As night fell over the Old Port of Tel Aviv, the notes of Leonard Cohen’s
“Hallelujah” rose high in the sky, aided by the sea breeze.
been here before, I know this room, I’ve walked this floor...” sang a musician
while moms with baby carriages, teens on skates, sweaty joggers and amorous
couples strolled alongside the Mediterranean Sea.
“What’s that?” asked a
puzzled passerby, pointing to some fresh and colorful produce.
eggplants,” answered Shlomo Abarbanel, concealed behind a stand piled high with
the small, round vegetables.
The 59-year-old farmer has been driving the
100 kilometers from Moshav Te’ashur in the Negev to Tel Aviv once a week for the
past two years. Along with other farmers from all over Israel, he comes to the
Old Port to sell his produce at the biweekly Farmers’ Market.
where urban meets rural as local agriculturists bring their fresh, high-quality
produce from the countryside directly to city-center folks.
vegetables, bread, cheese, herbs, honey, olive oil, cakes, wine, ice cream,
coffee and much more can be found on Tuesday nights and Friday mornings at this
outdoor market by Hangar 9.
Aside from the more common vegetables, the
market offers a variety of produce such as Abarbanel’s Thai eggplants, which
spark curiosity in many shoppers. He also grows other exotic plants such as
passion fruit, Asian pears and papayas on his farm near
“People are getting used to things they didn’t like or didn’t
know before, and papaya is just one example,” he said, cutting a juicy slice
from the ripe fruit for a customer to taste. “Papaya usually has a repellent
smell, but ours are sweet,” he added.
The Tel Aviv Farmers’ Market was
launched in the summer of 2008 by two entrepreneurs, Michal Ansky and Shir
Halpern. One a television presenter, the other a chef, both women are food
journalists who share a passion for cooking. Both studied at Tel Aviv University
and in Europe, Ansky at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in
Italy and Halpern at Le Cordon Blue in Paris.
Once back in Israel, the
pair decided to put what they had learned, seen and absorbed in Europe into
practice and create in their homeland an alternative and more personal shopping
experience than the colder, more isolated supermarket environment.
Farmers’ Market, folks can enjoy shopping in a casual and intimate outdoor
atmosphere, interacting directly with the farmers who grew or made the
They have the opportunity to ask questions about the items they
want to purchase. Often, the farmers will suggest recipes and give advice on how
to grow your own herbs and veggies at home.
“The idea is to buy the most
beautiful, freshest and highest-quality produce to make your own food,” said
Farmers’ Market manager Yael Gurion, “all within a social environment.” Indeed,
the market is a gregarious gathering, with live performances on Tuesday nights
when a children’s band and a seniors jazz group alternate onstage.
the kids are entertained by the music, their parents can relax and shop,
sampling goodies from all over the country without stepping outside Tel Aviv –
for example, pickles from Netiv Ha’asara, located at the border with the Gaza
Strip, as well as halla from the La Paneria bakery chain and Ptora chardonnay
wine from Moshav Sde Moshe, a small farming community in the Northern
“The Farmers’ Market is a good place to get inspiration – and
publicity,” said Ptora owner and wine producer Ido Tamir.
coming back week after week gives him the feeling that the market is thriving.
His family farm has been operating for three generations, producing extra virgin
olive oil, honey and, more recently, wine.
At the market, folks can
purchase a liter of Ptora olive oil for NIS 50, half a kilogram of eucalyptus or
sunflowers honey for NIS 22, a bottle of chardonnay for NIS 60 and a kosher
blend of Merlot and Cabernet for NIS 80.
Tamir also serves glasses of
wine for NIS 10 each to be savored on the spot.
Grab one and head to the
corner food stand for a Druse pita with labane and chopped hard-boiled egg (NIS
15), or hot sambusas stuffed with spinach or humous (NIS 5 each).
Halabe from Daliat al-Carmel has been selling his street eats at the market for
over a year – tabouleh (NIS 10), pizza pita, za’atar pita and beef kubbe (NIS 5
With your glass of wine in one hand and a Druse pita in the other,
sit by the seashore for an improvised picnic and watch the airplanes roar by
Not in the mood for alcohol? Grab some fresh carrot, orange or
pomegranate juice (NIS 10 to NIS 15) at Felix Tayeb’s juice stand. The
54-year-old man never seems to take a break from squeezing the juice out of one
fruit after another for his thirsty customers.
He started his farm some
20 years ago in Karmei Yosef, a village situated between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
where he grows grapes and apricots among other things.
juice for the market’s shoppers is a way to earn some extra income, said his son
Market manager Gurion says the prices of the produce are
supposed to be the same as at the supermarket, if not lower. Yet this is not
always the case, she admitted.
“The cost might be a little bit higher,
but you pay for the quality,” she said.
Avi Mizrahi, 56, works in
communications and makes the short drive from Holon once a week to shop for
produce at the Farmers’ Market.
He said he prefers the fresh vegetables
and fruits he finds there to the often refrigerated produce sold at
“It’s not cheaper here than at the supermarket,” he said
toting a fabric shopping bag on his shoulder. “But it’s worth the extra money
because the produce is better, fresher and higher quality.”
fabric shopping bag at home? They can be purchased for NIS 20 each at the
market, which prides itself on being eco-friendly. In addition, it provides
retailer farmers with biodegradable plastic bags.
“We encourage customers
and farmers to think green,” said Gurion.
Farmers’ Market is member of
Slow Food, a global organization based on an eco-gastronomy concept that
believes food should be prepared in a way that does not harm the environment and
consumers’ health. It also promotes food education and awareness through
culinary events in order to preserve local food traditions.
The Old Port
of Tel Aviv Farmers’ Market was the first one in Israel, but today they also
operate in Ra’anana, Herzliya, Rishon Lezion and Netanya, comprising some 80
producers from all over the country selling their fresh, small-scale and
sometimes organic products without the involvement of middlemen.
indoor Farmers’ Market will open next to the outdoor market at the Old Port this
It will feature an ecological store selling items such as
cardboard shopping carts, and have a coffee shop and restaurant. The indoor
market will offer meat, fish and dairy products alongside sweet potatoes, cherry
tomatoes and other produce.
Local chefs will be on hand to give cookery