Season 1
Episode 15: Jerusalem – Part 1: The Weight of History, Hip-Hop, and Kebab

Finding Fun, Music, and Common Ground in the Holy City.

Jerusalem is one of the most complicated cities in the world, but we had a world class guide: Israeli hip-hop star, Sha’anan Streett. In a place not known for fun, Neil and Andrés find there is actually an abundance of it. If you know where to look…

| How to have fun in Jerusalem | 

Sha’anan Streett might be Israel’s biggest hip-hop star and he also might own the most important bar in Jerusalem. In a tiny courtyard in the Mahane Yehuda market sits the Casino Du Paris, a little oasis in the bustle of one of the world’s craziest markets. What you might not realise, sitting there with a cold one, is that this bar started a movement. In an era filled with conflict, this little bar helped the nightlife of the market explode into a bustling and remarkable place, helping turn around an entire neighborhood.  

The first three days of Neil and Andrés’ trip to Jerusalem were an upside down carnival ride; little sleep, lots of delicious food, trippy live music, colorful art shows, a taste-test of the best kebabs in the world, so many laughs and friendly faces. We quickly realised, like everything in Jerusalem, the story of Sha’anan’s bar was much, much bigger than we thought. The ritual and practice of having fun in a historically dangerous place is complicated, but Sha’anan has a plan – and importantly, a map.  Which we followed to discover a whole new side of the city –  through the people who are pushing Jerusalem in new and wonderful directions.

MORE TO EXPLORE

Sha’anan’s band, Hadag Nahash

The band, El Khat

SAVED PINS

5 spots that tell the story of culture in Jerusalem – old and new.

  1. BAROOD
    Sephardic cuisine, draft beer, and live music, tucked away on a little square off Ben Sira Street. Try the crispy cauliflower fried in lemon and garlic or the amazing Shepards Pie… with a pint of Guinness. Talk about blending cultures…  
  2. THE AUSTRIAN HOSPICE
    The oldest guest house in the Holy City. Head up onto the roof for a tiny fee of a couple of Shekels for some incredible views of East and Old Jerusalem. 
  3. MAZKEKA.
    A super cool triple threat bar, studio and live space with live shows –  sometimes two – every night.
  4. RAZZOUK INK
    One of the oldest tattoo parlours in the entire world. A mix of old and new you can literally carry with you for your entire life.
  5. SIRA PUB
    Don’t let its unflashy looks fool you, this tiny pub is where students and wisemen alike work at solving the world’s problems late into the wee hours of the moring.

CONNECT WITH US!

On Instagram: @passportpodcast

On Facebook: @passportpod

On Twitter: @passportpod

On The Web: frequencymachine.com/passport

Get The Ticket – the Passport newsletter with amazing new stories. 

CONNECT WITH OUR GUESTS!

Dave Bianchi: on the web.

Alliance House: on the web.

This episode of Passport was written and produced by Neil Innes and Andrés Bartos

Huge thanks to Aisha Prigann, Dave Bianchi, Sha’anan Streett and his family, Ariel Snapiri and everybody at Alliance house. 

All the music in this episode was created by our good friend and musical overlord Nick Turner. Additional stuff by El Khat and Hadag Nahash. 

The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski.

Our Production Assistaint is Eliza Engel.

Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari and Avi Glijansky are our incredibly thorough customs officials … they also executive produce the show. 

Which is hosted by myself and my meaty hero Andres Bartos.

We’ll see you in the same place!

 

Banner images:
Old City
, Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash
The Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem, Photo by Esther Wechsler on Unsplash

EPISODE 15 – TRANSCRIPT

NEIL: Hey guys. So Andrés and I took our first trip together out of the country in 2019 before the COVID pandemic. So this takes place in the before times when life felt a little bit more normal. So that’s why this episode, these, these two episodes are incredibly important to us.

Much love to all of the friends we made in Jerusalem. Hope you’re all safe. This one’s for you and for you and you, and you. Welcome to the show.

[Song playing]

Look at the title of this file.

ANDRÉS: Oh dear, oh Jesus.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Aisha on Andrés surprise. For those listening, Aisha is my girlfriend.

NEIL: She’s my girlfriend now.

ANDRÉS: Yeah, I did wonder while I was away what was going on when she was like, yeah, I’m meeting up with everybody that works on Passport. I’m like, that sounds suspicious.

[PASSPORT MAIN TITLE]

ANDRÉS: A destination isn’t always a place.

NEIL: Sometimes it’s a new way of seeing things.

