Secularists Protest Yerushalayim Car Park Closure


secular-protestSeveral hundred secular Israelis gathered in Yerushalayim’s Kikar Safra today to protest what they called Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat’s “capitulation” to the city’s chareidi community over the closure on Shabbos of a municipal parking garage. “This is just a warm-up demonstration,” Yerushalayim’s Deputy Mayor Pepe Allalu, of Meretz, told the crowd, estimated by the organizers at 800, who sang and chatted in the afternoon sunshine. “But if [Barkat] doesn’t reopen the garage in two weeks, we’ll fill the whole square.”Some charedim, said Allalu, “want to turn Yerushalayim into another Bnei Brak… We won’t let that happen.”

The demonstrators were in good-natured mood, but carried angry banners demanding “Freedom from religious coercion,” proclaiming that “Yerushalayim is for everyone” and, in a bitter comparison with the Islamic republic to the east, asserting, “Today they’re celebrating in Teheran and Meah Shearim.”

The demonstration was hurriedly organized – so hurriedly, in fact, that the speakers came with neither a loudspeaker system nor even a megaphone and had to shout to make themselves heard at all – after Barkat, on Erev Shabbos, acceded to a request from the city’s police chief to close the municipal garage for two successive Shabbosos. In that time, the idea is to find an alternative site to accommodate parking for visitors to the nearby Old City.

Today’s protest took place outside the mayor’s office and directly over the underground parking garage at the heart of the dispute. The mayor had opened the garage last weekend, with the approval of chareidi coalition partners, but the move prompted riots by thousands of chareidim, and more riots had been threatened for this weekend if the garage had been opened again.

Barkat’s spokesman Evyatar Elad said that the parking lot would be reopened in two weeks if no solution to the lack of parking in the city on the weekends could be found by then. Barkat had said earlier in the week that he was determined to keep the lot open since it did not desecrate the Shabbos and met an urgent need.

Allalu today spoke vaguely about a deal taking shape in which the nearby Mamilla parking lot, which is not run by the municipality, would be opened instead, and said he intended to hold the mayor to that arrangement. But the opening of the Mamilla lot has also been firmly opposed in the past by the chareidi community.

Meretz Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz told the secular crowd that the dispute over the garage was “part of the wider struggle over the very nature of the state of Israel.”

“If there is no freedom for secular Yerushalamim, in time there will no freedom for the secular residents of Tel Aviv or anywhere else,’ he declared. What was critical, he said, was to ensure that the national education system was reformed so that chareidi youth studied “citizenship and languages.” And rather than channeling their evident “battle spirit” into their well-organized and sometimes violent protests over the parking lot last week, he said, “they should use their battle spirit by serving in the IDF.”

Following Barkat’s reversal yesterday, the Eida hachareidis, which organized last weekend’s protests, called off an atzeres tefillah which was planned to take place last night.

The clash over the parking lot, which was operated last Shabbos by a non-Jew, has emerged as the first major challenge for Barkat in treading through the delicate fabric of Yerushalayim’s diverse populations since he was elected in November.

The lot was opened last week in agreement with Barkat’s coalition partners, including chareidi city councilmen, to accommodate weekend visitors to the capital who were illegally parking on main thoroughfares near the Old City.

{Yair Israel/JPost}


  1. these peaple are startimg up with the wrong peaple,you can’t fight the charaidim and this is not only a fight agianst the yidden of meah shearim it is a fight aginst hashem c”v, its their own risk

  2. Eretz Yisroel is a Jewish place. If you’re a shagitz why don’t you go michallel Shabbos back where you came from? Why do you want to live here?

    It’s disgusting to see how the leftist koifers spend their energy. There’s no excuse for this chillul H” by the frei people yimach shmam!

    Eretz Yisroel l’Yehudim, Yisraelim yoveidu!

    “Avdu goyim meartzoi!”