A tour guide (R) walks near Israeli police and border police officers in Jerusalem's Old City..
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Passing the closed Jaffa Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, the emptier-than-usual streets were a stark reminder of the terrorist attack that took place on the Temple Mount two days earlier.
“In the shops, [we] feel secure,” said Shaun Nathan, a manager at Fifth Quarter, a Judaica shop in the Old City.
“It’s the visitors that aren’t. And also the tour guides don’t want to feel responsible if something will happen.”
Attacks like those on Friday have a major impact on the number of tourists that pass through both the store and the Old City, he said, noting that tour guides he works with often cancel tours or take people directly to the Western Wall without stopping to shop after violent events take place in the city.
Dramatic new footage emerges of Temple Mount terror attack, July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)
He described an incident at Ammunition Hill
last year, the first time an Arab terrorist had shot people dead in the streets during the wave of violence that began almost two years ago. He had three tour groups in his shop at the time.
“I literally saw all three tour guides get SMSs. They looked at their phones and very quietly they said to their groups: ‘We’ve got to go,’ and then they just left the Old City. And there was no one in the Old City for a month.”
Nathan said he has noticed a “very problematic” phenomenon since the Ammunition Hill shooting – tourists stopped coming to the Old City, but children continued to roam around.
The children, he said, know that shootings in the Old City are “just part of life, but the tourists, even the bravest tourists… it affects them.”
Shops owned by Arab Israelis also experience the economic frustrations of decreased tourism following violent incidents, Nathan added.
“Definitely, today we’re feeling it [with fewer customers], and we’ve spoken to the other shops and they’re all feeling it,” he said, adding that the police “do a good job” responding to the attacks.
Some tourists, however, decided to follow through with their visits, including a number of Birthright groups, even while acknowledging the danger of entering the Old City following the attacks.
Neil Myeroff, a Jewish tourist from London, said he briefly reconsidered visiting the Old City and Western Wall, but ultimately felt it was necessary to go and not allow the violence to keep him from the site.
“[Friday’s incident] flashed through my mind for a second. But you’ve got to live,” he said, calling the Western Wall “a very, very special holy place.”
Jamie Myrose, a Christian American college student participating in the Tel Shimron archeological dig, said she wasn’t concerned about going to the Old City after the attacks.
“I thought that Israel, as far as my experience goes, has been really quick with dealing with security threats and returning to kind of normal business, so especially because it’s now Sunday after the attacks, I felt pretty safe,” she said. “We also did stop at the Temple Mount and it felt as safe as it’s been every other time we’ve gone.”
An Israeli visitor, Miriam Cohen, said that, in spite of the attacks, it is necessary to visit the Western Wall and establish a continued Jewish presence there while adjusting to the current reality of danger in the Old City.
“Yes, it is scary,” she said. “Things happen here and they do not end.”