The riots in Jaffa took their toll, and last weekend only little traffic was trickling in local businesses, Ma’ariv reported. The Jews weren’t coming to shop in the city which on paper is part of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, but in reality is closer to Ramallah than to the Jewish metropolitan next door.
“I’ve been here for 30 years, and I do not remember a week this hard,” one merchant told Ma’ariv, adding, “More people arrived on Yom Kippur.”
The riots that began a week earlier Saturday, after a young Muslim man had been shot dead by police during a chase, calmed down somewhat during the week. At night there were still several incidents of burning garbage cans and a few cars on the streets near Yefet Street, the city’s main drag, but things seemed to calm down.
Then, on Thursday evening, just as business owners were preparing for a busy weekend, riots broke out again, as hundreds of Arab youths rioted because police had arrested the brother of the dead man from the weekend before, on suspicion of involvement in disturbances of the public order. The youths threw stones, burned garbage cans and smashed the windows of businesses and bus stops.
“People were afraid to come after hearing about the riots,” Samir Motran, owner of Mutran Sweets on Jaffa Street whose business is considered one of the symbols of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Jaffa, told Ma’ariv. Motran is an old hand at speaking to the Jewish media, and his message is often in line with the views of the Arab powers that be in the city.
“People said they heard about the mess and decided not to come,” he said. “On Friday, perhaps 50% of those who come every Friday to Yefet Street arrived; and on Shabbat it was empty. 95% of the Jewish shoppers did not arrive.”
“We must not allow the extremists harm our shared life,” Motran, who had seen his store windows be crashed twice in recent weeks, announced. “Jaffa welcomes to all the people of Israel.”
The several dozen regulars who do their Friday shopping arrived for their bacon and baklava. But the crowds never showed up. The streets of Jaffa these days look like the streets of Nazareth a year or so ago, when that Arab city was plagued by rioters, many of them from the outside. The local leadership in Nazareth did the math and worked to stop the riots in their city. The fathers of Arab Jaffa will have to do the same or watch their business owners go broke.