Thousands turn out near Mea She'arim for peaceful prayer vigil

Eda Haredit vows to continue parking lot protests in Jerusalem on Shabbat.

haredim sacks 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
haredim sacks 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The leaders of the Eda Haredit declared Wednesday that they will continue their protests against the opening of a parking lot in Jerusalem on Saturdays, pledging not to give up the struggle against the desecration of Shabbat. The announcement, which was made at the end of a peaceful two-hour prayer vigil in a haredi neighborhood near City Hall, was the latest signal that the month-long conflict over the opening of the parking lot to accommodate weekend visitors to the capital was liable to continue for weeks. The Wednesday prayer rally, which was attended by an estimated 4,000 people, included a march by hundreds of haredi boys from Eda Haredit schools down a major thoroughfare adjacent to Mea She'arim, which was closed to traffic during the early-evening event. The children waved Hebrew signs that replicated a huge banner on the makeshift stage which read: "Save Jerusalem: Jerusalem was destroyed by the violation of the Sabbath." Organizers called on the Jerusalem Municipality and Mayor Nir Barkat to close the parking lot "before it is too late," and said they would be held responsible for their actions. The event included the recitation of Psalms, and a series of Jewish penitential prayers, as well as the blowing of the shofar. "We are protesting against Barkat because today it is a parking lot and tomorrow it is something else," said Ya'acov Rabinovitch, a 22-year-old yeshiva student. "It is an embarrassment that a Jew does such a thing against the Jewish nation in the holiest city to the Jewish people." "The desecration of the Shabbat in Jerusalem is like a chair without legs," added Elazar Bartoven, 40, of Jerusalem, who said that he always tries to attend the Shabbat protests. As the evening progressed, the street quickly turned into a sea of black hats, with the small number of women in attendance positioned on nearby balconies or on the far side of the street. The original decision to open the parking garage on Shabbat was made at the urging of police, who said that the lack of parking was forcing visitors to double park, posing a safety hazard.