Market measures

A new book on Israeli markets rejoices in the sheer, sensual pleasure of the open stall.

If you are a customer of acclimatized supermarkets, and if your idea of open markets means crowds, heat, sweat, noises and shlepping heaving packages, then this new book just might help you discover that until now, you never really understood what lies at the bottom of the market experience: sheer joy. In his famous novel Tmol Shilshom ("Only Yesterday"), Shai Agnon describes the tremendous pleasure one gets throughout the year by looking at - and touching - the fruit of the Land of Israel at the markets: Today, Yigal Tzur, a Jerusalemite agronomist, uses his camera to bring us the tastes, smells, colors, voices, and life of markets throughout Israel. From the north, the center, the south, the traveling markets, flea markets, High Holiday markets in Jerusalem, the simple joys of life - Tzur's camera brings them all, collected together in a wonderful album. This wonderful work is the product of an entire year of wanderings, searching for that special look, the particular gesture, the right shade of color - from Haifa, Dalyat el-Carmel, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and, it goes without saying, from Jerusalem - Mahaneh Yehuda, the Old City, and the "Kaparot" market for Yom Kippur and the "arbaat haminim" market for Succot. It is a never-ending hymn to the simple, the joyful, the day-to-day and the comforting life: going to a market, buying good, wholesome products of the land, so simple and so profound. We do it all our lives, we don't even notice. We think of it as normal, take it for granted - until Tzur's camera makes us look again. Tzur, 66, says that for years he has been "captivated by markets, here and everywhere else." So he decided to capture the scenes in his camera and bring them back to us. Tzur doesn't add glamour or bravado or conquest or failures - his book is about life: food, fabrics, the workman's art, in our streets, in our routine. And now that he has created this beautiful book, Tzur says that he is satisfied and happy, and that the book came out exactly as he dreamed it would. Now retired, Tzur had worked in the Agriculture Ministry and served many years abroad. Wherever he was posted, in places near and remote, he first turned to the local market. "This is where you can learn the most about the local people. What they buy, how they buy, how they come to the market, are they sad, are they happy - the atmosphere, the products - is it abundant or not," he says. "You learn much more from a visit to a market than any other place about the people you dwell among, whether you stay there for a short or a longer visit". This is Tzur's second book. The first, A Journey Through Israel, depicted different artisans throughout the country. Both books may well be part of a new trend, creating albums of daily life experiences. But Tzur himself claims that he was not really aware of this trend or of the impressive number of books that have been published in Israel over the past two years that pay attention to the little things - the scenes of love stories from the Land of Israel's past, houses with historic impact, days of leisure and rest. At first glance, these books seem random and unconnected. Yet taken together, they seem to create a new message: that this is a time for reconciliation and for healing in Israeli society. The albums praising heroism and giving testimony to victorious wars are gone now. These books praise "the simple joys of simple life," as Tzur himself describes his works. Writing the books was a journey of discovery for Tzur. "I went all across the country to look for places where the common people came to do things for their common life, with simplicity, yet not losing their sense of enjoyment- a beautiful fruit, a tasty piece of cheese, a good bargain. Life - the real, simple and good life. What we all always dream of. It's here, so close, and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. "So I made the book." Markets in Israel (published by Carta) contains dozens of photos, all taken by Tzur. And its subtitle, "People - Colors - Tastes," couldn't be more accurate. The book is divided according to four geographical regions (north, center, Jerusalem and south) and then into categories (cities, arts and crafts fairs, traveling markets, animal markets, food markets, holiday markets, flea markets) and special markets, such as the "free-Friday" market organized by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Jerusalem or the Nabatean market at Mamshit in the desert. Markets in the Arab localities are grouped in the "Oriental markets" category. Tzur devotes an average of six pages to each market - all in full color, with a short introduction to the location, followed by a detailed explanation and illustrated map showing how to get there and recommendations about where to shop and what to see on the way and in the city. In conclusion, he provides practical information such as days and hours that the market is open, parking, rest-room facilities and where to eat. Markets in Israel has no pretensions. It is not for gourmands and it does not list the "must-go" places. Instead, Tzur merely shares his personal pleasures and impressions with us, the readers. He knows that you might view the same scenes differently, but he captivates you with the quality of his photos and the gentle tone and peaceful ambiance that the book brings with it. Markets in Israel is a perfect gift - for your loved ones, for yourself. And it is an irresistible invitation to get out on the road and see for yourself. If you look around carefully, you might still see Tzur wandering about. And if you stop for a moment, you, too, will enjoy the simple pleasures of everyday life.