Urban chic witch doctor

June 17, 2008 - 12:32 PM by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Food, Travel 

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?

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