From the way the coffee is ground (with cardamom) to the literary gatherings in Arabic, to the graffiti on buildings, Salah al-Din Street, the main artery of East Jerusalem is an Arab street. Palestinians hope it could one day become the main drag of the capital of the independent state of Palestine.
I have been attached to this street for more than 20 years but Israel has other plans for it. It is where I buy newspapers from Ramallah and Cairo, eat hummus and falafael, go to cafés and chat with storekeepers who are now friends.
But now Salah al-Din Street, named after the Kurdish warrior who fought the Crusaders, is being transformed as part of Israel’s rejection of the idea that Jewish neighbourhoods will be under Israeli control and Arab neighbourhoods will be under Palestinian control. Instead Israel seems to want to transform some of the Arab sectors into Jewish ones. Last month, Israeli settlers took over part of the post office which dominates the base of Salah al-Din street and plan to establish a religious seminary there.
The warm atmosphere of the street has chilled already. “There will be security people with guns, more police, cameras, tension… Fewer people will come to the street,” predicts Imad Muna, owner of a bookstore and café.