Each year on Jerusalem Day, Palestinian businesses located along the route of the March of the Flags are ordered by police to shut up shop during the parade. This year, Jewish business owners in West Jerusalem closed up early in solidarity.
By Yael Marom
On Wednesday afternoon, as on every Jerusalem Day, Palestinians in and around the Old City’s Muslim Quarter were under police orders to shutter their shops and homes during the “March of the Flags,” which sees tens of thousands of young Israeli Jews descending on the occupied city. The day, and the march, celebrate what the Right insists on calling the “unified” city of Jerusalem.
This closing of businesses, and the loss of revenue that results, is a yearly occurrence for Palestinian traders whose businesses are located along the route of the march. This year, however, around 50 owners of shops, bars and restaurants in West Jerusalem decided to act in solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues, signing a petition in protest of the impact of the march. Several displayed signs expressing solidarity with Palestinian business owners, and some even decided to shut up shop while the march was ongoing.
The owners of Falafel Mullah, in the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, explained: “It’s unacceptable to us that any store should be closed for security reasons — it’s difficult as it is to make a living here. We have many partners in the east of the city and when they lose out and are deprived of basic rights, we’re affected too.
“Difficulties involving finances and security cross borders, so merchants in West Jerusalem are standing in solidarity with residents in the east of the city whose income and basic rights are affected by this march.”
Daniella, whose restaurant Barood is also part of the initiative, said: “The March of the Flags is a violent, ugly procession, which disturbs the Jerusalem public.
“This day affects traders across the entire city, as do other citywide events. It’s difficult to support oneself in this city. Solidarity between traders is important, not only today, but every day of the year,” she added.
“The March of the Flags on Jerusalem Day brings the complexity of Jerusalem to a peak — the violence, the racism and the hatred that extends throughout the city,” said Noam of Hamarakia, another restaurant taking part in the initiative.
“The violence reaches its height in East Jerusalem, in particular the Muslim Quarter in the Old City, which is on the parade route. Instead of protecting Palestinian business owners who are exposed to violence, the police force them to close their businesses, which is another act of violence against them,” Noam continued.
“I don’t envisage a situation in which the police coerce a business owner in West Jerusalem in the same way, taking the side of the rioters instead of protecting the city’s residents. Today, we, Hamarakia, are choosing to close our business in solidarity with Palestinian merchants.”
Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article is also published in Hebrew.