The COVID-19 crisis is affecting life in east Jerusalem in many ways.Earlier this week, a post in local Arabic social media called on the young to avoid using the Temple Mount for weddings. Issued by respected members of the local Palestinian community, the call was a reaction to the recent trend of young couples organizing weddings there with numerous guests (since it is outdoors) to circumvent the Health Ministry ban on banquet halls. “Conduct a small marriage contract-signing ceremony there and then celebrate elsewhere with your nuclear family only, and help stop the pandemic,” read the message. Amer, a driver and owner of several tourist buses, says that people understand that the Eid al-Adha holiday celebrated a few weeks ago was a turning point in the infection rates. “Three festival days of visiting family members – and two weeks later the infection rates skyrocketed.” Since the pre-holiday numbers were relatively low and the schools had been in lockdown since May, expectations were optimistic, but now the situation is has changed for the worse and the forecast is disheartening. THE TRADITIONS and conditions of the Arab residents require special attention and solutions,” says Uri Yakir, special adviser to the mayor. “First of all, we are talking about large families living in high-density configurations. The Arab neighborhoods average 3.7 persons per room, one of the highest rates in the country. The apartments are small, and by tradition, sometimes multiple nuclear families share the same compound.”The city is sensitive to cultural customs and needs. “We have prepared a special quarantine hotel, for example, but many infected and slightly sick people are reluctant to go there due to 1) embarrassment for word to get out that the person is sick or 2) a desire not to separate from family. The municipality cannot override Health Ministry rules – only the infected and the slightly sick can move to the hotels – and so we must create alternative solutions,” he noted. Such solutions include providing all necessary items – from medications to meals – for those who prefer to be quarantined at home. “We provide everything they need to keep these persons at home, to stop the chain of infection,” adds Yakir. But that is only one aspect of the insecurity of the situation.“Food baskets and other forms of support are important, of course,” says Amjad, an accountant from Jabel Mukabar, “but considering that most Arab residents here were under the poverty threshold even before COVID and so many have now lost their jobs, assistance is only a short-term solution, so the anxiety level is high.” Amjad adds that even during these days of coronavirus and unemployment, demolition orders for illegal construction haven’t stopped and have even increased since June, after a short period without issuance of these orders.“During the first coronavirus wave, the municipality and Interior Ministry practically stopped ordering demolitions,” continues Amjad, “but the rate since July is outpacing even last year’s. Unemployed, perhaps even sick residents are faced with the choice of demolishing their illegal construction themselves or letting municipal teams do so, charging sums that are beyond the reach of many of us here.” Amer concedes that the aid provided by the municipality’s Welfare Administration is helpful. “We also have nonprofit and charity associations of our own here, but we appreciate the assistance of the local councils and community centers. It all helps.”Regarding the new school year, Yakir says that whatever is decided for the city’s west side will apply equally to the east side. Meanwhile, a Beit Hanina resident wrote an outraged post on the neighborhood Facebook account complaining about the decision of the neighborhood schools to change student uniforms this year, causing an unwanted and unnecessary expenditure for parents.