On the corner of NE MLK and Morris, a new-ish market serves as a culinary portrait of Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora. Jerusalem Rose’s storefront sits right next to owner Ramzy Farouki’s other project, the Center for Study and Preservation of Palestine.
The nonprofit market is meant to be a counterpart to the center, so Portlanders can experience the academic and cerebral parts of Palestinian culture at the latter, and peruse Palestinian products and strike up conversations at the former. Farouki also hopes to provide the neighborhood with a welcoming and reliable market, stocking staples like sugar, flour, and vinegar.
In 1948, Farouki’s family fled their homeland, along with 700,000 other Palestinians who were left stateless when Zionist forces expelled them. The family first took refuge in Kuwait before immigrating to the United States and settling in St. Louis, which has a sizable Palestinian community due to the immigration patterns of the era. Family photos are sprinkled throughout the shop, providing a timeline of their history; most of the black-and-white photos were taken in Palestine, while color photos mark their time in Kuwait, and later in St. Louis.
As a farmer, builder, and preservationist, Farouki is the latest in a long line to continue a family tradition of working with food. Generations on both his maternal and paternal sides worked with the land, cultivated fruit, and worked as market and spice vendors in the old country.
While Farouki oversees the shop, his mother Mervat, the “Jerusalem Rose” after whom the market is named, supplies the prepared foods. Her spiced golden-fried pita chips are an excellent vehicle for her dips—there’s moutabal (a smoky, baba ganoush-like eggplant dip), hummus, and labneh with either za’atar or mint. These constants are often joined by foul medames, dolmas, falafel on Saturdays, and sweets like an apricot-coconut pudding.
“I have always been interested in trying to curate what I think is the best representation of Palestinian culture and also our relationship to different countries and peoples in the region,” said Farouki.
The market’s shelves hold foodstuffs from countries in the Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA) region—Syria and Lebanon, with whom Palestinians have always been in close contact with, along with Iraq and Armenia. From Palestine itself, there’s olive oil, maftoul (a cousin of couscous made with bulgur), and za’atar. From the stateside diaspora, the market carries Grand Coffee, a Palestinian-owned coffee company in San Francisco.
There’s also fresh produce like summer squash and shiro plums on offer. The relationships Farouki has cultivated with local farmers like Pilipinx-American Kasama, Black community-led Black Futures, and Cross Eyed Cricket aren’t just business, he views them as relationships of unity and solidarity as well. At the center of the shop, cedar bins built by Farouki himself cradle the fruits of their labor. “[Using cedar for all of the fixtures] was an intentional choice because in Jerusalem there is naturally occurring cedar, and cedar is naturally occurring here, so I wanted to use a wood that is tied to both places,” said Farouki.
On one end of the fixture, as a sort of unconventional sign indicating the produce section, a photo of Palestinian watermelon men balancing the fruit on their heads is tacked up. “The watermelon is a special thing to Palestinians because during the first popular uprising by the people—called the first intifada, and even before that—the flying of the Palestinian flag was criminalized,” Farouki explains. “But many Palestinians would use the watermelon as a symbol of their culture because it contains green, white, red, and black.” (Just like the flag, if you didn’t put two and two together.) Another design nod to the fruit can be found underfoot, on the pink and green tiled floor.
The market’s beverage section consists of a cooler housing glass bottled sodas in flavors like orange, raisin (not grape, raisin), and Iraqi Pepsi (mmm, real sugar) along with IPAs from West Bank-situated Taybeh Brewery, the region’s first microbrewery. To the side of the cooler sits a rack housing a small selection of Taybeh Winery Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blancs, made by the same family.
Hopefully sometime in the near future, another Palestinian-made wine will join their ranks at the market. The dabouki grape is part of an ancient winemaking tradition in the Bethlehem region. For months, Farouki has been trying to get his hands on the dry, semi-sweet red varietal that’s indigenous to the area, but trade restrictions due to Israeli control of the borders has made that a challenge.
Another time-honored product stocked at Jerusalem Rose is Nabulsi olive oil soap. Once the site of a booming soap industry of over 40 soapmakers, there are now only two factories left in the West Bank making soap with a thousand year-old technique. The rest were tragically decimated by a large-scale Israeli military operation in 2002, which also resulted in the severe damage or destruction of 64 UNESCO heritage buildings.
“Things like [the soap] are important… and also just having a Palestinian presence in a city on a main thoroughfare representing the fact that we exist. We’re a real people.” said Farouki.
Quickly popping in and out of the market might yield you an interesting snack haul or the makings of a tasty meal, but you’ll do yourself a disservice if you don’t chat up the affable shopkeeper. There are rich stories behind most of the products he has curated, and he’s truly in his element when sharing them with customers.
Jerusalem Rose Market, 2948 NE Martin Luther King Jr, (503) 805-2963, instagram.com/jerusalemrosemarket