Jerusalemites express mixed feelings over Trump impact on capital

"On a business level it’s not good, [but] I’m happy he’s here because he loves Israel."

May 23, 2017 09:07
2 minute read.
US President Donald Trump places a note in the Western Wall, 22 May 2017

US President Donald Trump places a note in the stones of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City May 22, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST)

While US President Donald Trump’s visit largely paralyzed the capital on Monday – resulting in closed roads, canceled classes and a pronounced drop in business profits – Jerusalem residents nonetheless expressed conflicting views about the pro-Israel leader’s impact on the city.

Sitting outside the Hillel Café on Jaffa Road with textbooks and notebooks scattered across their table, Alona Step and Leia Ben Haim, both students at the Hebrew University, said their classes were canceled due to the heightened security stemming from Trump’s whirlwind tour.

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“I’m frustrated because I couldn’t go to class today and had to leave my dorm at the [Mount Scopus] campus very early this morning just to be able to take the bus to get here to study before it stopped operating,” said Step, a 24-year-old education major.
Trump calls for peace in the region, tougher line against Iran (credit: REUTERS)

Ben Haim, 21, also an education major who lives on the Jerusalem campus, said she had to walk several kilometers this afternoon to take the light rail downtown to get to work.

“It normally takes 10 minutes to get here and today it took over 30 minutes, so I’m a little annoyed,” she said. “And with classes canceled I went to my job here as a waitress, but had to leave over an hour before because there are no buses.”

Citing Trump’s strong support for Israel, Abraham Gestetner, 20, a yeshiva student, said he did not mind the inconvenience.

“I’m very happy that he is here, and I think everybody is happy that he’s here, because it is a very good thing since he has a lot of support for Israel, and I’m very excited about that,” he said.

“I think he’s very good for Israel, and let’s hope he makes peace,” Gestetner said.

Noting a dearth of customers, Osama Nathsh, 45, a Palestinian optometrist from Shuafat who works at Halperin Optometry on Ben Yehuda Street, was decidedly less enthusiastic about the impact of the visit.

“I didn’t do one [eye] exam during the morning and afternoon today because all the roads are closed and people can’t come here,” he lamented.

“Normally, I do between seven and 10 exams by this time, so we lost a lot of money.”

“So, from a business standpoint, it will be much better when he leaves,” Nathsh added.

While conceding that he also lost important revenue due to Trump’s visit, Yosi Elbaz, 34, who owns an adjacent jewelry and Judaica shop, said he was nonetheless pleased that the US president was in town.

“Business today was very bad because of the street closings blocking the tourists from coming, but for me it’s good because I love Trump and I would close for a week, or even a month, just for him because he loves Israel and I love people who love Israel,” Elbaz said.

“On a business level, it’s not good, but ideologically and politically I am very happy because he loves Israel, so that more than makes up for the loss,” he said. “Now, I’m waiting for him to bring the US Embassy to Jerusalem.”

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