The Jerusalem Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established in 1936, and since then it has proved itself and exercised its abilities in active and effective service to the holy city, through the succession of historical periods, from the Jordanian Mandate to the current Israeli occupation.
Without warning, on August 10, 2001 the Israeli authorities closed the Chamber’s offices in the city of Jerusalem and prevented it from working within the municipal limits, claiming that the Chamber was operating without permission from the Israeli authorities. Despite the closure, the Chamber continued to provide basic services to the Holy City’s merchants and industrialists through its temporary office located in the suburb of Dahiyat al-Bareed. In order to survive in the face of the confiscation of all of its papers and documents, the Chamber commenced to build a new member database with basic information, completing the project, which now holds information on more than 2,000 members.
In the face of the completion of the separation wall and the isolation of Jerusalem from its surroundings, which led to the prevention of West Bank-ID holders from accessing the Chamber’s offices in Jerusalem, the Chamber of Commerce opened two branch offices in Al-Ram and Bethany, in order continue to provide services and communicate with all of its members.
History of the Chamber of Commerce in Jerusalem
During the British Mandate:
Before 1936, a joint chamber of commerce existed in Jerusalem headed by an Englishman (Mr. Shelley, Lipton tea’s representative in Palestine), and Jewish control over it was clear. During the strikes and revolution of that year, it was decided at a meeting of Arab merchants, held at the Imperial Hotel near Jaffa Gate, to establish of an Arab Chamber of Commerce to be separate from the joint chamber. Chosen to head the newly established chamber was Mr. Ahmed Hilmi Pasha (the founder of the Palestinian National Bank), who became later Prime Minister of the All-Palestine government. Mr. Shibley Kamel was chosen as vice president. Also included in the membership were Sheikh Abdul Bari Barakat, who later became President of this chamber, and Mr. Ali Dajani, who was its director after the 1948 war. Thus, the Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jerusalem became the first national body of its kind in Palestine, and its first administrative offices were located Princess Mary Street, and later moved to Mamilla.
The Chamber in the Jordanian Era
After the “nakba” (“catastrophe”) of 1948, the Chamber reopened in the Al-Misrarah neighborhood, then moved to Al Zahra Street, before it commenced to build its headquarters on the land of the awqaf on Nur al-Din Street, opposite the Rockefeller Museum Garden.
Haj Taher Barakat presided over the Chamber, then Haj Ali Qaddoura al-Taziz took the reins before the 1967 war, after which Mr. Fayiq Barakat took over its management.
During the Jordanian era of 1948 – 1967, the Chamber exercised its economic role in service of the city. Its most prominent roles were its contribution to the Jordanian Chambers of Commerce Act, the establishment of trade fairs, and the formation of economic studies and seminars, all in addition to its core work in protecting the interests of traders, artisans, industrialists, including providing services to them in the field of commercial arbitration.
The Chamber of Commerce under the Israeli occupation
After the 1967 occupation, the Chamber of Commerce restarted the exercise of its ongoing activities, in addition to having to expand its work in the defense of merchants and Jerusalem citizens in general. The Chamber of Commerce became one of the fundamental resources for Jerusalemites, working in the interests of Arab citizens. It also served as a notary for Arab residents in order to document real estate transactions, preserving Arab properties and preventing their reassignment to the Israelis. The Chamber also became a center for requesting Jordanian passports, where Jersualemites could preserve their Jordanian citizenship despite the official separation of the West Bank and Jordan in 1988. The Chamber of Commerce also built an investment property on Rashid Street in Jerusalem.
In 1989, the Jerusalem Chamber also contributed to the founding and leadership of the Palestinian Federation of Agricultural and Industrial Chambers of Commerce, as a result of the disengagement with Jordan. However, because of the conditions of the occupation, suitable conditions did not exist to hold elections for the executive board of the Chamber. As a result, the previous board, headed by Sheikh Ali Mahmoud Kaddoura, continued to preside. After his death, Ahmed Hashim Zoughair took over the presidency of the Chamber, along with new board members of strong reputation and ability. Fayiq Barakat administered the Chamber until the end of 1998, and after his departure, Azzam Abu Saud continued until mid- 2013. Currently, Fadi Arafat Al-Hidmi is the Chamber’s Director General.
The Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce witnessed a number of conferences, seminars, workshops, exhibitions and public meetings, focusing on the economic, social and national issues concerning Jerusalemites and Palestinians in general, up until the Chamber’s offices were shut down by order of the Israeli Minister of Internal Security on August 10, 2001, with the closure to be renewed every six months. This forced a move to temporary offices in the Jerusalem suburb of al-Barid, where the Chamber continues to offer all of its services to its members.
Samples of membership certificates from the Chamber archive