At my first visit I cannot say I am very impressed by this tiny market. In no time my Jesus Nikes are covered with mud. Left and right are poorly build tents or pavilion like structures that leak with every rain shower. It’s hard to believe that in the 1880’s this is still possible! The dirt, smell, chaos and lack of hygiene makes this a worse place than the shuk in the Old City, in my very humble opinion.
Apart from the hygiene, I think it is a dangerous place too. I once asked my lemon seller if he wasn’t afraid of being robbed, mainly by his fellow-Arabs (but these last words I did not mention to him). ‘I feel rather safe here, just as long as I stay close to Jaffa Street. The Ottoman military protects their trade, coming from the Mediterranean. As you know: once you threaten their trade, the Turks show no remorse.’ In this unstable environment he still seems a happy market man.
In front of me a fierce debate is raging among Jewish visitors. They are discussing the mother of all questions: The name of this market. Within minutes I know that the outcome will be undecided. ‘This is the Beit Ya’akov Market and nothing else!’ ‘No way, this Beit-something is nothing more than a few houses, let’s just call this The Shuk!!!’ ‘Is that all you can come up with? It can only be called the Valero Market!!’
Valero… Valero…. Who is this Valero guy? He really is the talk of the town these years. I turn to Anat, my walking wikipedia: “Haim Valero is a wealthy Jewish banker and entrepreneur. He owns the land on which Arab merchants and fellahin (Arab farmers) sell their products”, she says, while pointing at the mess around her. “It is said that even Valero himself owns some ten stalls in this area, so as a true banker and businessman he can reap some of the benefits of the market’s success himself”.
Meanwhile, a charismatic gentleman with an aura of success around him takes a stroll through the new neighborhood. It’s the one and only Joseph Navon.
NEXT: A market for Mahane Yehuda.