling traditional goods such as kaffiyehs, jalabiyehs and hookahs (shishas).
Production Notes: The market is situated in an interesting location, full of interesting architecture, winding, narrow streets and ancient archways. Along the length of the market, young boys vend pitas and pastries from wooden carts, jostling for space amongst shoppers and passers-by. The crowds contain an interesting cross-section of Jerusalem society; T-shirted tourists mingle with Muslim women wearing veiled burqas and frocked monks wander through the busy thoroughfare.
Souq Avtimos is a very colorful marking, selling bright selections of clothes, rugs and other wares. There are also jewelers and antique dealers in the surrounding shops. Next to Souq Avtimos is Souq Aldabbaghah, the leather market. This market displays more exclusive gifts and souvenirs but those looking for leather products will find they are few and far between these days. is the cotton merchants’ market and is located in a visually stunning street that transports you back in time. It is probably the most beautiful market in the Old City and is situated in an ancient, covered street with stone walls, columns and an arched roof, which has regular openings that allow shafts of light to filter through and shadows over the ornate stonework.
The market itself has a range of shops and two hammams (Turkish baths) as well as an ornate gate and an inn. As the name suggests, the market originally catered for Eastern textile traders and was once a thriving center of commerce. Today, its location away from the main market strip means that it is not on the tourist trail and consequently gives off the feel of a secret discovery. It is known for its superb architectural features and authentic Middle Eastern atmosphere.
Souk Khan EZ-Zeit
one of the busiest, most colorful markets in the Old City and specializes in the ingredients used for Palestinian cookery – spices, dried fruit, herbs, coffee, and pastries – as well as more standard food produce, traditional pottery, copper and brass wares, trinkets and jewelry. This was originally the Oil Merchant’s market and it straddles the Arab and Christian Quarters. The long, narrow street is almost entirely covered by a semi-domed roof with intermittent ventilation.
the Street of Spices and is packed with the colors and aromas of every kind of spice you could possibly imagine. The rich fragrances sweeten the air and the colors provide a thrill all of their own. They have a full range of fall colors – oranges, yellows, browns and greens. The spices are piled high on the individual stalls and are scooped up and sold by weight.
the old meat merchant market and is one of the few markets that still sticks to its original specialism.
Production Notes: These small but fascinating markets are all in close proximity but many can easily be missed unless you know where to look. Each has its own very specific range of goods as well as its own character and architectural setting. All have elements that would translate well onto film and demonstrate not only the hustle and bustle of today’s market experience in Jerusalem but which would also illustrate the ancient trades and products from times past.
Filming Markets in Israel
The markets of Israel are a highlight for many visitors, not only for the range of bargains and unusual products on offer but because they have a buzzing atmosphere and are sometimes located in stunning settings. Markets in Israel offer a range of visually exciting shots full of color, interest and action. The characters that run the individual stalls are also a good source of interviews and information. Their lively banter and naturally gregarious personalities would make for lively footage. Crews filming in Israel for travelogues, documentaries, feature films and other productions are encouraged to use Israeli bazaars as a setting. They are a wonderful film location in Israel, capturing the heart and flavor of their community and their traditional nature and historic roots link the present to the past.
Biblical Productions can help you locate the right market for your production and, once selected, can advise you where to shoot the optimum shots.