Parking on my street in Jerusalem is a bit like parking a camel in the desert: There are no signs in the desert, and you can park your camel anywhere you want. Just like on my street, Martin Luther King Street, in the German Colony in Jerusalem, D.C. (Jerusalem, David’s Capital).
But the desert and Jerusalem still have their differences.
There are very few camels and very many cars and houses in Jerusalem, and I am sure that if King David or King Solomon were living in Jerusalem, DC, they would be a bit upset if people blocked the entrance to the palace, parking their cars or camels on the sidewalk, blocking the front gate and the driveway.
“Have the car cut in half,” would be King Solomon’s royal decree, after nobody volunteered to move the yellow Mazda blocking the front gate. That would probably get the Mazda owner moving pretty quickly, as well as the owner of the white GMC pickup blocking the driveway. To get them out of the way, King David might have offensive drivers sent to the front lines to fight Hamas in Gaza.
Unlike King Solomon or King David, however, I do not live in a palace, but I pay my municipal taxes in Jerusalem, DC, and I believe that my taxes entitle me to a certain level of service. Unfortunately, I have to rely on Mayor Nir Barkat and the Jerusalem, DC, authorities to enforce the laws.
So I get a bit angry when people block the entry to my house because they cannot find free parking, and I get a bit angrier when I call the Jerusalem municipal hotline – 106 – and get differing responses depending on the time of day and the digestive state of the municipal clerk or the parking inspector on duty at the time.
The clerks on the 106 hotline are very sweet, but they really have no expertise regarding parking rules, or institutional memory regarding the ins and outs of my little street. Meanwhile, the people at the Jerusalem Municipal Parking Authority act as if they are King David himself, while citizens are treated like King David’s donkey.
“I never heard of your street. Are you sure?” Honestly, I have gotten this response a few times from the regal poltroons at the parking authority.
“There are no parking regulations in your neighborhood,” is the line I hear sometimes, while “inspectors are on the way” is the line on other occasions.
Usually, inspectors do not come, and the Jerusalem authorities do not seem to want to address the situation. It has become my personal problem. This is a bit like the problem of trees felled by winter storms on our street.
The municipality said it was my problem, and threatened to fine me astronomic sums if I did not remove the debris. But I digress.
Speaking to Municipal Parking Authority personnel is always interesting; a new episode every week.
“What’s your problem!?” “Call back in three hours!” “People are blocking your house? We don’t deal with that. Call the police.”
“Why are you talking to me about your problem yesterday? Is there someone there now?” “We don’t operate after six in the evening,” “Here is our fax number!” “Marvin Loser, Morton Liver... once again, what is the street?” A month ago, an enterprising and energetic Jerusalem municipal parking inspector named Suleiman, from the nearby town of Abu-Ghosh, came to my street like Clint Eastwood, bringing law to the desert.
Sheriff Suleiman handed out NIS 500 fines to anyone parked on a sidewalk anywhere along my block. The “outlaws” were stunned, including well-intentioned drivers who actually parked on specially lowered sidewalks which they thought were permissible zones.
When one of the shocked drivers asked Suleiman how he came to implement a once-a-month or once-a-year policy in Jerusalem, DC, Suleiman said this had always been the law, and he told them to call the Municipal Parking Authority if they did not believe him.
And if you do not believe me, you can call (02) 629-7905 or 629-7839 for a new episode of Jerusalem, DC.
The writer is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Simon And Schuster. He teaches at Bar-Ilan University and was Schusterman Visiting Professor the University of California at Irvine 2013-14.
Credit for “Jerusalem DC” goes to Menachem Begin and his adviser Yehuda Avner.