November 2, 2001 – The (Israel) Jerusalem Post, The (Israel)
Perhaps the sign in front of McDonald’s on Emek Refaim should read: Over 0,000,000 Served. After residents organized in early September to protest the opening of the fast-food franchise in the German Colony, the city issued a stop-work order. The restaurant remains boarded up.
On September 10, the group “Residents Who Care About the Colonies” held a protest across the street. According to Rosalyn Gelcer, an active member, the group circulated a petition demanding “a moratorium on all new businesses on Emek Refaim ” until the city assesses the larger problem of scarce parking and traffic congestion in the area. Neither the McDonalds company nor the city has provided the parking space a take-out restaurant requires. The residents also propose that city authorities consult with them about planning issues in their neighborhood.
Naomi Tsur, Director of the Jerusalem branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI), supports the residents group and is critical of how the municipality has handled the opening. “We object to the spirit in which this action has been taken, where rights are taken from the residents. They should be able to control their way of life in the neighborhood.”
The municipality takes a different view of the matter. The office of Deputy Mayor Lupo Liansky issued a statement saying “the municipality’s position… is to allow the operation of businesses in Emek Refaim .”
The city issued the stop-work order because the franchise did not have a licence to convert the former residential property into a two-story restaurant. But the residents’ group, which claims thousands of supporters, will continue to press the city to hold public hearings about further development of Emek Refaim . The group has conducted neighborhood surveys and is undertaking an environmental impact study. Gelcer says that “any new business, and especially a restaurant, will only make the existing transportation and parking problems worse.”
Many in the residents’ group are also upset that the McDonalds would be non-kosher and open on Shabbat. Omir Padan, owner of Israel’s McDonalds franchises, was unavailable for comment about these concerns.
But there are more than just parking and kashrut objections. Hana Matt, a local resident, said a McDonalds will “spoil Emek Refaim . It will cause the street to lose its Israeli-ness and become like another American mall.”
Ya’qub Ibn Yusuf, owner of the Olam Qatan bookstore down the street from the proposed restaurant, is also opposed. To him, McDonalds symbolizes a “multinational corporate blight – an unfortunate extension of global capitalism,” and he doesn’t want to see it on Emek Refaim , a street with mostly “creative, local businesses.”
But other business owners across from the McDonalds site approve of the fast-food chain. One merchant, who declined to be named, said he supported the restaurant going in because “it’s a free country, people can eat what they want.”
Shaby Sinai, manager of the Falafel Adir restaurant next to the site agrees. “It will be very good for business. If there are people who want to eat on Shabbat, they should be able to.”
“But why another burger joint?” asked Gelcer, noting that Burger Bar and Burger Ranch are within blocks of the proposed McDonalds .