It’s a bad season for olives throughout the country, a result of natural yearly fluctuations. My little olive tree was particularly lazy and produced a pathetic yield not worth the effort of curing. I wasn’t sure where to obtain uncured olives but thought the Ramla Shuk might have them because of the mixed population living and frequenting this area, including a melting pot of Arabs, Jews, Cochini Indians, Bedouin and Ethiopians. In younger more homogenous neighborhoods, like mine, the vegetable venders don’t bother bringing olives because few people know how to cure them.
Ramla shuk is not a major tourist attraction; not like the more famous Carmel Shuk in Tel Aviv or Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem but it is just as colorful, perhaps even more so because it is authentic. It is crowded, dirty, parking is difficult to find and the aromas that waft from the shuk can make my eyes roll but it is always lively and real. There is no better place to watch people go by, a variegated cross section of Israeli society. Lately Israeli celebrity chefs and TV personalities such as Israel Aharoni, Gil Hovav and Gidi Gov all have brought Ramla Shuk a certain amount of publicity. There is even a Tunisian sandwich vender which has a large advertisement of Gil Hovav who visited this establishment for his TV show on Israeli food.
I called my neighbors Evelyn and her daughter Hedva, always game for a trip to the shuk and we carpooled to Ramla for another outdoor market adventure. I found uncured Manzanilla olives in a shop owned by an old Moroccan woman with cloudy eyes and vibrant memories who gave me her recipe for Hamin, a slow cooked Sabbath stew. Close by I bought freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, ruby red and lemonade sour and Turkish Borek made with handmade filo dough and stuffed with either potatoes, spinach or cheese. I also bought falafel a few stalls down and as usual the vender refused to reveal their secret recipe. According to Miriam from Israeli Kitchen, getting a falafel recipe is not so trivial.
If you happen to be in Ramla you should stay to see the interesting historical sites the city has to offer. Ramla is one of the most ancient cities in Israel founded in the early 700’s CE by the Umayyad Caliph Suleiman ibn Abed al-Malik. It was conquered by every dynasty that passed through this area including Abbasids, Fatamids, Crusaders, Mameluks, Ottoman Turks, British and finally by Israel. A large portion of the population either fled or was expelled during the Israeli war of Independence in 1948. During the Ottoman era it served as the capital of the area.
Ramla Vegetable Shuk:
Central Ramla, between Jabotinsky and Herzl cross roads, parking is on King Solomon road (Shlomo)
On Wednesday there is the traveling Ramla-Lod shuk which brings textiles, kitchen utensils and other household goods and is set up below the main shuk near the parking lot.
Ramla’s Great Mosque
King Solomon (Shlomo) Road
Opening times: Monday-Thursday 10:00-13:00 and 12:30-16:00
Charge: 5 NIS for adults and 3 NIS for children and seniors
Ramla White Mosque also known as the Ramla Tower