I’m Neil Innes

ANDRÉS: And I’m Andrés Bartos.

NEIL: From Frequency Machine, this is Passport.

ANDRÉS: Your ticket to everywhere.

[END MAIN TITLE]

[Song playing]

NEIL: How is Andrés with surprises?

AISHA: He hates them, like hates them. I’ve never thrown him a surprise party in his life.

NEIL: My cohost Andrés is away in Sao Paulo. So in the meantime, I met with our friend Aisha Prigann and Passport’s Billy Craigan-Toon.

Aisha is tall, elegant, beautiful. She looks like a silent era movie star. She talks laid back, she’s patient, but very sharp.

BILLY: I mean, how do you know he hates surprises?

AISHA: By his reaction at my mere suggestion of a possible surprise party about like a decade ago. He got this darkness in his eyes, I was like, okay, we won’t be doing that then.

NEIL: She’s also my cohost’s long, suffering girlfriend. She knows him better than anyone. So it’s possible I’m about to make a giant mistake because I have a surprise for Andrés.

This week Passport is doing something a little bit special. Me and Andrés will be taking our very first trip together. Somewhere both of us have never been and, and Andrés has no idea. So as if he didn’t have enough on his plate, I teased him with text messages and voicemails.

Sorry dude.

[Incoming text message sound effect]

ANDRÉS: Why are you always torturing me with this news that I can’t know? God damn it. And, and, and yeah, you tell me the news whenever you want.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Yeah, it’s been pretty relentless.

NEIL: Well welcome back, um, listen, we’ve never been anywhere out of Spain together.

ANDRÉS: No.

NEIL: So we’re going to go to Israel.

ANDRÉS: Holy shit. Can I curse? I forget if I can curse or not.

[Laughter]

NEIL: You can curse.

ANDRÉS: Wow. Why Israel?

NEIL: We’re going to fly to Tel Aviv.

ANDRÉS: Okay.

NEIL: We’re going to drive to Jerusalem.

ANDRÉS: Okay. Are we going to do fake kidnappings or something like that? Cause I’m gonna lose my mind. I will murder you.

[Laughter]

NEIL: I wouldn’t have done that to you. I knew. Aisha told me before about the, uh, the darkness in the eyes surprise times.

[Laughter]

[Song playing]

NEIL: Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on earth. Some people believe its roots go back to about 3,500 years before Christ. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Part of it is also the capital of Palestine. The city struggles, the country and the state. It’s a place defined by heavy topics and an immense and unavoidable history. A centuries old mix of politics, religion, and conflict have affected every aspect of how the city has evolved.

It’s the cornerstone of three of the world’s major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And the people that practice those religions, all claim the city as their own. It’s a city defined by separation and difference.

But what about the people who embrace the difference? The people who seek it out? What about the people who are different?

In this week’s episode, we head to this remarkably complex place, a place that everyone has defined by their own personal stake in it. But today we’re going to find out what it’s like to live in Jerusalem if you’re trying to change everyone’s definition.

[Song playing]

NEIL: We’re going to start at the insane Mehane Yehuda Market. Locally it’s known as The Shuk.

[Market audio]

NEIL: Inside The Shuk, there is an unassuming, unpretentious, quiet bar tucked away. A place to forget your troubles in the middle of one of the most sense overloading hubs of the city. That’s where our story starts.

But first, while I was sneaking around behind Andrés back and trying to plan our surprise trip, I spoke to Dave Bianchi. Dave is a great friend and a music producer. He’s also a Jerusalem super fan. He’s been traveling there for more than 10 years.

DAVE: Israelis are fucking weird man. I fucking love them, but like, they’re, they’re really like, who the fuck are you? Why the fuck? Like they’re, they’re like New Yorkers times 10. And like they’re, they don’t say, please, they don’t say thank you. They’re very rude.

But like, if they’ve allowed you to do whatever the fuck it is that you’re doing, then don’t worry. Then like, it means you’re gonna get all the shit that you want to get.

NEIL: Dave put us in touch with someone very special in Jerusalem. His name is Sha’anan Streett.

DAVE: He’s a big deal over there. Like he’s the best tour guide you could possibly have, like hands down.

NEIL: But Sha’anan isn’t a tour guide. He’s a superstar.

DAVE: He’s like the fucking Bob Dylan of Israel, man, like literally. Like everybody you meet there, they’re like, oh, do you know that like Sha’anan, like he’s the first one to take like Hebrew and use it in a way that nobody ever used it before.

