The Fig Tree and The Shuk

Two, almost three weeks now in Be’er Sheva and I feel much older. Soon I will have to do adult things like buy laundry detergent and toothpaste…permanent actions that mean I really am here and I really am staying. When I was planning for this trip, I planned for a lot of extraneous circumstances like two day hikes and outdoor camping trips. That’s all well and good, but I neglected the fact that my life would continue during these months!! The sun rises and sets here just like it does in Memphis and Yardley; the seasons change, the people yell, the cats scratch, politicians argue, beer gets brewed and drunk. You go to pubs, you study, and every Friday night you pray and thank God for all his infinite blessings. The weeks seem so long here, but time somehow moves more quickly. If i were lucky–not that I believe in luck, but if I were in a movie–I’d say I’m living someone else’s life. I look around and think about how I got here and I can’t but smile. And then I know that I really am here. I’m home! These are my pictures on the wall; these are my books; there are my clothes in the closet; there is my homework to be done; there is my tea to be drunk.
I went a few days ago to the Shuk, the daily outdoor market in the “Old City” by the central bust staion. Stalls and stalls overflowing with tomatoes and cucumbers, bursting at the seams with fresh fruit! So many varieites I had never seen before (cactus fruit, guava, passion fruit……). I stuck to what I knew: plums and fresh figs. FRESH FIGS! They’re everywhere here, even in the desert (truth: okay, it was planted a few centuries ago, but we hiked up sand dunes to the Mediteranean and picked fresh figs off the tree :)) I accidentally bought about four pounds of figs at the Shuk because I didn’t have the courage to ask for half a pound (I mean kilo. What?!) But that seems like a serendipitous problem. If I had more kitchenware I would make a fig and cheese tart with the excess, but alas, I’m back to basics in my apartment with gas stovetop and “travel” pot.
I also bought a mountain of pita bread (pronounced pee-tah, not pee-dah…glad I have Israeli friends to call me on my Americanism…), some cheese (I have no idea what kind because I still can’t read the signs…) and some fish–both fresh and smoked salmon.

So happy.
The Shuk also features huge sacks of grain (think Biblical times), nuts, dried fruits and spices. Next time I go I’m bringing someone with me to help translate 🙂
I’m so happy here. Happy in a very strange and liberating way. But I know I have so much responsibility ahead of me. My first weekend here, I was asked to think about and meditate on what I want out of my time here, and I wasn’t sure. I’m still not completely sure, but whatever it is, it is slowly coming into focus…
I’ve also been terrible about saying my prayers here. But I still find comfort in words:

“Since we have the same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak…for all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound in the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward world is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”

This country is overflowing with paradoxes. Paradoxes, or milk and honey…


Author: melbell51

Aspiring travel writer and slow nomad.

3 thoughts on “The Fig Tree and The Shuk”

  1. Melanie, your adventure sounds so exciting – what a blessing it is to experience the days speeding by. Keep at it and know that you are exactly where you need to be to experience everything perfect for you. you are loved, and that not only means that there are people who care about you, it also means that there are people who greatly respect your life and your decisions on how you want to be and perceive the world.

    I smiled because if i had an excess of figs the last thing that would pop in my head would be “hmmm…i think i'll make a cheese and fig tart!” i'd probably put them in a punch bowl, or paste them up on my bathroom mirror and engage in dramatic discourse (this town ain't big enough for the two of us, see!”



  2. Beautiful imagery and reflections, Melanie. The Shuk is what I was referring to in the Old City of Jerusalem – you will experience it there too, in the Muslim quarter. (Fun Scrabble fact: the word can be spelled “suq” for a unique way to use a “q!”) I'm with Tim on “the first thing I'd think of if I had an excess of figs” – would not be a tart. But now that I am thinking about it, perhaps you can make some impromptu fig jam in your one travel pot and gas stovetop. (You just need to know the word for sugar or risk the consequences, lol.) I imagine, though, that in the surplus fig circumstance, I would just eat figs faster and more frequently while they're fresh. Thank you for posting! Love, AK


  3. FIG JAM!!!!! That's on my to-do list. Aunt K, “shuk” is the Hebrew word for market–spelled שוק
    “Suq” is the Arabic word for market. I have no idea how to spell that, but at least in Be'er Sheva we use the two words to distinguish between the Israeli market and the Bedouin market.


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