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Reference : V-P-IL-E-03386
Date : 16/07/2020
Caption : Bethlehem. Sami Khamis’s coffee shop is an institution in the city. It is mostly closed these days. Sami says: “War is much better than the COVID-19 pandemic, because in war you know who your enemy is. I hope that things will return to their usual state.”
Photographer : JABR, Atta
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : ICRC website, photo gallery, 06.10.2020
Hope and fear fill the West Bank’s silent markets

As a second wave of COVID-19 ravages the West Bank, the bustling old markets of its largest cities have fallen silent. In Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem and the Old City of Jerusalem, worried shopkeepers keep their empty stores open, clinched in a merciless double-bind: only by staying open do they stand a chance of rebuilding business, yet every day they open their doors they hemorrhage money.
Sami Khamis is a larger-than-life presence in Bethlehem, which throngs with Christian tourists visiting the Church of the Nativity—in normal years. Having a coffee with Sami the kahwajji, or coffee seller, was almost a rite of passage for visitors to the city. But Sami’s voice, calling “tea… coffee” no longer reverberates down Church of Nativity Street as it once did. There are no tourists to hear it.
A return to some kind of normalcy will depend on Palestinian authorities getting the virus under control. According to an International Committee of the Red Cross survey of Palestinians, compliance with prevention measures in the West Bank is significantly lower than in Gaza and East Jerusalem. In June, 28% reported that they still weren’t wearing masks, 22% said they weren’t avoiding crowded places and 21% weren’t staying home when feeling sick.
Clearly, there is work to be done—before the markets of the West Bank return to the hustle and bustle that used to characterize them, and small businesspeople can sleep easy once again.
Original material : digital
Resolution : 5760x3193
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour