The Lion roars at Mahaneh Yehuda

Shuk merchants and shoppers greet Likud Beytenu’s transplanted candidate for mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, tossing goods and airing grievances.

Moshe Lion poster 370 (photo credit: Flash 90)
Moshe Lion poster 370
(photo credit: Flash 90)
Jerusalem’s colorful Mahaneh Yehuda market has always been part of the campaign trail for mayoral candidates. The flesh-pumping trek through the market – or the shuk, as it is known – is a time-honored tradition.
On Monday, Likud Beytenu candidate Moshe Lion, escorted by leaders of the Mahaneh Yehuda Merchants Association, embarked on his campaign trek through the shuk, secure in the knowledge that he is now a bona fide resident of the city.
He moved into an apartment in the capital’s Keren Hayesod Street last week to cement his eligibility to run for mayor.
Although he has lived in Givatayim for years, he has been doing a daily commute to Jerusalem in his capacity as chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority.
Accompanied by a large group of young cheerleaders wearing campaign tee shirts with the slogan “Residents above all,” Lion spent the best part of an hour meeting shopkeepers and stallholders.
All the while, members of his team handed out brochures, held up campaign banners that also featured the logo of the Mahaneh Yehuda Merchants Association, and controlled the volume of a portable sound machine from which Lion’s campaign jingle emanated every few minutes informing voters that Moshe Lion is the right man.
In Hebrew the message rhymes nicely.
Wearing a bright yellow polo shirt that helped him to stand out in the crowd, Lion’s first stop was at a liquor store where they happen to sell arak produced in Ramallah for only NIS 45 a bottle. His campaign banner was displayed in the store before he got there, as it was in several other stores throughout the shuk.
Mahaneh Yehuda has long been a Likud stronghold, so there was little doubt that Lion would for the most part be warmly greeted, as indeed he was, although there were a few people who objected to his presence.
At the liquor store the people behind the counter ululated and tossed candy at him as though he were a bridegroom.
He had barely turned into one of the main arteries of the shuk, when someone ran forward to offer him bread and salt.
At the flower shop, he received a religious blessing.
As he passed the ice vendor’s stall, the proprietor came forward to shake his hand and wish him luck.
More people pelted him with candy.
At a deli store the proprietor insisted on a photograph with him.
All of sudden a woman in the crowd of shoppers rushed forward, embraced him and shouted: “He’s the king. He’s the next mayor of the city. He’s the king of the world.”
Here and there Lion stopped to chat with merchants – or, rather, they buttonholed him in order to air their grievances.
Most of those he listened to were very dissatisfied with the status quo and had no good words to say about present incumbent Nir Barkat.
“He doesn’t take a shekel and he’s not worth a shekel,” said one in relation to the current mayor, who decided to forego a salary, and who throughout his tenure has been working in a voluntary capacity.
Others complained that Barkat had made a lot of promises but hadn’t kept them.
Several of the fruit and vegetable stalls bore Lion campaign banners at the entrance, but even the proprietors of those that didn’t came forward to embrace him and wish him luck.
Lion listened to what everyone had to say, absorbed what was said, but carefully refrained from committing himself to anything before evaluating what he was learning.
At one of the halva stores, he was applauded.
Outside the pizza shop, a woman shopper shook his hand and told him in American- accented English how pleased she was to meet him, and then wished him luck, using the Hebrew expression “b’hatzlaha.”
Other native English speakers rushed forward to be photographed with him and wished him success.
At a store specializing in solely green produce in the literal sense, Lion was enveloped in a bear hug by a man whose attire designated him as religiously Orthodox. The man blessed him again and again, and it was difficult for Lion to extricate himself. Some shoppers merely smiled and gave him the thumbs up sign.
At another fruit and vegetable stall, the proprietor yelled: “Only Moshe will change the city. We want change. We want something new.”
Word spread quickly throughout the shuk that the candidate for mayor was walking through, and people – both shoppers and merchants alike – were actually waiting to shake his hand, to embrace him or simply to pat him on the back.
At almost every stop, he was offered something to eat, but politely declined. But in one recently opened French takeaway food store in which, judging by the menu, the proprietors were of North African background, they simply wouldn’t take no for an answer, and forced a helping of kubeh on him. Once outside, he gave it to one of his aides.
As he was about to complete his tour, an elderly woman sidled up to him and said: “We’re so happy you’re in the shuk.”
Lion smiled and replied: “I am too. This place is absolutely throbbing with life.”
Asked by The Jerusalem Post what his impressions had been after his trek, Lion enthused that the shuk “is one of the most beautiful places in Jerusalem” and attributed this fact to the merchants, who he said breathed life into it.
“This is something that has to be recognized and respected,” he said, pointing out that the shuk is a magnet for residents and tourists alike, but more has to be done to ensure that the merchants can prosper.