Wednesday, March 10, 2010

After Eighteen Years, a Piece of Paper and “Get Thee Out”

(with apologies to Sholem Aleichem)

Meir, who came to Israel from Uzbekistan eighteen years ago, set up a shoe-repair stall on Emek Refaim Street soon after his arrival. He’s been there ever since, a neighborhood fixture, working in his tiny shop between the post office and the bus stop. His shop is well-kept and its outside cheerfully painted. Whenever I bring Meir my own shoes to repair, his work is excellent and his prices are reasonable.

Now, after eighteen years, the municipality has refused to renew his business license. It will be closing down his stall after Passover as part of a city-wide gentrification project. Apparently, a conveniently-located, reasonably-priced shoe-repair shop is somehow not good enough for the image of Jerusalem that they want to project... just because it happens to be located in a stall rather than in a storefront.

I spoke with Meir today on my way to work and told him how sorry I was to hear what had happened. “What will you do?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t afford to rent a shop in the city. It’s too expensive. It looks like I won’t be able to work.”

Why should Meir, and many more like him, have to face the possibility of losing their livelihoods for the sake of this project? And why should we, the neighborhood residents, have to do without him?

There has to be something that we, the citizens of this city, can do. I’ve already called a current member of the Jerusalem municipal council, who said that she would look into the matter. I also called a former member of the Jerusalem municipal council for advice and emailed the journalist who covers the municipal beat for the local English-speaking newspapers.

Does anyone have any other ideas?

Here are some photos of Meir and his shop. A view from the side, showing the painting:

Meir's shoe-repair stall 1

A view from the front:

Meir's shoe-repair stall 2

Inside the shop:

Meir's shoe-repair stall 4

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