Fateful dates

History teaches us that leaders should check their calendars, but has Nir Barkat learned the lesson?

Barkat press conference 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Barkat press conference 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The renowned historian Prof. Michael Har-Segor said on one of his popular radio shows that too many leaders in the history of mankind set dates for their plans without taking the context into consideration. Thus, more than once, dates became fateful. Without trying to draw an analogy between Mayor Nir Barkat and the heroes, or villains, of antiquity, one thing is certain: this week's decision to announce the reopening of the Safra parking lot or an alternative venue was obviously made without even a cursory glance at the calendar. Otherwise, how can one explain a decision that came ahead of one of the most potentially volatile events on the capital's calendar - namely, Thursday's Gay Pride Parade. Until two weeks ago, the word inside the haredi community was to act like last year: to ignore the parade as much as possible, a decision made largely by the haredim of the Agudat Israel and United Torah Judaism, as opposed to the more radical attitude of the Eda Haredit. The latter finally yielded after they found out that too much ado about the parade forced them to explain to their own children what the big fuss was about - something they realized was totally contrary to their primary objective. But now, after the Eda Haredit has regained its persuasive power in the haredi street, one fears that the demonstrations of two weeks ago were just a preview of what is planned now that Barkat has said he will open a parking lot a few days before the parade. Had it been out of a deliberate decision to send a message to the haredim, announcing his decision to stand by the gay community and not to surrender to haredi extremist threats, it would have been consistent with the idea of a secular mayor's concern for his constituency. But the problem is that Barkat doesn't plan to become the champion of the gay community. Thus far his council has refused, on bureaucratic grounds set during the days of former mayor Uri Lupolianski (whose political agenda on that matter was clear), to provide any funding for the cultural activities of the Open House, including funding for the parade of only NIS 17,000. In fact, Barkat doesn't have to do anything. The decision of whether to permit the Gay Pride Parade is in the hands of the police. Remember? The same police who advised the mayor just a few days ago to close the parking lots because they couldn't guarantee the safety of the residents during the violent haredi demonstrations. When asked by this journalist at Tuesday's press conference announcing the decision to reopen a parking lot on Shabbat, if he planned to draw conclusions regarding the behavior of his haredi coalition members, Barkat answered that on the contrary, "it is time to embrace them as they are also going through difficult times." Difficult times? The United Torah Judaism members off the city council coalition? The same United Torah Judaism members who failed to explain to the mayor who trusted them that in such delicate issues as Shabbat their word is worth very little as soon as the tough guys from the Eda Haredit see things differently? Had they been a little more reliable or courageous, they might have spared the mayor from showing the extremist faction of haredi society that he doesn't really know how to handle them. But, there is more to come. This week, Barkat is launching his campaign to support the election of a Zionist rabbi as the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the city. This is the outcome of months of contacts, which resulted in a silent agreement from Ovadia Yosef's house to support a Zionist candidate for the Ashkenazi community. In return, Yosef obtains Barkat's support for the election of one of his sons who is, of course, haredi. The question that remains is whether Zionism in Barkat's eyes is only for Ashkenazim or is part of a long-term, step-by-step plan (i.e., first we take the Ashkenazim, and the Sephardim will follow). Perhaps. One question remains unanswered: Who in Heaven's name advises this mayor?