Despite the Mahaneh Yehuda market’s reputation as a Likud bastion that throws
rotten tomatoes at politicians from opposing parties, Labor Party Knesset
candidates met with warm support during a tour of the shuk in the capital on
Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar and entrepreneur Erel
Margalit, Nos. 6 and 10 on the party’s electoral list, respectively, along with
young Labor activists from the capital, toured the shuk to express support for
small business owners.
“Jerusalem’s commercial areas are the heart of the
city,” Margalit, a businessman who founded Jerusalem Venture Partners and the
JVP Media Quarter.
“We want to pump oxygen into small businesses. That’s
the heart of the city and we need to return life to the city.”
credited the shuk’s unique atmosphere of many independent business owners with
giving something unique to the capital. “If there is no personality in the
center of the city it will fall apart and just be a random collection of
neighborhoods,” he said.
Shuk stalwart Eli Mizrahi, who started the first
coffee shop in the shuk and whose family has been in the market for generations,
brought the Labor Party activists on a tour of the market. “To open a business
in Jerusalem you have to go through the 77 gates of hell just to get a bank to
give you a credit card with a shekel of credit,” Mizrahi said. “You have to go
to the city with seven macherim [paid representatives who know the bureaucratic
ropes] and 400 political connections.”
Mizrahi slammed the municipality
for not uniting all of the business services and permits under a central office,
as well as the municipality’s policy of charging high property tax rates
(arnona) for storage.
“The Israel Museum will always be over there and
the Tower of David Museum will always be on the other side, but what about us?”
he asked, referring to the small businesses in downtown Jerusalem. “We’re the
trigger in the center that makes people actually come here,” he
Yossi Mizrahi, Eli’s brother, said that the municipality needs to
encourage small businesses with tax breaks and discounts, rather than making
things more difficult.
For example, the city charges him NIS 1,500 each
year for “irregular signs” on his dried fruit and nut shop.
The Jerusalem Post that the Labor Party would continue to stress its expertise
in business during the electoral campaign.
“There are 450,000 owners of
small businesses [across the country] who employ an average of eight people per
business,” he said. “Everyone is talking about hi-tech and industrial zones and
that’s great. I also come from that background, but the livelihood of small
businesses is the livelihood of the city.”
In past years shuk stall
owners have thrown tomatoes and hurled insults at visiting politicians. Avraham
Levy, a 37-year-veteran and owner of a fruit stall with a large poster of
Menachem Begin on the wall, remembers when mayor Teddy Kolleck of Labor had to
be practically rescued during a visit to the market.
Monday’s Labor visit as a “media gimmick” after welcoming the politicians into
his stall, and challenged them to come back in two months for a working meeting
with the Mahaneh Yehuda Merchants Committee, of which he is a
Elhanan Wisnstern, owner of a fish store, said that as the shuk
has gentrified with more pubs and coffee shops opening, the politics of the shuk
has become more liberal. He himself is an example of this trend: After years of
voting for Yisrael Beytenu, he is undecided but leaning in the direction of
“[Kadima chairman Shaul] Mofaz was also here [at my stall] last
week,” Levy said.
“The shuk is for everyone. Anyone who can help
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