Jerusalem municipality inspectors confiscated bagel stands and other stalls selling leavened goods near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday. According to the municipality, the stands were not shut down for violating laws related to selling leavened goods on Passover, but rather for licensing issues.
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However, Jerusalem councillor Aryeh King – from the right-wing United Jerusalem party – took credit for the actions, boasting on his Facebook page that the actions resulted from pressure he has applied as part of his plan to “Judaize Jerusalem.”
“Thanks to my Facebook friends and the Jerusalem municipality for its intense cooperation, dozens of chametz-selling stands have been shut down near the Jaffa Gate,” wrote King. “We promised that we would Judaize Jerusalem, and we are trying to live up to the promises we made to voters.”
A municipality official denied King’s claims, stating there was no connection between shutting down the stands and the fact they were selling leavened goods on Passover. The official added that leavened goods are still being sold in dozens of places throughout the Old City. According to the municipality, the stands were shut down after receiving numerous fines for operating without a license. The municipality has begun shutting these stands down – as opposed to continually fining them – to ensure that the vendors don’t accumulate large debts.
There is a law on the statute books that allows the municipality to prohibit the public sale of leavened goods on Passover, but it hasn’t been enforced in recent years, despite efforts by the ultra-Orthodox community.
Yet contrary to the municipality’s claims, it seems that these stands were only confiscated in the Jaffa Gate – the most sensitive area for Jewish visitors to the Old City. Similar stands have continued to operate in areas less frequented by Jews, such as the Damascus Gate.
In response to inquiries, the Jerusalem municipality stated, “The municipality works to stop unlicensed, illegal vendors not only during Passover but throughout the year, in every area of the city, in accordance to laws and regulations, and without any connection to requests made by city council members. During the weekend, the municipality inspectors worked in coordination with police to ensure public safety, order and peace for the thousands of people that visited in and around the Old City. As a result, numerous unlicensed vendors were dispersed from the area for operating without a license.
“Complaints were received from licensed vendors, and, accordingly, the illegal vendors were dispersed in accordance with regulations – something that occurs numerous times throughout the year – after they were issued numerous warnings and fines. The 50-plus licensed vendors within the Old City and East Jerusalem as a whole were not disturbed in any way.”