HEBRON: In the Old City of Hebron there is jubilation and relief as closed shops lifted their shutters to welcome customers.
Abu Hatem Al-Jibreni is happy that the residents of Hebron can now go shopping in the narrow streets of the market.
“Ramadan has many benefits, in addition to the good deeds from God . . . it has increased the movement of purchases in the streets of the Old City, which is benefitting all parties,” 87-year-old Al-Jibreni told Arab News.
Residents of the Old City of Hebron have suffered losses and harassment at the hands of the Israelis as their shops have been closed and streets blocked.
Al-Jibreni has been selling a variety of products at low prices compared to modern city shops at his father’s shop since childhood. “We have been suffering for many years. Many shops closed their doors due to Israeli restrictions and the lack of customers in the market,” he said.
The city’s residents feel comfortable seeing customers in the market alleys, and the month of Ramadan has made them feel “life is back.”
“I am very happy to see people here, regardless of buying and selling, every year during Ramadan the old town comes to life again,” said Muhammad Al-Fakhouri, 32, a resident of the Old City.
He added: “I feel sorry that throughout the year no one from outside the residents of the Old City come, but during Ramadan the scene is completely different, as if life is reborn during the month, especially in early days.”
The Palestinians describe the Israeli actions in the Old City as apartheid. Many streets are completely reserved for settlers, and Palestinians are prohibited from using them. Other streets are allowed for Palestinians to walk in, but they are not allowed to drive, and other streets are allowed for Palestinians to drive but they are not allowed to get out.
There are houses in the old town whose residents are prevented from using the doors of their homes, so they have turned their windows into doors or opened new doors for their homes, while others are unable to solve the problems of accessing their homes so walk on the roofs of neighboring houses to enter and exit.
There are neighborhoods that a Palestinian cannot enter unless he is a resident and therefore no one is allowed to visit, while other neighborhoods can only be entered through gates and physical checkpoints.
The Norwegian Refugee Council estimated in 2019 that the total direct and indirect losses resulting from the closure of shops under military orders were estimated at $485 million during the past 25 years of closure — the equivalent of $1.6 million a month incurred in the Old City.
The city of Hebron, especially in the Old City area, also witnessed tension in the wake of the events in Jerusalem during the past few days, which weakened commercial movement again in the Old City market.
“Customer numbers at the beginning of Ramadan were increasing, but with the recent tension the movement of people decreased here . . . we were hoping that calm (peace) would continue during the month (Ramadan) for recovery of trade, but unfortunately this did not last,” Abu Rami Sidar, 44, told Arab News.
The owner of a sweets shop, Sidar, believes that the month of Ramadan every year is a chance for all sides to benefit from buying from the Old City.
“Our prices here are lower than anywhere else in light of the high prices in Ramadan . . . here it does not increase, but rather decreases to encourage everyone to buy from and visit the Old City,” he said.