When I first started shopping at the Yanim Aminiv stall in the Machane Yehuda Market, located on the corner of Iraqi Market Street, next to the Azura Restaurant, I was struck by the friendly, sweet personality of one of the sellers.
Israeli-born Ron is 24 years old, his family lives in Mevatseret Tzion, a Jerusalem suburb and he is the youngest of the three brothers who, along with 2 other partners, run the Yaniv Aminiv stall. In 2 months time Ron will be getting married.
Although Ron does not wear a kipa at work, he tells me he is traditional Jew and keeps the Sabbath. He has worked at this particular stall for 15 years – a stall his Israeli-born father started 30 years ago. Why here in the Iraqi section of the Machane Yehuda Market? Because his grandfather came from Iraq.
The stall is one of the largest in the Iraqi market, decorated inside and out with hanging colourful 'Carmel' posters of fruits and vegetables. The displays are very orderly and the workers are always busy. Out front, one finds potatoes, onions, eggplant, squash, red peppers, carrots, and cucumbers. By the tiny step leading into the stall are avocados and bananas; inside are sweet potatoes, lemons, red and green cabbages. What sells the best at this booth? “Tomatoes and cucumbers”, Ron says.
The high-quality fruits and vegetables, grown in hothouses, come from the farm his father manages on Moshav Sharsheret, in the northern Negev. What they don't grow themselves, they buy in a market in Givat Shaul.
Before joining the family business full time, Ron served three years in the tank corps of the Israel Defense Forces. He would like be working outside the market or studying to become an interior decorator, but, he says, "the economic situation isn't so good. We have no choice. We work at what there is. If I didn't work here, I would like to work in real estate but..."
What is the situation in the Machane Yehuda market? "Supermarkets killed the entire market" says Ron. "When they have a sale, people go to the supermarket and then they buy everything (including all their fruits and vegetables)."
Ron says before supermarkets, those who worked in the market earned a good deal of money. "Now we earn 70% less," he says. Add to that the Jaffa Road rail construction and “people don't come. There is no parking so they can't get here."
In addition to selling to the regular customers, Yaniv Aminiv supplies the restaurant next door, Azura and other Machneh Yehudah restaurants Ochlim b'Shuk and Rachma; as well as Sami and Sima on Agrippas Street, the Jewish Agency restaurant, and to Steakiot Gingi at the Achim Yisrael mall.
Standing in the stall for just a few minutes, it's easy to see how very busy they are and how, despite supermarkets and parking problems, there are still many people willing to pay a little more for fresher, higher quality fresh produce.
Yanim Aminiv Stall
Iraqi Market Street, Machane Yehuda Market.
Jaffa Road to Agrippas Street