And like, blah, blah, like, yeah, I know, you walk down the street with him and it’s like, everybody’s constantly stopping. Like, he’s, he’s a character.

NEIL: And Dave isn’t bullshitting. Sha’anan Streett is the front man and songwriter of Hadag Nahash, an incredibly important band in Israel. The biggest hip-hop band in the country, they released eight studio albums over the past 20 years, a huge and diverse back catalog.

I instantly became a fan. How could you not dig this?

[Song playing]

NEIL: This song is about the perils of racism and the corruption of money. It’s political, soulful, and a little bit cheeky. I can’t carry this weight around is the main line in the chorus.

Sha’anan is laid back. He’s smart. He’s funny. He’s soulful. We talked on the phone for an hour and he immediately fit with the sound of his band in my head. That tiny bar that changed the market and the neighborhood, Sha’anan owns it with his business partner, Ellie. And well, he invited us over for a beer.

So we went.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: Wow. That’s very exciting. There is like, one of my kind of weaknesses are Israeli women. So I’m just, you know, that might be a problem, but it’s not like I throw myself, it’s more like I become speechless, but yeah, they’re going to laugh a lot, basically, is what’s going to happen.

[Airplane takes off]

NEIL: We landed in Tel Aviv. We had an hour drive to Jerusalem and with all these expectations about what the city was, expectations based on everything you see in the news. And we could tell almost immediately that we’d gotten a whole lot of things wrong.

ANDRÉS: Just months before our trip, various terrorist organizations had fired more than 600 rockets into Israel. Oddly, we both felt rather calm.

The sun was rising over fields and fields of cotton and grain. One of those huge, huge orange suns that you thought only existed in sci-fi films. Was this the Middle East? Wow.

NEIL: Wow.

ANDRÉS: So we just arrived in Israel. We arrived at 5:00 AM. This crazy landscape of freeways, mist and layers of mountains. Not what I was picturing at all.

NEIL: And yeah, super green.

ANDRÉS: Yeah. Pine trees.

NEIL: Cotton fields.

ANDRÉS: Yeah. Cotton fields. Yeah. It’s beautiful.

NEIL: Very pretty.

[Car driving]

NEIL: Jerusalem is surprisingly small. It’s only about 1.1 million people and only 50 square miles, but 4 million tourists visit per year. That’s an average of around 10,000 per day.

ANDRÉS: The skyline is low. Old, beautiful sandstone buildings and brand-new ones press against each other. Construction cranes poke up into the sky.

It feels both old style Middle Eastern and modern, spreading out in all directions from the old walled city.

NEIL: We parked our tiny comedy car in the Mahane Yehuda neighborhood in the west, a predominantly Orthodox Jewish area. And we had an apartment right opposite The Shuk, the market on Jaffa Street. A front row seat to all the craziness it might offer.

ANDRÉS: So obviously the first thing we did was go to the market.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: The Shuk is the heart of West Jerusalem. It’s been there since the late 1800s. It is insane.

[Crowds cheering]

ANDRÉS: A crisscrossing grid of nearly 300 stalls, both outside and covered, stacked with fruit, vegetables, spices, fish, meat, cheeses, nuts, yelling people, impatient, older people. We hang outside in the open-air part for a little bit. And then, should we go into the crazy?

NEIL: Let’s go into the crazy. Okay. It’s like one of the most crowded places I’ve ever been in my life.

ANDRÉS: Nobody cares. Everybody’s just like move, move out of my way, move.

NEIL: It smells, every two steps is a different smell. Sometimes they’re good. Sometimes they’re not so good.

Everywhere you turn, if you can, there are taste testing trays of baklava, Indian sweets and spices and halvah and kebab. The place is an incredible, heaving beautiful mess of color and sound.

In the space of 30 minutes on our walk through The Shuk, we saw Muslims, Jews, Christians, people dressed as dinosaurs, drunk students, workers, millionaires, mountain bikers, Swedish hippies, staggering bachelorette parties, angry couples in golf carts, Jewish Orthodox families, nine strong with seven children, one year apart, Americans, English, Spanish, Australians, beggars, sinners, thieves, cops and soldiers. So many soldiers.

ANDRÉS: Piles of dates and cardamom, and, um, halvah, that like sesame, peanut paste thing with pistachios and chocolate, and then little like craft brew places smattered in between pizza next to a place where you can get falafel and shakshuka, which is Neil’s favorite dish.

[Market audio]

The market was amazing. Within 30 minutes, we were spinning out. We sat outside on Jaffa Street.

