In a case of bureaucratic “he said, she said,” four electrical- hybrid buggies
donated to the Old City to make it more accessible for tourists with
disabilities, reduce pollution and traffic, have been held in customs since
January 6, accruing some NIS 260,000 in ongoing fines.
costing 13,000 euros each and capable of seating four, were donated by the
Military and Hospital Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem to the city as part of a
pilot project, with the goal of creating a fleet within a 700-meter radius of
the Old City.
According to numerous representatives of the Order of St.
Lazarus of Jerusalem, the buggies, shipped from Spain, are being blocked by the
Jerusalem Police, which they claim refuses to recognize the Old City as an
“operational zone,” defined as an area where cars and trucks are not
However, according to police, the issue is likely a
municipality matter, and therefore not within its jurisdiction.
Jerusalem Police is responsible for security issues, and as far as this matter
is concerned it’s mostly a municipality issue,” said police spokesman Micky
Adding to the confusion, when contacted for comment to explain
who is responsible for the impasse, Kobe Bartov, head of the Department of
Transportation and Infrastructure for the Jerusalem Municipality, said he was
not authorized to speak on the matter.
Meanwhile, Noa Glazer, of the law
firm S. Horowitz, which is representing the Order of St. Lazarus
of Jerusalem, said the police and “bureaucracy” are to blame for the ongoing
“From what I understand, there’s a problem with police
authorization in terms of deeming the Old City an ‘operational zone,’ so the
buggies can be legally licensed and registered,” said Glazer.
police cooperation we can’t go ahead with this important project. Israeli
bureaucracy is stopping this great initiative, and it’s a
According to Glazer, the pilot project was supposed to have taken
place from January to April, and if successful, the municipality agreed to
purchase an additional 20 buggies.
Naomi Tsur, deputy mayor of Jerusalem
and founder of Green Pilgrim Jerusalem and the First International Jerusalem
Symposium on Green and Accessible Pilgrimage, also said the police are
responsible for the buggies’ embargo.
“We’re in a strange situation here
because the Order of St. Lazarus is trying to do good things for Jerusalem by
eliminating pollution and unnecessary traffic in the Old City, and everyone
thinks this is a great idea, but what’s killing [the project] is bureaucracy and
technocracy,” said Tsur.
“I understand the need for the police to be
careful and obey laws, but I want to work with them to help them understand the
importance of this project, which will serve all four quarters of the Old City,”
Tsur said she is hopeful the issue will be resolved prior
to the First International Jerusalem Symposium on Green and Accessible
Pilgrimage, taking place in Jerusalem’s YMCA on April 21-26, at which time the
buggy program is scheduled to be officially launched.
Reached by phone in
Switzerland, Count Philippe Piccapietra, grand chancellor and delegate for the
Holy Land of the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, said he is deeply frustrated
by the blockage of the buggies, and blamed the “chief of police of the Old
City,” for refusing to sign the paperwork necessary to end the
While Piccapietra claimed he met the police chief in question on
several occasions while visiting Israel, he said he could not identify him by
“In the contract to approve this project, there is one signature
missing, and that is the Old City’s police chief,” said
“With his signature the set of papers would be complete and
the buggies would be released. We are paying every damn day for this [penalty]
because we can’t get a single signature.”
However, according to
Rosenfeld, there is no such post, or person, whom Piccapietra repeatedly
Meanwhile, Piccapietra said for the last two-and-ahalf
years, the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem has had three two-seat
hybrid buggies in operation in the Old City, as well as a oneperson buggy, so he
doesn’t understand the logic of blocking the four new additions.
main issue is that to improve the safety and experience of the pilgrims
[visiting the Old City] we have to remove the few cars allowed to drive through
it and find an adequate replacement,” he said. “This is the concept the
municipality embraced, not only to improve the experience for visitors who come,
but also to encourage more visitors to come to the Old City.”
he cannot formally address the matter until he receives approval from the