JENIN, WEST BANK – Downtown in this northern West Bank city is a loud jumble of live chicken shops, used-clothing stands, and a sidewalk tailor working an ancient sewing machine. Palestinian fighters clutching rockets glare down from mounted billboards.
But a five-minute taxi ride reveals a new presence: the three-story, $5 million Herbawi Home Center, set back from a quiet road and done up in sleek brushed metal.
The first two floors are airy furniture showrooms. The third story is a bonanza of orange, brown, and blue Luminarc dishes. A maroon washing machine goes for $1,666. Next to Tefal grills are pots and knives from Israel-based Algat Homeware.
On one Saturday in July, Lamis Zamzam shopped for a wedding gift for a friend. In the West Bank, “we have small malls,” the teen said. “This one is big. Here you can buy anything you want for your house.... It’s modern.”
The global approach of the home center is at sharp odds with Jenin’s history of fierce local struggle. In the first two years of the Al Aqsa intifada, 23 suicide bombings came from what became known as “the martyrs’ capital.”
As a result, Israel flattened 10 percent of the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 and imposed a siege on the city. Seven years later, Jenin is starting to rebuild, but city officials say the home center is not enough.
“There are no new businesses in Jenin except Herbawi,” said Jenin Gov. Qaddura Mussa. “If we want to help Jenin we need more permits to work in Israel, and we need to allow Arab Israelis to enter by car at [the nearby] Jalame checkpoint.”