ANDRÉS: And it’s true that you see right in the market like already on the side street, for example, you start hearing Arabic, not to say that this is, we’re not saying this is peace in the Middle East, but obviously you have a different picture in your mind about how people are living together.

NEIL: Looking down one of the busiest streets in the city, bustling and noisy and filled with life.

ANDRÉS: It’s hard to imagine this place at the turn of the millennium. In September of 2000, after a riot between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli police, tensions and violence escalated. The next five years is referred to as the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

Intifada is an Arabic word, which means uprising or tremor. Between 2000 and 2005 alone, there were 144 separate suicide bombings. Many of these were in Jerusalem and many of those were in and around The Shuk.

During this Intifada and the ensuing trouble, it is estimated that more than 4,000 people lost their lives.

In retrospect, sitting there at the market, it’s weird that we didn’t even think about it. Everything felt so safe.

NEIL: We were here to find Sha’anan Streett’s bar, the Casino de Paris. It’s one of the places that kickstarted a new kind of insanity in the market, but also a place which tried to shed trouble and politics and just be, with no strings attached, if that’s even possible in Jerusalem.

At 2:00 PM after seven hours of walking the city, our brain’s full, we crashed. A quick power nap before we started on the beers. Then as soon as we wake, it’s off to Sha’anan’s bar to get a feel for the nightlife of The Shuk.

We have just woken up and we’re going to go see if we can actually find Casino De Paris, the bar of our friend and…

ANDRÉS: This is a kind of important detail that we in this this whole morning, we’ve been trying to find this bar, which is the center point of this story. And we are unable to find this bar, which is troubling.

NEIL: According to my Google Maps, it is 65 meters away from where we’re sitting right now.

ANDRÉS: Then we’re, we’re bound to find it. 65 meters.

NEIL: In 2011, this tiny bar helped kickstart the new transformation of the market and entire neighborhood. And we found it, eventually, tucked away in a courtyard in the northeast corner of The Shuk.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: It’s a pretty area with a lot of outdoor seating, a garden, and a multinational crowd. Red and blue light mixes with bare features and white walls. The cocktail menu is extensive and inventive with drinks named after Israeli politicians and people.

NEIL: They serve pizzas, pickles, and smoked fish plates. It’s charming and quiet for where it is.

We grabbed a Palestinian draft beer and soaked up the atmosphere, a little oasis in the corner of the chaos. Sha’anan was out of town with his band, but he had a friend put us on the guest list for a concert in an old building in the parking lot of the market.

He’s put us on the, on the guest list for Alliance House party tonight.

ANDRÉS: Where’s that?

NEIL: I don’t know.

ANDRÉS: Oh

NEIL: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: Oh God. We’re really doing this?

NEIL: We’re doing it. It’s all we’re here for, come on. We’ll sleep later.

ANDRÉS: Sounds like a plan. When in Jerusalem. Oh my God.

[Street music]

NEIL: Music is everywhere on the streets of West Jerusalem. Harps, beatboxers, cover bands, drummers, guitar players. The busking scene is pretty crazy with well-organized spots and hours. Some bars in the downtown area have live music seven nights a week.

It’s 11:00 PM. In The Shuk, the music is pumping. The place has changed.

It has turned from a market into a weird, packed, eclectic, crisscrossing dance hall. Every 15 steps the music changes, house, hip hop, soul music, rockabilly. It’s so crazy and so intense and so crowded that we head out into the parking lot and coincidentally find where we’re going

ANDRÉS: One day in Jerusalem and we were already on a guest list, standing in a courtyard in the center of a beautifully rundown building called Alliance House, a 200 year old, former French school, which has now been taken over by groups of artists and musicians.

In a few years we were told, it will be gone, turned into a boutique hotel. It feels like we were lucky to be introduced to it. It sort of looks like a cross between a coworking space and an underground Berlin nightclub.

NEIL: There we were, on no sleep, watching one of the most insane klezmer bands I’ve ever seen.

[Klezmer music]

NEIL: A swirling, repetitive, traditional Eastern European sound. To make things crazier, we had arrived in Jerusalem during Sukkot; a week-long Jewish celebration of God’s protection during difficult times.

The place was filled with 200 or more rather tipsy and very sweaty, but very well-dressed revelers, spinning and spinning and spinning in circles.

And me and Andrés, two nerds with our backpacks on.

[Crowd applauding]

ANDRÉS: After the show, in the basement room, things got a little weirder. The traditional gave way to the crazy, the odd and the underground. Such is life in Jerusalem.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: This is El Khat. They are insanely good.

