JERUSALEM, Oct. 19 (JMCC) - Faiz Abdullah Abu-Ramuz has owned a street vending stall facing Jerusalem
's Damascus Gate for over 45 years.
Filled with chocolate bars, chips, and candy, the stall is his and his family's only source of livelihood.
We have a paper from the court. The judge has ruled that we can work here, in this place. We've had a permit for 45 years, the elderly Abu-Ramuz said last Sunday, moments after inspectors from the Jerusalem municipality and border police confiscated all his merchandise for the second time in only a few days.
”The municipality came at 1 a.m. [on Friday morning] with the police, just like this. There were 50 soldiers and 50 men from the municipality. They lifted all my products with a crane and took them away, Abu-Ramuz said.
The first demolition
Abu-Ramuz's son Mu'amar – who manages the stall when his father can't be there – received a phone call from a friend in the early morning hours last Friday.
The friend told me that the municipality is starting to destroy my basta [stall], Mu'amar recalled from his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur, where he was under house arrest, Sunday.
I went out, as I was, in my pyjamas with no shoes. I saw the mafia, the criminals, and what they were doing, he said.
Mu'amar explained that when he arrived on Sultan Suleiman St. at around 12:45 a.m., he saw six police cars in front of the stall. Inspectors from the municipality and border police officers were in the process of emptying his locked container, filled with merchandise and money, located on the wall behind where the stall normally stands during the day.
I never thought that this would happen to me because I thought I lived in a state of law. I hired a lawyer at great expense to me. I went with him and followed the law, and look what happened to me, Mu'amar said.
Indeed, the destruction was in contravention of a court order stating that the Abu Hamuz family has a right to sell products in its stall. The order also states that the municipality can't demolish the structure.
The first thing I told them is, 'It's not legal what you're doing. You can't come here at 1 a.m. There are goods inside this shop. You can't just start breaking it in the middle of the night,' Mu'amar said.
After approximately 40 fellow street vendors, friends and family members arrived on the scene to show their support, Mu'amar was given ten minutes to take away as many products as he could.
Then, the inspectors used a crane to remove whatever was left, while the Israeli police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Eight people were arrested – including Mu'amar and the family's attorney – in a scuffle that ensued.
After being held at the police station from 2:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., Mu'amar received a sentence of five-days under house arrest and was forced to pay a fine of 1,500 NIS.
There's no cart. There's no business. This is what they want: they want us to stay home and fight about how there's no food [for our families], Mu'amar, who has two children under the age of four, said.Nothing to Lose
There are approximately 300 street vending stalls scattered throughout the entire city of Jerusalem, about half of which are in East Jerusalem and around the Old City.
When asked why he believed his family's stall was targeted, Mu'amar said that he had no idea. Still, he said that the experience has displayed the high level of solidarity that exists within the community.
Today they're coming for me. Tomorrow maybe they'll come for [the other vendors], he said.
Kayed el-Razem, the owner of another stall on Sultan Suleiman St., said that the Abu Ramuz's were attacked because the family is a leader in the area.
“They want to take down the people who are leaders. They want to break our unity,” el-Razem said.
Sunday afternoon, at least 20 inspectors, police officers and soldiers swarmed Faiz Abu Ramuz's stall, and proceeded to confiscate his products, containers and even the tent that provides shade.
When the state tells you that you have this paper from a judge – from a judge, not just from some friend of mine – and it says you can't do anything to me, how can they just come here and take everything, one day after another? said Abu Ramuz, shortly after he watched his merchandise being loaded onto the flatbed of a truck and driven away.
If a judge rules and then Israeli citizens don't follow that ruling, then there is no justice in the country, he added.
Still, the patriarch of the Abu Ramuz family explained that he will go back to his kiosk every day and sell his merchandise, despite the risk of continued demolitions.
His son Mu'amar echoed that steadfastness.
We will continue to fight. This is all we have. We have our house and we have our bread and we have nothing to lose, Mu'amar said.
The Israelis won't let us breathe. They take our houses and now they're taking our business. Even the food from our children's mouths, they take. We have nothing to lose and we will fight until the end.