Jerusalem city Councilman Arieh King deleted a Facebook post that boasted about how he had sent municipal inspectors against an Arab peddler, in order to “Judaize” the city.
He hasn’t changed his opinion, though, King told Haaretz.
King had uploaded photographs to his page on the social media site showing the inspectors going after the peddler at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. The peddler’s wares, mainly bread, were on the ground. “Jews, somebody’s making sure to maintain the Jewish character of Jerusalem,” King's post read. “This afternoon a [female] city resident contacted me after noticing an illegal stand at Jaffa Gate, a stand whose owner was selling pretzels and falafel on the main pilgrimage route to the Western Wall and Temple Mount, at the height of the Tisha B’Av [fast day]. You see the result.”
He went on: “As I promised, we ensured the law was enforced against the offender while contributing a little to the Judaization of Jerusalem. We made sure to somewhat protect the Jewish character and the feeling that you are living in /visiting a Jewish city. The stand with all its foods has been confiscated. Thank you to the municipal inspectors.”
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The councilman fielded criticism from self-proclaimed observant and right-wing people as well.
“That isn’t Jewish, that is humiliating and disgraceful,” one of them wrote. Others called him wicked and terrible. Even the website “Kipa,” and “Arutz 7” reported on his post, which King ultimately deleted, replacing it with a different one.
The reactions showed that some people had misunderstood him, and he felt it important to be accurate, King wrote.
“To clarify matters, this afternoon a [female] city resident contacted me, a golden ager, who while going to the Wall, encountered an illegal stall at Jaffa Gate,” he wrote: It was selling food on Tisha B’Av. He contacted the enforcement unit at the Jerusalem municipality and “after learning that the stall was operating illegally, the inspectors decided to vacate it. The picture of the pretzels on the ground could create an utterly erroneous impression, and certainly do not reflect the situation in practice and the gentle, distinguished way the inspectors handled the problem, even though they had a heavy work load on that day and it was an especially sensitive, complex day, while maintaining sovereignty and order in East Jerusalem.”
The inspectors did not throw the food onto the ground, the peddler did, King wrote.
A lot of the people responding to the post were concerned about the peddler’s livelihood.
King replied: “But if he wanted to make a living like any other person he should obtain a peddling license and operate in compliance with the terms of the license, certainly in such a sensitive place accessible to multiple communities like Jaffa Gate. Certainly, if he wanted to preserve his merchandise, he shouldn’t have thrown all of it to the ground.”
He added that he is proud to belong to “people demonstrating such vast sensitivity to every picture that could, in a certain situation, be perceived as wrong,” even if it wasn’t, King wrote. “That is exactly the meaning of ‘light unto the nations’.”
The amended post didn’t mention the Judaization of Jerusalem, but he told Haaretz that he does not retract that.
“This is a peddler who has operated illegally for years. He doesn’t have a permit and he receives fines. People who were on their way top the Kotel called me and it bothered them. I called the city. They know him, they confiscated his goods and he is the one who overturned his stand onto the floor,” King said.
“To Judaize the city is to preserve the characteristics of a Jewish city, the feeling that you are in a Jewish city. He is a criminal and the law needs to be enforced all through the year, but if for a specific reason they don’t do it all year then on the days that are important to us, there is no room for compromise. There is no Halakhic problem, but the minute that you put it in a place where tens of thousands of people pass by it has a bad taste. I don’t want to see such things. This gives you a feeling that we are in a city that does not take Jewish holidays into consideration. Imagine if a Jew would sell cold drinks in one of the entrances to the Al-Aqsa [Mosque] during the month of Ramadan. They would make shish kebab of him.”
King said: “When I realized that people were not taking it in the way I thought they would, I understood there was no point in educating them. They took the picture with the food on the ground and captioned it, to Judaize Jerusalem, so I said it is preferable to remove the picture and the concept of ‘Judaization’ that gives a few people nausea and chills.”
King acknowledged that he would not have operated the same way against a Chabad stall operating without a permit. “We need to make arrangements for the entire issue of pushcarts in the city. I wouldn’t operate in the same way against a Chabad stand. People told me about this peddler all year In my opinion, it needs to be arranged legally that on certain days if he doesn’t understand [people’s] sensitivities then he must be dealt with. Practically, I say: I wouldn’t act the same way against a Chabad stall because it does not bother [people]. No one has turned to me on this matter."