Wayne State University

Shenkin Street

Shelli Orzach

            I clamber my way through the cramped metal chairs, holding my tower of bourekas high above my head so they don't accidently plop onto someone else. The scent of pastries from the bakery wafts out onto the street, almost overpowering. It beckons me to get seconds, even though I am not even done with the first. The scent fills the street as similar bakeries were nestled on almost every corner. My flimsy flip flops catch on the preserved cobblestone streets, a trademark of the old districts in Yafo. As I squeeze my way into a cramped corner table, I am surrounded by a throng of other people, both in the outdoor seating area and in the street; but I still have a great view. The view is not of a mountain or a lakeside, not the ocean or any traditionally picturesque scenery. It is rather the people who are the main attraction. The hodgepodge meeting of people and cultures on this street tucked in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel is an almost comical yet fascinating scene.

            Old met new in unusual ways in Shenkin. One could see a brand new Ferrari zooming down a centuries old street. Ancient ivy curved up the new windows of a high-fashion clothing store. Traditional Israeli dishes would be paired with juice from a modern stand, where you pick out the fruit and they juice it right in front of you.

            The young met the old in a different way as well. Shenkin Street, known to locals as shook abasar, or "meat market" in English, is a crossroads for every type of person imaginable, no matter their age. From my seat in this little bakery, I had a primo view of everything that happened. Men would sit and simply watch women go by, not shy about obviously turning their heads to get a better view. The women were not much better. Old and young, stylish and hippie, women would strut by in hopes of catching a man's attention. Hence the name "meat market." And I would simply sit there, watching it all go down, wondering if it would work out for the most unlikely of pairs.

            The people, although interesting, were not the only ones to watch. Down the street I could view the colorful fabrics overflowing in the stands of the Shook (or an outdoor market in America). As I sat at my little table, I caught glimpses of different deals and happenings there. Everyone from tourists to expert hagglers went to try their luck at the market. Some had the take-it-or-leave-it approach. Others tried to argue their way to a better price. Old women and kids could try the helpless bit. Having learned how to bargain from a very young age, I sat and watched all the successes and failures, much better than TV.

            The stores were no less of an attraction. Across the street, some of the most stylish people shopped at stores ranging from vintage chic to high fashion. Fox and Castro, Billabong and Roxy, Chanel and Louis VuItton, all the like were blended together on the street. Shirts hanging on outside racks flowed in the breeze, providing a perfect opportunity to window shop without even getting up. Dotted in between were cafes and restaurants and bars and bakeries, all with the outdoor seating famous to the area. Clinky metal chairs barely fenced would jut out onto the sidewalk, creating even more of a challenge for people to navigate their way through the city.  

            As the sun went down over the horizon, casting a shadow on the storefronts, in front of my eyes continued to roll every sort of character; a man in a t-shirt and jeans with the imprint of a gun visible in pants, a child tugging on her mom's shirt asking to stop for ice cream, a woman in a dress and heels walking a poodle, or a soldier in camo with a machine gun flung over his shoulder. The sea breeze was cool, the bourekas were hot, and the place was hopping. Just another day on Shenkin street.