NEIL: They play Yemeni folk songs re-imagined as psychedelic dance numbers. A four-piece band with members from Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, and Poland. A melting pot.

ANDRÉS: Traditional but out there, psychedelic, messy and handmade. Literally, they make their own instruments.

Sha’anan’s friend had unknowingly, perhaps, put us on a guest list for a band who encapsulates an open, inclusive, shape-shifting DIY spirit that we would come to realize defines the cultural scene here.

[Song playing]

NEIL: Around 2:00 AM, destroyed, but happy and a little drunk, we headed home and slept, but the market partied on across the street. I don’t think I’ve ever had a deeper sleep in my life.

[Song playing]

NEIL: After the break, the best kebab in Jerusalem, a run in with some troublemakers and a brand new map of the city. See you in a bit.

[Kids playing in the street]

ANDRÉS: Our first day had been a loud, upside down, carnival ride. We needed some conversation and some local friends to help us get a grip on real life here and also some local food.

NEIL: Yo man let’s go, let’s do it.

[Car sounds]

NEIL: Driving in Israel.

ANDRÉS: We’re heading over to Sha’anan’s house to try this, the city’s best kebab.

NEIL: A platter of the three best butchers in the city. Cause apparently they had a little bit of beef, no pun intended

ANDRÉS: That was totally intended

NEIL: On which was the best. So Sha’anan is going to cook for us. God it’s, there’s not a car on the road.

There is still speed bumps though. Oh shit, I was supposed to take that road.

ANDRÉS: Oh.

[Laughter]

NEIL: Oh look parking, thank the fucking lord.

ANDRÉS: Oh yeah. Congratulations.

NEIL: Okay. We have arrived at your meaty destination.

ANDRÉS: Nicely done. We needed, we needed a tag. We needed a tag.

NEIL: Sha’anan meets us at the gate to his house. It’s modest. It’s nice. Patios and tables. The big garden. We’d only ever talked over the phone, so we met for the first time, as everyone should, over a barbecue.

Sha’anan Streett has a presence. He’s instantly fun, yet relaxed, scruffy beard growth, and a trademark soul patch. He’s happy, animated, always smiling. He has a great laugh and he knows how to use it. He gives us the low down on the disagreement with his friend, Ariel Snapiri, that has led us to this kebab off.

SHA’ANAN: I called Ariel Snapiri a few days ago. I said, listen, we have to finally decide, which is the best kebab. And we decided to bring about half kilo from each of our favorite butchers and today it’s going to be decided. But it’s going to be, I’m not going to say it on air because I have to stay on good terms with all of them.

All of the butchers, you know, it’s important.

Lechiam!

[Beers clink]

ANDRÉS: Kebab in Israel is a staple. It’s poured over and argued about daily, the way New Yorkers talk about pizza. Ground beef and lamb usually cooked over flame with pita and the hummus.

SHA’ANAN: Wow. Wow. How hungry are you?

ANDRÉS: The cooking begins and it seems like it won’t ever end. Snapiri arrives with some other friends. Sha’anan’s wife, Bali thinks this is a terrible idea.

BALI: Except for choosing the best kebab is so stupid. Like, how can you do that?

SHA’ANAN: No it isn’t.

BALI: Yes, it is.

SHA’ANAN: Are you calling us stupid?

ANDRÉS: I was going to say, that’s precisely what we’re doing today.

BALI: I think it’s stupid.

ANDRÉS: It’s glorious

BALI: The kebab experience.

ANDRÉS: Gloriously stupid.

[Eating kebabs]

BALI: This guy, I think was voted the best kebab in the world.

ANDRÉS: This is the Newsweek mother fucker.

BALI: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: Oh my god.

NEIL: I think it’s, I think it’s better.

ANDRÉS: Yeah? I think Neil is having a small mouth orgasm.

NEIL: It’s small. There are no small orgasms, only small mouths.

[Laughter]

NEIL: The conversation starts and never stops. Kids play football in the yard and we eat and talk into the early morning, a little bit of family life in Jerusalem. You get the impression that they entertain a lot, but inside, Bali tells us about how she and Sha’anan lived for 18 years in the market, through the bombings, the Antifada and the changes.

BALI: So we were there in the bombings. We used to hear like, like crazy things in the middle of the night and, you know, bottles hitting the road and people screaming and people, uh, our neighbor was a drug addict. It was, it was like the whole neighborhood was like a lot of drug addicts. It was a whole street of prostitutes. It was like very, like very, very poor.

