Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin

Jerusalem: Disputed parking lot to open on Shabbat

Haredim preparing to resume protests this weekend after court decides to postpone to Sunday discussion on alternative parking for Old City visitors

Will Jerusalem be set on fire once against this weekend? Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, attempting to solve the dispute over the Safra parking lot, announced Tuesday that he would open an alternative parking lot on Shabbat, pending a court ruling.


The court, however, decided Wednesday to postpone its discussion on the matter to Sunday morning, prompting the mayor to open the Safra parking on Shabbat after all despite the ultra-Orthodox community's objection.


The Karta lot, which is located at the foot of Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, has some 800 parking spots and offer a practical solution for the shortage in parking spaces in the capital on weekends.


The Karta parking lot, which used to be under municipal-governmental ownership, is now under the authority of an official receiver after failing to pay a NIS 140 million ($35.6 million) debt to businessman Alfred Akirov, and this its opening is contingent upon a court order.


The haredi community's response to such an option was mild, but its leaders have warned that that opening the municipal Safra lot would not go unnoticed. The community is planning a mass prayer on the city's Bar Ilan Road on Friday, just before the beginning of Shabbat. Another demonstration is expected on Shabbat after the parking lot opens.


'All Jews will protest this Shabbat'

Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, chairman of the Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat, told Ynet in response, "This Shabbat there will be a protest not only in Jerusalem and not only in the Land of Israel. All Jews will cry out against the trampling of Shabbat's sanctity – in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Ashdod as well."


He vowed that the Israel Police would not be able to control the events. "The district commander shouldn’t think that he'll be able to control us with 2,000 policemen in Jerusalem."


In its decision to delay the hearing, the court gave the municipality the possibility of opening the Karta parking lot in three days, subject to five conditions. One of these conditions – charging "a reasonable and acceptable fee" from people parking their cars in the lot – is expected to thwart the possibility of opening it, as this is likely to anger the haredi community even more. Another condition is covering any damage caused to the lot.


Barkat stated Tuesday that "if the complicated process of opening the Karta parking lot does not end by this weekend, the Safra parking lot will be opened as a temporary solution this coming weekend without desecrating Shabbat.


"We have done everything in order to open the parking lot without desecrating Shabbat in the most considerate manner towards the haredi public's feelings," he said.


פרסום ראשון: 06.24.09, 15:28
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