Ultra-Orthodox Block Secular-religious Party's Entry to Jerusalem Coalition

Yerushalmim party was supposed to rejoin coalition, but Haredim balked at agreement to open community centers on Shabbat

FILE PHOTO: Ultra Orthodox Jewish youths sit on the road during a protest against their enlistment in the army outside the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Ultra-Orthodox parties in Jerusalem have thwarted Mayor Nir Barkat’s attempt to bring a secular-religious party into his coalition.

According to the recently signed agreement with the Yerushalmim party, its chairperson, councilwoman Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, was to be named deputy mayor. However, the Haredi factions demanded at the last moment to strike from the agreement a clause regarding the operation of community centers on Shabbat, even though the clause said activity would be “based on the status quo.”

The council debated the issue, with Barkat canceling the vote on the deal in the end.

“There are tens of thousands of Jerusalem families who are stuck at home every Shabbat without entertainment options,” Hassan-Nahoum’s office commented. We moved to expand cultural activities on Shabbat, while maintaining the status quo, through the agreement with the mayor. Different communities live alongside one another in this city, and just as we respect the Haredim, we expect them to respect the city’s secular, traditional and national-religious members. A clear line was crossed in this instance, and we will stand up for ourselves. We will not cooperate with those who refuse to give space to the pluralist public in Jerusalem.”

The council meeting also witnessed a blow-up by residents of the French Hill neighborhood, who were protesting the city’s plan to expropriate parking spaces. It was the second time in a row that neighborhood residents disturbed a council meeting, prompting Barkat to interrupt it and move it to a closed-door session in a side room.

“No parliament in the world allows an audience to exploit open meetings to interrupt them, and that includes the Jerusalem municipality,” the mayor’s office commented.