And then I don’t know how it happened. There are a few people who claimed that they did it, that it’s like there, there’s like a community center. That they made it successful. And then I met Sha’anan and he lived in the market. Maybe that’s what I liked about him.

[Laughter]

BALI: And then we didn’t move for 17 years, stayed in the same house.

ANDRÉS: But you’ve seen the market change…

BALI: Yeah. Drastically, drastically from like the poorest, most dirty place in the world to like this posh place where tourists with, with, you know, like Madonna neck mics kind of things. And they’re like, there was one group in front of our house with this like mic thing and the woman’s like, and this is where Sha’anan Streett lives. I’m like, oh fuck, you guys.

SHA’ANAN: This is where Sha’anan got arrested before murdering you motherfuckers.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Of the three we tested, Sha’anan didn’t want to say, but we thought a butcher called Ramsey took the top prize.

NEIL: We set a time in the morning to meet Sha’anan and get the story of his bar. We needed to know if it really did kickstart the new market out of the depths and into this bustling nightlife destination.

ANDRÉS: But not tonight. Tonight, we’re too full of meat. We said goodbye and headed back to the car and then, crazy.

So Neil, what’d you say?

[Laughter]

NEIL: We just got chased by dogs to the car.

ANDRÉS: We got circled by three dogs. They were nipping at Neil’s ankles.

NEIL: They pulled my sock.

ANDRÉS: One by one.

NEIL: These gentiles smell like meat.

[Laughter]

NEIL: Get him boys.

ANDRÉS: Get him boys. They got kebab in them.

[Laughter]

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: It still makes me laugh. Cause I can see you stooping up and he had it out for you man. I could see him nipping and you doing these little kicks.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Oh god.

NEIL: It’s Jerusalem. Conflicts are never too far away.

ANDRÉS: It’s so funny. Oh my God.

NEIL: And our night didn’t quite end there.

ANDRÉS: Oh, right.

NEIL: We parked and walked Jaffa Street and we ended up getting roped into a circle of dancing Orthodox Jews.

ANDRÉS: And I don’t even know how it happened, but we’re like, like a whirlpool, we were suddenly in there. Just pulled in, moving very quickly in a carousel.

NEIL: Yeah.

ANDRÉS: Just kind of catching the faces of all these people. There was like a very, I felt like way too young child for this situation.

NEIL: Who looked like he just wanted to die.

ANDRÉS: He was not happy about being there.

NEIL: He wanted to go home. And I was like, what are you guys celebrating? Like, is it, is it Sukkot? And he’s not, no, we are celebrating life every day.

ANDRÉS: Every day we celebrate life. More celebrating than needed for the situation.

[Laughter]

NEIL: And for much longer by the look on the kids’ faces. Two very important things on the trip happened that morning.

ANDRÉS: So yeah, in the morning I dropped my phone in my own shit.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Yeah. That was day three. I was very tired.

NEIL: Yeah, Andrés dropped his phone in the toilet.

ANDRÉS: Yeah. I was reading the news I think. And it just slipped straight between my legs, just in there.

NEIL: It was really funny that the first thing that we bought from the market was a bag of Persian rice.

ANDRÉS: Yeah. There’s is a very good rice selection. And there, there was a discussion about what’s the best rice to dry out an iPhone.

NEIL: I think he made me Google it before we went and it worked.

ANDRÉS: It did. I still have the phone. It’s still works.

[Song playing]

ANDRÉS: In the morning we met Sha’anan at the Sira Cafe in West Jerusalem. Great coffee and shakshuka, a dish of tomato and red pepper sauce with cumin and paprika and cayenne and eggs poached on top.

The company also owns the pub across the street. Both are worth checking out if you’re in town, by the way, they are staples of West Jerusalem. It’s on Ben Sira Street.

NEIL: Sha’anan is wearing shades and a baseball cap, but every once in a while, a fan sees through them and stops to say hello. He’s obviously having fun in life. He’s never anything but happy and friendly, even with his fans. So we asked him about fun and Jerusalem. Is it harder to have fun in a place which is so inherently serious?

SHA’ANAN: I’ve always had fun here, but it’s not considered one of Jerusalem’s top…

NEIL: Exports.

SHA’ANAN: Yeah. This is why you come to get religious. It doesn’t matter what faith you come from. But in my opinion, all throughout history, there have been super religious people, but there always has to have been people that said, fuck this bullshit.

Let’s go get pissed.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: Spoken like a true barman.

