THE SHUK: Frustrating moments on Independence Eve..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
It was supposed to be the peak of festivities on Independence Day Eve, but it turned out to be one of the most frustrating moments for bar and restaurant owners in the shuk at Mahaneh Yehuda. For reasons that are still unclear, police arrived in large numbers around 9 p.m. and ordered most businesses to lower or stop the music, retrieve chairs and tables that were set up in the alleys of the shuk, and even told others to simply close down.
Besides the frustration of both the owners and Jerusalemites who planned a terrific evening of festivities, the merchants complained about the loss of money they suffered as a result of large amounts of meat and other foods they bought for the occasion but could not use.
Nino Peretz, president of the market’s merchant association, said nobody in the shuk knows who decided to close things down or why, ruining what is arguably the most important evening of the year for business owners and the public. “At the end of their intervention, they allowed us to let only 800 persons step inside the [Mahaneh Yehuda] compound, while thousands remained outside and had no access to the bars, the restaurants or the music we all prepared especially for that night.”
What seems even more intriguing is that Mayor Moshe Lion, upon being informed of what happened, came to the shuk to see for himself. He tried, to no avail, to convince the officer in charge to let the party go on.
“It seems that the mayor has no influence at all on what is going on in his city,” remarked one business owner who had hired DJs, and bought lots of liquor and food especially for the evening, but was finally forced to close down at around 9 p.m.
Another question is why the action took place on the eve of Independence Day, when according to the law throughout the country – including Jerusalem – music at full volume is allowed. “Even if there are talks about... reaching an arrangement with residents to reduce as much as possible the annoyances due to the night life in the shuk, it doesn’t apply for that particular evening. So why ruin the party?” asked Peretz and other merchants.
A few weeks ago, Lion announced the formation of a committee made up of merchants and residents of the neighborhood. Its goal is to find a solution that will enable night life to continue without making residents’ lives miserable. One of the first steps was to allow public toilets in the shuk – which are operated and cleaned by municipality’s employees – to remain open on Thursdays and Saturdays until 3 a.m. of the following day in order to prevent people from urinating in the streets.
One source from inside the shuk suggested that the police intervention was the result of an initiative by some residents who wanted to make a point. “But,” he asked, “does that mean the mayor is not in control?”
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