Believe it or not, the next stop on the long and winding road of frictions between Jerusalem’s haredi and lay leadership is on observing Shabbat at the Biblical Zoo. Not that the lions, the elephants and the hippos are requested as of now to respect the halachic boundaries of Shabbat (although no one can tell if that will not come one day), but the issue is to avoid any Shabbat desecration there.For years, Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo has been an oasis of respectful coexistence among all the different communities in the city – religious, haredim, Jews and Arabs alike – all aimed at adults and children alike enjoying this wonderful place.But the winds of extremism, backed by political interests and motivation, have apparently reached even this place, considered till now an “extraterritorial” and peaceful venue. Basically, what the Jerusalem Rabbinical Committee for Shabbat requests is not beyond possibility and is not even anything new, but considering the very tense atmosphere between the secular and haredi representatives and sides in the city, even a small request is perceived as another attempt to break the status quo, and therefore raises anger and strong opposition.Rabbi Itzhak Goldknop, the president of the Shabbat committee, says that the management of the zoo, which belongs (40%) to the municipality and is therefore a public venue, will either have to adapt quickly to selling tickets before Shabbat or renounce completely any payment on the holy day. This, by the way, was the arrangement at the zoo for many years, until it moved to its present location in 1993 from haredi Romema and was renamed as the Tisch Family Biblical Zoo.The haredim acknowledge that, since this is a place that requires caring seven days a week for the animals, it cannot be closed on Shabbat and holidays, but they insist it should neither cause Shabbat desecration.The problem with this new request is the way it was presented – as an ultimatum – with the threat that if the request is not met there would be a massive boycott of the zoo by the haredi and religious populations, which zoo sources say are a very large proportion of visitors. Moreover, a boycott by the haredi sector would change this unique venue from a place where all Jerusalem residents meet in a rare, harmonious atmosphere.Off the record, an official haredi representative admitted that the problem is not selling tickets on Shabbat, but the ongoing conflict between the haredi and secular populations in the city for supremacy. “We had the mini-markets, then the films screened in the community center in Kiryat Hayovel, then the Mifletzet [‘Monster’ sculpture] community bar in the same neighborhood. We managed to prevent all these activities,” he said. “But it’s all the same story, changing names from time to time – it’s all about not losing an inch on the ground of consolidating the Shabbat status quo in the city as the ultimate representative of the haredi presence.” If the threat is carried out, the loss of zoo income could be considerable, but that is far from being the major problem.Accepting a request to sell tickets before Shabbat or to open the zoo for free once a week are both acceptable, with a slight advantage to the option of selling tickets before Shabbat.But then the question will be who is next? Is there going to be the same threat regarding the Israel Museum, the Cinematheque and so on? According to some haredi representatives, the answer is simply “yes” – meaning that any institution that gets financial support from the municipality would have to find ways to prevent Shabbat desecration or remained closed on that day.The problem, of course, is not the technical aspect, but the reality behind the issue. Is Jerusalem going to be a city in which only the requests – legitimate as they may be – of the haredi sector will be answered or will the needs and wishes of the secular residents be taken into consideration as well? With less than two years before the next mayoral and city council elections, the pressures of both sides will only grow over the days and months ahead.Since Mayor Nir Barkat is apparently likely to run for a third term – or in case he finally leaves Safra Square – the most “solid” candidate for the moment is Moshe Lion, who has a standing agreement with the haredim. All the Shabbat issues are not going to disappear, but rather become more and more present and serious.