Following weeks of incessant Hamas rocket fire that all but shut down hundreds of businesses in the South, dozens of merchants who suffered enormous financial setbacks during the war came to Jerusalem Wednesday to sell their wares to a supportive public.
The well-attended all-day fair on the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall was hosted by the Jerusalem Municipality as a means to help the small business owners recover some of their lost income.
“Jerusalem embraces the soldiers and residents of the South, and this is our time to mobilize and assist traders and residents,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said of the fair. “I urge all residents of Jerusalem to come to help the merchants of the South.”
As Caroline Azaria of Ashkelon – who works for Brinee, a company that sells liquid containers to keep olives, pickles and vegetables fresh – manned her booth, she said that she had virtually no sales over the last month.
“First of all, we could not work because of all the sirens, because no one went out,” she said. “Second, we have families, so we could not go to work, because we had to look after our children.”
Azaria added that cities including Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Haifa have sponsored similar fairs, and that Jewish communities from abroad are offering to sell her product overseas.
“Every city is arranging fairs like this and advertising on Facebook to help us because they know we are not working, and Jews from around the world are calling us to ask if they can help sell our product,” she said. “It’s very kind, but in some ways it feels like a donation.”
Tali Eshed, whose sister Noa Vider sells designer shawls in Gedera, sold the intricately made fabrics at a nearby booth while her sister remained in the South to care for her three small children.
“It’s been very hard for my sister and her family because they had to move up north because of the rockets, and now her husband has been called to the reserves and she has the children to look after, which is very intense,” said Eshed.
“Even if she has orders, the situation is bad because she has not been able to work in her studio,” she continued. “Now we’re hoping everything settles down and returns to normal.”
Meanwhile, Sara Carmel, who sells ceramics and teaches pottery classes in Mishmar Hanegev with her daughter, said she has been unable to make any new ceramics, or teach students, for over one month.
“We couldn’t go to our studio because there was no bomb shelter there, and we heard booms from Gaza all the time,” she said.
Asked why it was important for her to buy from the southern merchants, Devorah, who said her in-laws live in Ashkelon, noted that they deserved as much support as soldiers.
“It’s very important to support them because their lives have been disrupted by Hamas,” she said. “It’s nice to see all the people support the soldiers, but these people are also on the front lines and have suffered longer.”
Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovich (Jerusalem Awakening), who helped orchestrate the fair, echoed her sentiments.
“I call on all Jerusalemites and residents of Israel to go downtown and buy from these southern businesses to show our solidarity.”
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