Shopping in the Old City
There are a wide variety of shopping experiences in the Old City of Jerusalem. For the most part, residents of the Old City can purchase everything they need within the Old City’s walls—from food and clothing to building materials. Except for shops in the Jewish Quarter which are closed on Saturday (Shabbat) and shops such as grocery stores owned by Christians which are closed on Sundays, most other shops are open 7 days a week. Old City shops generally open by 10:00am and close around sundown.
Most Arab-owned shops in tourist sections still expect you to bargain for purchases. We will give you specific guidelines for bartering during student orientation, but, in general, you should start very low and you will meet somewhere in the low-to-middle range. Remember that it is bad manners to agree on a price and then not make the purchase. Some students become quite adept at the entire process, while others prefer to try to avoid it all together. Its best to remember that a portion of what you end up spending is payment for the experience of it all.
It’s a good idea to wait until later in your program to purchase items in the Old City. It will take you a few weeks to be able to distinguish items that have been mass produced in China from genuine local-made souvenirs. A shop keeper will typically put his glittering junk toward the front of the shop to attract quick, one-time impulse shoppers (the tourist who spends only a day or two in Jerusalem), and keep the more valuable and authentic items inside the shop, or even in another location. Develop an eye, ask for something authentic, and leave with a purchase worth having.
Shops in the Jewish Quarter cater to a different clientele. They are more expensive and have a larger inventory of Judaica as opposed to other items. They do not usually negotiate for prices.
Shopping in East Jerusalem
The shopping district north of Damascus Gate and Herod’s Gate in East Jerusalem is fairly extensive and a good place to find relatively inexpensive items. East Jerusalem shops are generally open from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and many (but certainly not all) are closed on Friday.
Shopping in West Jerusalem
In the “New City,” shops are generally open from 9:00am to 7:00pm or later, and are closed on Saturday (Shabbat). Some supermarkets are open later, or even 24-hours. There are also a number of good used bookstores in West Jerusalem. Happy book hunting!
West Jerusalem is becoming more and more western all the time. There are now several American-style shopping malls, and except for store signs in Hebrew (although many are in English), you would think you are back home. Many American retail companies now have Israeli outlets, such as Ace Hardware, Urban Outfitters, Nike, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC and the like (but no Starbucks!) are popping up everywhere. However, prices are often higher than in the U.S. A value meal at McDonalds costs the equivalent of $12.00.