Abigail Klein Leichman
January 2, Updated January 3

Mordechai Tzion Tzidkiyahu founded Tzidkiyahu Deli in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Market (“the shuk”) in 1967. When he passed away earlier this year, his son – who continued and expanded the family business — asked street artist Solomon Souza to immortalize his father visually. 

“That brought me back to the shuk,” says Souza, the 30-year-old British émigré who spent several years painting about 250 portraits of historical figures on the shutters of the market stalls. (Click here to read our article from 2015 about the project.)

This market stall in Machane Yehuda’s Agas (Pear) Street now sports portraits of the original house’s owners, Bachora and Meir Banai. Photo by Solomon Souza
This market stall in Machane Yehuda’s Agas (Pear) Street now sports portraits of the original house’s owners, Bachora and Meir Banai. Photo by Solomon Souza

Souza lives nearby, but over the past five years he has turned his artistic attentions to other parts of the capital city, as well as Tel Aviv, Safed (Tzfat) and much farther afield, including London and Goa.

Souza tells ISRAEL21c that a few weeks after he finished the Tzidkiyahu portrait on Agrippas Street just outside the market, he was contacted by the family of another recently deceased Machane Yehuda merchant, Ezra “Azura” Shrefler. Shrefler founded the famed Azura workers’ restaurant in 1958. 

“I realized these icons of the shuk are leaving us,” says Souza, and he wanted to keep their images alive for the throngs of local shoppers and tourists frequenting the market today. 

He contacted Tali Friedman, head of the Machane Yehuda Merchants Association, and she told him the market was marking its centennial

“The project became obvious,” Souza says. “Everything clicked.”

100 years of photographs at Machane Yehuda market
British army and police raid in the Machane Yehuda Market sometime between 1934 and 1939. Photo courtesy of the G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, US Library of Congress
A market, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is “a meeting together of people for the purpose of trade.” And the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem most certainly fits that definition.
Read more

Friedman commissioned Souza to paint the founding faces of the shuk and to execute a huge mural on the wall of the former Etz Chaim Yeshiva next to the market on Jaffa Road.

Solomon Souza’s sweeping mural executed in honor of the centennial of Machane Yehuda Market towers over Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. Photo by Solomon Souza
Solomon Souza’s sweeping mural executed in honor of the centennial of Machane Yehuda Market towers over Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. Photo by Solomon Souza

Souza graciously allowed ISRAEL21c to share his photographs of some of the portraits, but we can reveal the identities of only a handful to avoid the spoiler effect. He explains that a book and a special tour are planned in the future to fully flesh out the stories of these painted personalities of Machane Yehuda.

This portrait shows Yoram Amir, a Jerusalem artist, activist and preservationist who died in 2019. Photo by Solomon Souza
This portrait shows Yoram Amir, a Jerusalem artist, activist and preservationist who died in 2019. Photo by Solomon Souza

“I’ve done over 40 portraits so far and there are many more stories that need telling. I’d like to paint many more characters,” Souza tells ISRAEL21c. “Ideally, we’d like to tell 100 stories for 100 years.”

Each painting takes him only a couple of hours to finish. The truly time-consuming part of the task is finding an opportunity to sit with descendants of his subjects to hear his subjects’ stories and dig up photos of them from which he can work. 

Solomon Souza painted his portrait of Chanina Penina Sabag, grandmother of Merchants Association head Tali Friedman, from a photograph. Photo by Solomon Souza
Solomon Souza painted his portrait of Chanina Penina Sabag, grandmother of Merchants Association head Tali Friedman, from a photograph. Photo by Solomon Souza

Then he has to find and prepare the “canvas,” be it a wall, door or shutter in the market, which encompasses more than 600 businesses, the majority of them second- or third-generation.

“We have to engage the families because these characters are beloved by their children,” says Souza. 

“When they come to the market, they see their abba [father] or saba [grandfather] on their shutters every morning. It’s very personal. I see it in their eyes as they connect and it gives me nachas,” he says, using the Yiddish word for pleasurable pride. 

“This has been an amazing project.”

Rabbanit Bracha Kapach, who lived at the edge of the shuk, won the Israel Prize in 1999 for her many decades of charity work, including feeding the poor of Jerusalem. Photo by Solomon Souza
Rabbanit Bracha Kapach, who lived at the edge of the shuk, won the Israel Prize in 1999 for her many decades of charity work, including feeding the poor of Jerusalem. Photo by Solomon Souza

Here are some additional portraits Souza has painted in the shuk. We’ll have to wait patiently for the book or tour to find out who they are.

A woman in blue is one of the portraits in Machane Yehuda. Photo by Solomon Souza
A woman in blue is one of the portraits in Machane Yehuda. Photo by Solomon Souza
Detail from Solomon Souza’s new mural on a building next to the market on Jaffa Road. Photo by Solomon Souza
Detail from Solomon Souza’s new mural on a building next to the market on Jaffa Road. Photo by Solomon Souza
These two gentlemen appear on the shutters of Atleez butcher shop in Machane Yehuda. Photo by Solomon Souza
These two gentlemen appear on the shutters of Atleez butcher shop in Machane Yehuda. Photo by Solomon Souza
This handsome bride and groom appear on the market shop of Uri & Sons Deli and Catering. Photo by Solomon Souza
This handsome bride and groom appear on the market shop of Uri & Sons Deli and Catering. Photo by Solomon Souza

Meanwhile, Souza is working on several street art projects related to the war, hoping to bring some hope and beauty to the public in this difficult time.

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