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  • Ariel Wills RISD MFA ‘24

The Shuk

Author’s note: This lively, communal atmosphere of people together in the Shuk is an accurate and authentic representation of how I felt as I walked through. I did my groceries there each week the year I lived in Jerusalem. These art books are an ode to the beautiful cultural ecosystem of Israel, and a prayer for our hostages so we can welcome them back home. 


Click on an image to see a larger version.



The Shuk, 2023

Calligraphy pens, digital print, found and fine art papers, adhesive, thread.


The bustling outdoor-market,

שוק מחנה יהודה

Machane Yehuda,

is the heartbeat of Jerusalem.

The people of local and

surrounding communities

have gathered to trade at this

market for generations.


The Jerusalem community

has grown close around the

Shuk, the market, living side

by side, shopping, and selling

their wares: fresh produce,

pottery, clothes, flowers,

baked goods, candies, dairy,

dry goods, meats, kosher and

halal vendors, spices, tea,

fresh fruit juice, fish,

imported goods, wine, and

nuts, filling the market stalls

are far as the eye can see.


In my memories, the streets

would buzz with voices

through the market.

Customers and vendors of all

ages would greet each other

loudly with smiles and

familiarity. Old friends or

random encounters? Who

could say?


I want to share these

memories, to honor the

market. My piece considers

how the market is a platform

for people to witness one

another’s humanity—a

cultural hub where

communities with many

different belief systems share

and participate in life

every day.


Perhaps it is this communal

spirit that has sustained the

market through adversity,

war, and times of animosity.

However, I cannot help but

acknowledge that things have

changed now. I think about

Jerusalem, and how to me,

the air there always felt a

little more heavy than the air

in Tel Aviv. I think about

airstrikes, sirens, tension, and

the call to prayer, the Shema,

and the street cats.


The trust that was there is

different now, even as

restaurants and bars in the

Shuk open up again with

trepidation.


One day the vibrancy will

return. We are strong in the

face of violence; we will

band together, bring this

place back to its righteous

state of peace and

community.


I feel desperation to protect

my memories of the market,

my experiences, the routine

of doing my groceries there,

to encapsulate, archive, hold

onto this community, the

Shuk.


To conjure the vibrant spark

that is the Shuk is to carry the

flame into the future,

whatever the future may

bring.


Conspiracy theories,

propaganda, and corrupt

media narratives are like

cancers—they mutate the

public’s sense of justice as

they obscure the truth. In

joyful defiance my work

celebrates the Jewish

community, and keeps it alive

and remembered while we

grieve, mourn, and wait in

painful anticipation for what

happens next.


I want to protect a place I

remember where every single

person has value and lives

among one another. The

ecosystem thrives within a

vibrant community of

humans, each traveling along

their own paths, with their

own beliefs, led by what they

consider to be important in

life.


Values like family,

community, freedom, G-d,

living in Jerusalem, and

shopping in the market.

Passing one another in the

street, shoulder to

shoulder—there is no space

for precarity. Shoppers and

vendors greet one another

like old friends before

slipping back into the chaos,

voices calling over each

other, striving to be heard.


Collective survival relies on

coexistence, and besides, the

world is more beautiful that

way.

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