NEIL: So where does the markets sit then, historically?

SHA’ANAN: The market is the heart of West Jerusalem and center West Jerusalem. I think it’s been around since, I think like the late 1800s, maybe the early 1900s, but everybody knew the market, the market, the market, it was also like a, an old school, but very cool style of shopping.

You know, you see all the food, you see all the fruits, you see all the vegetables and you pack them in with your hand. And you’re like, even like the stall owners, they can yell at you if you’re taking too much time and all kinds of stuff like that, that was considered cool.

Then it was considered totally uncool with unsafe afterwards, and that’s where we are now in the evolution of time. It was considered so cool that it should have a nightlife too, because the nightlife phenomenon in the market and the Mehane Yehuda market is relatively new. I mean, it’s about 10 years old.

NEIL: Exactly when Sha’anan opened the Casino De Paris, his bar.

SHA’ANAN: Our bar was the first one in that area of the market.

And now, I mean, you guys walked down, every other store is a bar. It’s gotten to a point that the original stall owners they’re like, yeah, this isn’t the market anymore. To me, it made perfect sense though. Like if this place is so busy during the day, why can’t it be busy at night? Cause there was nothing at night, nothing legal anyway.

ANDRÉS: Sha’anan doesn’t see himself as special for being one of the first. He’s just kind of always been that guy.

SHA’ANAN: I have a part in it, but I also think like if it wasn’t me, it’d be someone. Same with rap in Hebrew, same with gentrification of a neighborhood, you know, like always a, somehow I’m always the guy that, you know, the term lying on the fence.

Do you have that in English?

NEIL: Yeah, like at the, at the forefront for everybody can climb over them.

SHA’ANAN: Yeah. You’re the guy like lying on the barbed wire and then people climb over your face and they go get through.

[Laughter]

ANDRÉS: You’re the guy that looks at the barbed wire and is like we can get to the other side.

SHA’ANAN: No look, it’s right here, I’ll do it.

This is weird because it’s like tooting my own horn. But when I went to live in the neighborhood, there weren’t very many young people living in the neighborhood. Like the artist types or whatever. I didn’t know I was an artist type, but like the artist types.

And when I started rapping in Hebrew, there wasn’t very much rap in Hebrew and, uh, it’s the same with, uh, opening that bar over there, because look what happened now, though, in a sense, like Snapiri, my friend, and he says it’s my fault. The madness in the, in the market, it’s my fault. It’s all my fault.

NEIL: You’re an instigator.

SHA’ANAN: Like he means it in a bad way. Like you ruined, it, it got out of hand and it’s all your fault.

NEIL: So the market has gone through some tough times and Sha’anan and Bali went through some tough times living there.

Was it on it on edge to go there? Like, was it a dangerous place?

SHA’ANAN: Not yet, it wasn’t yet the place to be. But what I found there was an enormous apartment, very fucking rundown. I mean, to a point where, when it would rain, it would rain in the dining room through the, and we had bats all over the dining room floor, and it would be like, like a symphony…

The room in the back, my roommate shared it with pigeons.

[Laughter]

NEIL: These are my flatmates, chirpy, lucky…

SHA’ANAN: One time, the extreme right was hanging up illegal posters in the neighborhood, like death to the Arabs or some shit like that. My roommate and I, uh, started peeling these posters. They were hanging and we were peeling, and they saw us.

Extremists tend to like fraction. So another member of the extreme psychotic right came. And he was actually pissed at the guy hanging the posters and he took out a nunchaku, a numchuck and he started threatening that other guy. And then me and my roommate, we realized maybe we should get the fuck out of there and we did.

ANDRÉS: Sha’anan tells stories with a smile and always find a laugh, a punchline.

Always, no matter how dark they get. When you’re living in a place with a history like Jerusalem’s, remembering dark times with humor seems like the only way to handle the day to day

NEIL: Being a barman and a night owl made Sha’anan who he is. It feels like his personality is tied to the nightlife of the city.

Always joking, always looking for fun. It’s easy to see why the Casino De Paris is so important to him. After being in the neighborhood for so long, he wanted to leave his mark. A mark of fun, with nothing else attached.

SHA’ANAN: In Jerusalem, whenever you turn a stone, there’s, you find somebody, something with some sort of religious or archaeological significance, that’s bound to insult somebody who has a different opinion about the matter, because he thinks that it’s his ancestor, but you never find anything that’s like just pure fun. And I figured, uh, finally I have a heritage in this town as well.

