Jerusalem mayor chided in parking lot flap

June 12, 2009 at 10:03 AM
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JERUSALEM, June 12 (UPI) -- Knesset members criticized Jerusalem's mayor, saying he caved in to ultra-orthodox Jewish community demands by closing a municipal car park on the Sabbath.

Mayor Nir Barkat announced his intentions to close the car park Friday, reported. Barkat justified his decision, saying it would give him time negotiate with leaders of the city's ultra-orthodox community, who threatened to "burn the city down" if the parking lot remained open on the Sabbath, The Jerusalem Post said.

Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz, comparing the mayor's decision to politics in Iran, said "on Election Day in Iran, Barkat has decided to follow Iran's path instead of a free Jerusalem."

Zeev Belski, a Kadima member in the Knesset, said he supported Barkat's decision to hold a dialogue but at the same time Jerusalem must open a parking lot on the Sabbath to cater to the thousands of tourists who flock to the capital, said.

Last Saturday, ultra-orthodox Jews clashed with police after discovering the parking lot open on the Sabbath, which they feel violates their religious tenets.

The Post said Barkat accepted a request by the city police chief to close the parking lot the next two Saturdays so an alternative site can be found. Responding to the mayor's decision, leaders of the city's ultra-orthodox community announced they would cancel a mass prayer rally scheduled to take place in the capital.

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