Once bustling Jerusalem ‘like a desert’ says Palestinian shopkeeper

JERUSALEM – Over more than 100 days of the Gaza war, Rami Nabulsi’s antique shop in the Old City of Jerusalem has been virtually empty of customers. Still, he walks the cobble-stoned alleyways to open it every day.

The Old City, surrounded by ancient walls and home to sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is usually bursting with activity, crammed with worshippers and tourists from around the world.

Since the fighting started, the area has become “like a desert”, says Nabulsi, a Palestinian resident of the Old City in East Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem was meant to be a city of joy,” he said. “Now, when you walk in the city, even the walls are crying.”

More than 25,700 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since Israeli forces launched an all-out war on the enclave, according to figures from the health ministry there.

The onslaught was triggered by attacks on Oct. 7 by Gaza’s ruling Islamist group Hamas in which around 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israeli authorities have since increased security checks around the Old City amid fears of unrest spilling over, particularly around flashpoint holy sites.

And tourists have been staying away across the country – traffic at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv was down 78% from the previous year in November and 71% in December, figures from Israel’s airport authority show.

In the biblical town of Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, hotels and other tourism businesses said they had one of their worst Christmas on record.

In Jerusalem’s Old City, Jews, Muslims and Christians used to pass through the gates every day to and from prayers, or to pick up a bit of shopping.

Now, whole rows of stores have shut their doors. They would rather save expenses, said Nabulsi, a jeweller.

His shop is still open, but doing next to no business.

He sits outside reading the newspaper, feeding the neighbourhood’s cats and dusting the wooden shelves, waiting for customers. REUTERS

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