[Song playing]

NEIL: Myself and Andrés, we wanted names, people with different perspectives on a new Jerusalem, driven by culture, not politics, not religion. And Sha’anan is a connected guy. Within an hour, he had set us up to talk with four different people all over the city.

A group of people who were not what we were expecting at all. Fence liars, all of them, but in very different ways and from different backgrounds. East and West, a personal roadmap of Jerusalem.

ANDRÉS: Sha’anan and his friends had bonded not over the state of Israel or its problems, but over the state of music, culture, and art. How do you create a new idea of the oldest city with no pretense? Lots of fun, a little beer and no division.

West Jerusalem is complicated, but it’s simple compared to the East. We headed there on Shabbat, on foot, through the Orthodox neighborhood, to the west of the market.

Shabbat means no cars, no electricity, no working, no creating. Neil tried recording on his phone for a second,

NEIL: We’re walking to the east, it’s very quiet. We’re walking through the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

ANDRÉS: An old man about 80 years old pointed at us and shook his finger, no.

NEIL: I’m going to stop recording.

We quickly realized that two tourists with microphones weren’t going to fly.

ANDRÉS: No creating in this neighborhood. Not today.

[Song playing]

NEIL: So each week on Passport, we tell you a new, amazing story from a different country, in a different city, with a different perspective.

ANDRÉS: The places we discover on each trip often help shape our story. So if you loved this week’s episode, here are our saved pins.

NEIL: So Jerusalem has become one of our favorite cities so far.

So next time you’re there be sure to check these places out because they were all little landmark moments for myself and Andrés on our trip. They helped us tell this story, a story that we kind of didn’t know we were going to tell.

ANDRÉS: Our first pin is Barood. A bar and restaurant on a little square off Ben Sira Street. Sha’anan took us there for some lunch after our interview. It has live music, serves Sephardic cuisine and kind of has the feel of an Irish pub. Try the crispy cauliflower fried in lemon and garlic, or the amazing shepherd’s pie with a pint of Guinness.

Talk about blending cultures. 

NEIL: Number two is the Austrian Hospice. It’s the oldest guest house in the Holy City. It’s filled with religious art and cake. But fun fact, the building still belongs to the Arch Bishop of Vienna. It’s been this way since 1869. Also, if you head up onto the roof for a tiny little fee, for a couple of shekels, you’ll get some incredible views of East and Old Jerusalem, and it’s a lot less crowded than most rooftop views in the old city.

Hehe, secret.

ANDRÉS: Number three, Mazkeka. A super cool, triple threat bar, studio and live space, which was one of our biggest surprises in the West. They have a live show on, sometimes two every night. Neil and I found ourselves the one evening watching Amso Peled, an artist that used TV static and the sounds of a real human body to make music.

This is an eclectic place and the food’s really good too.

NEIL: We were trying to find a mix of old and new in Jerusalem. And our fourth saved pin combines both and puts it on your body. Razzouk Ink is a family run tattoo parlor near Jaffa Gate, which has been inking people for 700 years. So if you fancy a new tat, why not try one of the oldest parlors on earth?

It’s in the Old City. Near Jaffa Gate.

ANDRÉS: Good things come in small packages and Sira Pub is maybe the smallest landmark bar in the city. This unflashy dive bar is populated by students and wise men and women alike sitting together and putting the world to rights over a pint or two. Couldn’t recommend it enough, that’s the Sira Pub, S, I, R, A.

NEIL: If you love Passport, please go to Apple Podcasts and rate and review the show. Give us five stars and Sha’anan will send you a lifetime supply of kebab.

We’ll see you next week. Part two of our epic Jerusalem adventure. Things are getting a little hairy.

ANDRÉS: You know, Jerusalem, baby.

NEIL: This episode of Passport was written, produced by me and Andrés Bartos.

Huge thanks to Aisha Prigann, Dave Bianchi, Sha’anan Streett and his family, Ariel Snapiri and everybody at Alliance House.

We will put some links to those amazing people and places and their work in the show notes.

All the music in this episode was created by our good friend and musical overlord Nicolas Turner. Additional stuff by El Khat and Hadag Nahash. You can pick their records up wherever you get records.

The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski.

Eliza Engel is our Production Assistant.

Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari and Avi Glijanksy are our incredibly thorough customs officials … they also executive produce the show.

Which is hosted by myself and my meaty hero, Andrés Bartos.

We’ll see you in the same place

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© 2018, Frequency Machine Studios.
© 2018, Frequency Machine Studios.