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!
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • 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.