Jerusalem residents miffed by road closures

Some residents will the vacate city while others take refuge in their homes.

traffic 88 (photo credit: )
traffic 88
(photo credit: )
Ahead of US President George W. Bush's arrival in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, local residents were bracing for the worst - not on the road to peace, but on the road to work. "It's just a pain in the neck. I'm getting out of the city tonight before Bush gets here so I can have freedom," Iva Litvak, 22, who works at the Bible Lands Museum, told The Jerusalem Post. According to official traffic reports, nearly 20 streets will either be off limits to parking or be completely shut down due to the US president's arrival. For the entirety of the two-day trip, no traffic will be allowed on Rehov Keren Hayesod between Kikar Tzarfat (the Rehov Agron intersection) and Kikar Plumer (the Rehov Jabotinsky intersection), except for local residents will an official pass. Litvak said that her museum was forced to close during Bush's visit "due to security reasons." Moreover, museum employees have been forced to "take a vacation without pay," she said. Some residents are going so far as to hide within their homes for the next two days. "I wouldn't go [out of my house], last time [Bush came in December] it was a small disaster," said Arkadi Shapochnik, a reception clerk at the Lev Yerushalayim Hotel on King George Street. "It's harder for guests to get around - it causes some problems." Local businessmen are also decrying lost revenues because of the visit. "I'm getting hurt financially these two days because tourists don't come - the hotels are vacant," said Eli Vardi, 42, co-owner of the Smoke Shop on Rehov Ben Yehuda. "Because we have no tourists, we get no business," Vardi said, standing beside a humidor full of Cuban cigars. He said he also sympathized with businesses on Rehov King David, as it will be completely shut down for the president's visit. Bush will be staying at the now vacant King David Hotel on Rehov King David, and the State Department personnel will be at the David Citadel hotel up the street. Vardi also has to halt construction on his new cigar shop in the Mamilla shopping center near the David Citadel. "It's stopping the work for two days," he said. "Arabs cannot come [to work] and the cranes cannot come because of the [police] snipers [on the roofs]." Other locals say they are scared about the upcoming visit due to unpleasant experiences during the Bush's last visit. "Last time I made the mistake of leaving my house for like five minutes and by the time I came back, the road by my house was shut down," said Erika Dahan, 28, a resident of Pisgat Ze'ev in northern Jerusalem. After waiting for nearly an hour, Dahan was finally able to return home, but she said the experience led her to distrust municipal traffic hot lines. "They don't give the right information about which roads are closed, so I got stuck," she said. "Literally from one hour to the next what they said was going to be closed changed - how can that happen?" But according to Miry Tournovsky, a reporter at Moked Hatz Col Yisrael, a traffic information center in the capital, the closures will not be all that severe. "I don't think it will be so difficult because while some roads are blocked it's not during work hours," Tournovsky said. "It's not going to be that difficult." Despite the inconveniences, many Jerusalemites are still happy to welcome Bush to their city. "He comes and he wants everything to be okay, so we take him with happiness and smiles," said Jan Elazer, owner of Ora Jerusalem, a Judaica shop on Rehov Ben Hillel.