Damascus Gate and Salah Al-Din Road in East Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Damascus Gate, which has been heavily guarded the past few days following Friday’s deadly terrorist attack on the Temple Mount, seemed increasingly lively Monday morning as people began returning to the Old City.
As soon as tourists and locals walked through the arched entrance to the Muslim Quarter, they could hear shopkeepers shouting prices for everything from head scarves to hookahs. As Christian pilgrims walked the Via Dolorosa, they passed mounds of spices and produce that had been unavailable behind locked storefronts just a day earlier.
Despite this increase in foot traffic, however, business has yet to return to usual. Some shopkeepers said they have struggled to make more than a few shekels a day. Tourists have avoided the area since the attack, in which two Israeli policemen were murdered and three armed Palestinians attackers were shot dead.
Others, though, reopened today in anticipation of increased tourism in the Muslim Quarter.
Noor Nazme, who works at a pastry shop just down the street from the gate, said this was their first day back in business following the attack.
“The incidents always influence what happens,” Nazme said. “The two days after the attack it wouldn’t have made sense to open because there were no people here.”
In most places, there seemed to be no more tension than on any other day. But at the nearby Lion’s Gate, crowds protested new security measures at the entrance to the Temple Mount. Many Palestinians said they would refuse to enter the holy site so long as they were required to pass through metal detectors installed at the site in response to the terrorist attack.
Female protesters shouted at the police, and more generally at the Israeli government, to protest what they say is an attempt to change the long-standing status quo.
Heba Awawdi, who prayed with the group outside the Lion’s Gate, said she feels that having to go through metal detectors to access the Temple Mount makes her feel like a guest in her own home. She said she plans to protest for as long as possible.
Back on the main street of the Muslim Quarter, however, people roaming the sunbaked streets seemed almost oblivious to the conflict, and simply went about their business.
Ali Sub Laban, another Old City shopkeeper, said it was unclear when things would truly return to normal.
“Only God knows,” he said. “Business was already weak before the attack, but now it’s even more dead.It’s all gone now.”