Court oks opening alternate J'lem lot on Saturday

Access to Karta garage is expected to forestall massive haredi violence and end strife over Shabbat parking.

haredi protest riot 248.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi protest riot 248.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday agreed to the municipality's request to open a parking lot opposite the Old City's Jaffa Gate on Saturdays instead of the municipal lot at Safra Square, which has sparked an explosive haredi-secular conflict. However, the haredi community vowed that its protests would go on. On Tuesday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat had said that if the court did not agree to allow the opening of the Carta parking lot - which is currently in receivership - by this weekend, he would reopen the municipal lot. Judge Yosef Shapira said in his decision that "I am expressing my wish, as well as that of the majority of citizens, when I say that I hope this solution of opening the Carta parking lot instead of Safra Square will bring quiet and calm to the city of Jerusalem and its residents from all sectors." The municipality said in a statement that the Carta parking lot gave the best solution to safety problems due to its location, size and proximity to the center of the problem. It said that the opening of the Carta lot made opening Safra Square redundant. The statement went on to say that Barkat reiterated and stressed that the motive for opening the lot was his commitment to public safety and finding a real solution to the problem in accordance with police demands. Nevertheless, Yosef Rosenfeld, head of the haredi Committee for Sanctity of Shabbat, was dissatisfied with the solution and said that the haredi community would continue to protest. "The situation now is much worse," he said. "Opening the parking lot and charging for its use is a much more severe desecration of the Sabbath. We will continue to go out and demonstrate as we planned. It makes no difference that the parking lot is far away from the haredi neighborhoods - there is a violation of the status quo." City council member Meir Margalit, of Meretz, said the alternative parking lot had to be opened. "Today, under the current circumstances, as things have developed, there is no other way but to open the parking lot," he told Army Radio." It's a shame we didn't consider [opening the Carta lot] earlier. There is no other option but to stand up against the haredim and say, 'You will not take over the city.'" The Safra Square city lot was opened two weeks ago in agreement with Barkat's coalition partners to accommodate visitors to the capital over the weekends who were illegally parking on main thoroughfares near the Old City. About 100 motorists parked their cars in the city lot on the one Saturday it operated, but the move sparked fierce haredi rioting.