Issawiya vendor pays personal price for riots

Every three-hour riot costs Muhammed Muhuna, an Issawiya store-owner approximately NIS 1,000.

Muhammed Muhuna, merchant in Issawiya 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Muhammed Muhuna, merchant in Issawiya 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The colored spray that the security forces use to break up protests in east Jerusalem has a bitter taste, especially in cucumbers. That’s what Muhammad Muhana has learned after owning Sally’s Vegetables on the main street in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya for the past two years.
When police spray the substance at demonstrators, to both disperse the rioters and to identify them by means of a special ink, Muhana’s vegetable kiosk sometimes gets caught in the crossfire.
When the political situation is quiet, Muhana’s central location means business is booming. But as soon as the local kids show up with rocks in their hands, Muhana closes the wire screening around his kiosk and hopes it will end quickly.
He estimates that each riot – they usually last around three hours – costs him approximately NIS 1,000. If the violence gets really bad, he closes up shop, he hopes before the spray has reached his produce.
“It’s just not worth it to clean,” he said. Tear gas leaves a slightly acidic taste sometimes, but it’s not as bad as the spray, he explained.
On Tuesday, Muhana shrugged his shoulders as kids as young as five hurled stones at soldiers up the road and a number of Arab residents accidentally walking down the street. Yes, Isawiya residents have been injured by the kids throwing stones, but no one asked them to stop, he said.
“They don’t have anything to do, just throwing stones,” said Muhammad Muhaisesen, Muhana’s uncle who sometimes helps out in the vegetable shop.
Muhana is one of many business owners in east Jerusalem’s hot spots who pay a personal price for political clashes. He has to budget for violent demonstrations and tear gas-tinged peppers the same way he budgets for a delivery of rotten tomatoes.
Tuesday’s demonstrations for “Nakba Day” were quieter than expected, and Muhana decided to keep the shop open, though it was empty for most of the morning.
Toward noon, Muhana received some good news.
Neighborhood youth trying to block the road by burning wooden pallets were dispersed as police arrested a fifth suspect.
Women outside the suspect’s home swore and spit at the security personnel who took the teenager away.
Muhana refused to reveal his political opinions, but he was happy about one thing: With the youth dispersed, the daily potato delivery would be able to get through.