Haredi Ire Delays Plan to Open Jerusalem Parking Lot on Shabbat

Police feared its forces would be spread too thin in the event of protests during the holiday.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's plan to allow a public parking lot in the city to remain open during Shabbat was postponed by a week, due to fears of demonstrations by ultra-Orthodox, a municipal spokesperson said Wednesday. According to the statement, the mayor decided to postpone the move until next weekend, following a specific request by the police, which feared its forces would be spread too thin in the event of protests during an already busy holiday.

Ultra-Orthodox sources in the capital, however, told Haaretz the postponement was due to talks between the mayor and community leaders, who required more time to "look into the decision."

The plan was first announced at the Jerusalem council meeting earlier this week. It wasn't opposed by the ultra-Orthodox council members present, after Barkat agreed to their conditions; this included limiting the number of parking lots operating on Shabbat to one, making it free of charge and having it managed by non-Jewish workers.

However, the decision also drew threats of protests from Edah HaChareidis, a particularly strict strand of ultra-Orthodox Judaism not represented at city hall.

In recent days, posters proclaiming "a great battle" against the opening were seen around ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. The ultra-Orthodox members of the council were denounced in the Edah HaChareidis newspaper as destructive and corrupt, leading council member Shlomo Rozenstein (United Torah Judaism) to deny his caucus had agreed to the opening of the parking lot. "We have never agreed and never will agree to that," he said. "The only real question is how great a crisis we are heading for.

"As soon as the demands to lessen the damage to the Shabbat were accepted," he continued, "we decided - unlike Edah HaChareidis - that there was no reason to launch an all-out war. The question is whether or not we go to war [at all]."