Urban chic witch doctor

June 17, 2008 - 12:32 PM by

UzieliShuk Machane Yehuda’s resident shaman, Uzi-Eli Chezi runs his retail stall like it’s part theme park attraction, part spiritual folk remedy center. Uzi-Eli bases his natural remedies (various juice mixtures, soaps, creams, serums) on recipes from the writings of Rabbi Moses Maimonides, a North African Jewish philosopher from the Middle Ages who is also known for his contributions as a physician.

“Both of my grandfathers – who were brothers – would make holistic energy drinks,” Uzieli recently told Jerusalemite, the Jerusalem culture guide. “When I finished my army service, I spent five years traveling through 12 different countries, learning about herbs and natural medicine. I used this knowledge to create formulas for healing drinks,” which he soon began to market out of his own home, before opening his shop in the shuk five years ago.

These formulas rely heavily on gat (khat, a leaf known for its energizing properties) and etrog (citron, the local yellow citrus fruit most famous for being shaken with the lulav during the holiday of Sukkot), and he buys all of his ingredients from his neighbors in the open-air market. He also creates remedies from kombucha mushrooms, dates, fenugreek, passion fruit, goat milk yogurt, pomegranate and apple.

Uzi-Eli explains:

Drinking etrog juice leads to strength in the body, and feelings of satiation and calmness. It also improves heart health, and will make a person smell better. It helps fight depression, helps cure hot flashes in women and gives men strength and virility.

But even if one questions the true healing merits of Uzi-Eli’s concoctions, one surely must give him credit for the place he holds in Jerusalem’s cultural landscape. The guy has regulars and potential customers alike constantly approaching him (or sometimes submitting to his offers) for consultations, which almost universally end with some gat extract being schpritzed down the throat. Plus, he is just about as esoterically charming an institution as one can find in the shuk, so who cares if his schug (a traditional Middle Eastern condiment of ground fresh chili peppers and herbs) isn’t as spicy as the next guy’s?

Uzi-Eli is surely conscious of the renaissance Shuk Machane Yehuda has been experiencing in recent years, with boutique clothing shops, galleries and the like opening up next door to fishmongers and cobblers. Arguably one of the key players in (if not one of the central catalysts of) the shuk’s cultural resurgence, he recognizes it as the double-edged sword it is:

Maybe the influx of people means we will lose this personal touch, but it’s good for the businesses and good for the people who come here. The shuk is much more interesting and colorful than anywhere else they would shop.

Photo courtesy of Jerusalemite, where I am senior editor. Uzi-Eli’s Shuk Machane Yehuda shop is located at 10 Etrog St. (we suspect the address is not a coincidence).


4 Comments on Urban chic witch doctor

  1. carol on Tue, Jun 17th 2008 3:33 PM
  2. How about some stories from Tel Aviv?

  3. Harry on Tue, Jun 17th 2008 5:43 PM
  4. Ha! I write about what I know!

  5. Ziv on Tue, Jun 17th 2008 6:09 PM
  6. I don’t know how much energy these drinks really posses, but they sure sound tasty, and the green juice in the photo resembles a Kiwi/Pear mix.

    Btw, it’s a beautiful and sharp photo Harry. What camera do you use?

  7. harry on Thu, Jun 19th 2008 7:07 PM
  8. these were actually taken by my co-published. I will gladly check with him.


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