Jewish worshipers arriving for prayer at the Western Wall Friday morning were astonished to find a row of glimmering Ferrari vehicles parked near the Wall's main plaza, in contravention of a 2011 decision by the National Planning and Building Council deeming parking in the plaza was illegal.
The luxury vehicles were parked there as part of an event organized by Ferrari, commemorating its 70th anniversary with a 20-vehicle journey across Israel.
The vehicles were irregularly allowed to reach as far the main plaza itself, and aroused much curiosity in onlookers.
However, some worshipers were infuriated with the crass commercialization of one of the holiest sites in Judaism, deeming the publicity stunt a "disgrace", "sacrilege" and "shameful."
"It's absolutely disgusting. This is hardly the place for cars to meet up. It's sad to see the level of denigration to a place so holy to Jews," said one visitor.
This was not the first time complaints were levied against affluent people receiving preferential treatment in parking their cars in the Wall's plaza.
The area around the Western Wall is plagued by severe parking hardships, with the Jewish Quarter's parking lot open only to the Quarter's residents and the Mount Zion parking garage intended for buses and security vehicles only. This means thousands of worshipers are forced to park their vehicles in parking lots at least 15 minutes away, or avail themselves of public transportation.
Parking permits at the Western Well are provided by the Heritage Foundation or at the discretion of the on-site police station's commanders. This is given when there is free space and when it does constitute a security risk, with disabled people having priority.
'Conclusion drawing' meeting scheduled for Sunday
The Minister of Religious Services David Azulai (Shas) said a meeting had already been scheduled for Sunday, "to be attended by all relevant parties, and in order to draw conclusions and prevent such incidents from recurring in the future," he said.
Azulai also said he had voiced his displeasure to the Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch. "There is no room for extravagant displays in this holy site. It was made clear to me there were no intentions on a car show, and that Ferrari's CEO wished to visit the Wall accompanied by several vehicles, all of whom left the area after 10 minutes," the minister said.
Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites, commented saying he will oversee an inquiry into the incident Sunday in order to draw conclusions and prevent such events from happening again. "This morning's event was a naïve acquiescence to a request to allow parking during the early morning hours for a several-minute tour of Jerusalem organized by the vehicle brand's international board members. Needless to say, no payment was collected for the visit," the rabbi added.
Ferrari importer: 'All requisite permits were received'
The "Auto Italia" company, Ferrari's official Israeli importer, said: "The entire world is currently marking 70 years to the founding of Ferrari. Everything was done with prior coordination and the vehicles were parked in the plaza with prior approval. Nothing was done with the intention of harming the Wall's stature. We believe photos of the vehicles will do a great service to Israel's public relations in the world."
The religious-Zionist Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah movement said: "We profess our immense wonder at the approval accorded a completely commercial enterprise, especially one involving cars that are the exact opposite of 'To walk humbly with thy God.' Is the car's crimson paint redder than the blood of every other worshiper?"