East Jerusalem Suffers Economic Tailspin

Checkpoints and Barrier Cuts City Off From Palestinians

No Business: Salah Sharabati, a butcher shop manager in East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood, has given up his dream of owning a home. Strangled by Israeli checkpoints and the security barrier, Palestinian businesses in East Jerusalem are locked in an unending tailspin.
Ben Lynfield
No Business: Salah Sharabati, a butcher shop manager in East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood, has given up his dream of owning a home. Strangled by Israeli checkpoints and the security barrier, Palestinian businesses in East Jerusalem are locked in an unending tailspin.

By Ben Lynfield

Published July 08, 2012, issue of July 13, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Call it patriotism or doing something to express his Palestinian identity — Taisir Jubeh wanted to start a business in Jerusalem.

So five months ago, after handing over the reins of his Ramallah bookshop to relatives, he opened a men’s casual wear store in the new Addar Shopping Mall, off Salah el-Din Street. The mall, opened earlier this year in downtown East Jerusalem by Muhammad Nuseibeh, a member of one of East Jerusalem’s most prominent families, had sparked hope that its 40 stores and offices would inject new life into the struggling area.

Instead, Jubeh and his fellow merchants are now in trouble. There are few, if any, customers, and many shops are already vacant.

That’s a dispiriting contrast with the teeming business areas in Jewish West Jerusalem. More tellingly, it contrasts with the boom in commerce now taking place in West Bank Palestinian cities such as Ramallah.

“You would see a lot of people” in either of those locales now, Jubeh noted, surveying the empty Addar Mall at midday. “But here it’s asleep.”

The failure of the Addar Mall is part of an alarming economic meltdown in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian sector of the city was once the shopping and business hub for Palestinians throughout the Israeli-occupied West Bank. But now, thanks to Israeli security checkpoints and a separation barrier begun a decade ago after a series of bloody Palestinian suicide bombings, East Jerusalem is isolated from its customer base in the West Bank — and caught in a seemingly bottomless economic tailspin.

“The city is dying,” businessman Nabil Feidy said. “East Jerusalem has always been poor, but the political situation and the wall have destroyed the economy completely.”

In their endless battles over Jerusalem, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs routinely invoke God and history in asserting their respective right to sovereignty over the city’s Eastern sector. But for the Palestinians, there is an additional, very practical issue: East Jerusalem is the longtime commercial capital of the West Bank. Cut it off from its hinterland, and its economic rationale vanishes — along with its ability to sustain the 360,882 Palestinians living there.

According to a new report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and to interviews conducted by the Forward with residents in four neighborhoods, East Jerusalem, an area annexed to Israel on June 27, 1967, and declared part of its “eternal, undivided capital,” has fallen to unprecedented levels of poverty. The political and physical barriers separating it from the West Bank are viewed as a primary cause.

Nearly 80% of East Jerusalem Palestinians now live below the Israeli government poverty line, according to figures cited in the ACRI report, up from 64% six years ago.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.