Armenian residents of Jerusalem's Old City are protesting a municipal decision to designate a parking lot in the area solely for Jews, although part of it stands on land belonging to the Armenian Patriarchate.
Parking is a major problem in the Old City, and some residents of the Jewish Quarter claim it is one reason secular families have been moving out. One of the parking lots serving this quarter is adjacent to the Armenian Quarter and is partially built on land owned by the Patriarchate, though the land has been leased by the Jewish Quarter Development Company since the 1970s.
For decades, the parking lot was open to all, though Jewish Quarter residents paid far less for a parking sticker than their Armenian neighbors. But around two years ago, Armenians were forbidden to park there.
"One day I came home from work and the lot was closed," said Mussa Marizian, an Armenian Quarter resident whose windows overlook the parking lot. "The quarter's management decided we shouldn't park there; they just got rid of us. Jews who live in the Muslim Quarter are allowed to park there, but I, who live right on top of the parking lot, am not allowed."
The development company subsequently asked the municipality for a waiver to enable the lot to be permanently used for parking, even though it is zoned as open public land under Jerusalem's master plan of 1978.
On Thursday, the city's planning and building committee approved the waiver, over the protests of both Armenian residents and the Patriarchate's representative, attorney Mazen Qupty, who argued that most of the land was owned by the church.
"It was hard to hear the very inconsiderate arguments made by the people of the Jewish Quarter about the needs of their Armenian neighbors," said Yosef "Pepe" Alalu, the Meretz deputy mayor, who voted against the waiver. "How can it be that the parking lot used to be open to all but now Armenians cannot enter?"
The Jerusalem Development Company said that less that 10 percent of the parking lot's land was leased from the Patriarchate, and that the lease was for 99 years.
"The Armenians have a roomy parking lot 150 meters from that spot," the company said. "The request for exceptional use was a procedural issue to renew the parking lot's operating license and the objections were legally rejected."
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