Thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews demonstrated opposing the directive given by Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, to open the Safra parking lot on the Sabbath. On the opposing side several dozens of students
6-June-2009, Jerusalem – Thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews demonstrated today opposing the directive given by Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, to open the Safra parking lot on the Sabbath. On the opposing side several dozens of students and non-observant residents came to have their say carrying signs reading "Terror is not only from Hammas", "This is not Teheran!" and singing the Israeli National Anthem stressing the words "to be a free people in our country, the land of Zion, Jerusalem".
Municipal parking lots have been closed on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, for years, corresponding with a status quo between the secular and religious communities of Jerusalem. The Safra parking lot, located under City Hall at Safra Square, serves the downtown Jerusalem area as well as thousands of visitors and tourists in the Old City. The move to open the parking lot on Saturdays corresponds to Barkat's line opposing religious coercion and in an attempt to offer a solution to the extreme parking problems surrounding the Old City and the Jaffa Gate. Trying to control religious outrage the municipality decided not to collect fees for parking on the Sabbath, as opposed by Jewish law, but diplomatic efforts were not successful.
Rabbi Itzchak Tuvia Weiss, head of the ultra-orthodox community was quoted this week saying "We will light the city on fire for the sanctity of Jerusalem!" and he did indeed light a fire in the hearts of his followers. Thousands gathered on Shivtei Israel Street, near the parking lot entrance, chanting "Shabbes, Shabbes!" (Sabbath) at the top of their lungs as well as "Nazis!" to policemen. The Jerusalem Police exhibited great restraint in light of extreme provocation until the order came down the ranks to disperse the demonstration. In summary; six policemen injured, one injured photographer and seven demonstrators arrested.