Hassan is my new favorite vendor in the shuk. He’s a baker with whom I’ve interacted dozens of times as I’ve passed by his shop over the years. Always nice and polite, but not significantly memorable. But everything changed when I brought a group to his bakery to take a long distance peek into the circular fiery pits that are his bread ovens. He lit up, invited all fifteen of us inside, and became an instant storyteller. It’s clear that he just loves meeting people and sharing his passion with them.
Over time I’ve learned that Hassan started baking bread at the age of 13, when Yakov Haba, the owner of Haba Bakery passed by his village of Nebi Samuel and offered him a job. That was back in 1972, when Haba’s bread ovens were on Bezalel street, just 5 minutes south of the Machane Yehudah market. Yakov taught Hassan how to bake Ash Tanur, the huge round bubbly bread that bakes on the walls of a womb like oven. Ash Tanur means life of the oven because the oven literally looks like a womb on the inside and because bread is the source of life. The bread has neither yeast nor sugar – it’s made from a sourdough.You can see that Hassan holds that pride of a father watching his little one grow into greatness as he shares that he was the only employee back then. Now the major bread company has over 400 employees and shops throughout the country. Haba even has a high end trattoria on Yaffo street, offering some of the tastiest fare in the center of town.
I highly recommend you stop by Haba to pick up some fresh Ash Tanur. It’s best smothered in olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar!
Wishing you many little joys!
Chana Mason is a Personal Growth & Wellness Guide and Storyteller
who is passionate about helping others grow towards vibrance, clarity, and joy.