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Barkat attempts to reach compromise
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Saturday's riots
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Haredim meet with Barkat, say won't compromise
Jerusalem mayor holds nightly meeting with representatives of ultra-Orthodox community over decision to open parking lot in capital on Shabbat. 'He understood us more than we understood him,' says rabbi. Talks expected to resume Thursday
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat met Wednesday night with representatives of the ultra-Orthodox community in the capital in a bid to resolve the conflict over the decision to open a municipality parking lot on Shabbat, which ignited riots in the city last Saturday.

 

The parties failed to reach a compromise on the urgent matter, but agreed to resume talks on Thursday.

 

Barkat met in his office with six members of the Community for the Sanctity of the Shabbat, who held negotiations Wednesday in a bid to come up with compromise offers in regards to the parking lot.

 

The representatives met with their rabbis in the evening hours and presented them with their proposals, and in the night they briefed Jerusalem's mayor on the religious leaders' decisions in a bid to prevent a mass protest this coming Saturday as well.


 

Haredim's representatives on their way to meeting (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin)

 

At the end of the meeting, which lasted about three hours, the sides parted without reaching an agreement. Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, head of the Committee for the Sanctity of the Shabbat, said upon leaving the meeting that the mayor "understood us more than we understood him".

 

He added, "We won't agree to the opening of parking lots in the entire city center area, not even with a Shabbat Goy (non-Jew who works for Jews on Shabbat)."

 

Dialogue to continue

The Jerusalem Municipality said in a statement that "the meeting was held in a respectable atmosphere, with each side detailing its views in a profound manner. The mayor explained to the rabbis in detail about the need to open the parking lot. It was decided to continue the dialogue between the sides and the police."

 

On Saturday evening, thousands of haredim clashed with police forces near the municipality parking lot on Safra Square in protest of the decision to open it on Shabbat.

 

Six police officers were lightly injured while attempting to drive the protesters back into the Meah Shearim neighborhood. The protestors called the police "Nazis", spat at them and hurled bottles, dirty diapers, stones and food at them.

 

Barkat met with haredi representatives from the City Council earlier this week in a bid to examine alternative solutions for opening the Safra parking lot. One of the options looked into, which also matches Jerusalem Police Commander Aharon Franco's approach, is to open the Carta parking lot by the Jaffa Gate instead, but sources in the ultra-Orthodox community clarified that they would fight against such as decision as well.

 

On Tuesday rabbis of the haredi community held a meeting on the issue, and decided to hold a mass prayer Friday welcoming the Shabbat "on the city's streets" in protest of the opening of the municipal parking lots during the weekends. The prayer protest is set to be held on the capital's Bar-Ilan Street, and organizers are expecting thousands of people to attend.

 

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