Jerusalem Mayor Navigates Sacred City’s Religious Politics

July 13, 2009

Author: Michele Chabin

Source: Religion News Service

When Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat decided in June to open a municipal parking lot that had been closed on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, his office said he was simply being practical.

Extra parking is needed to help ease lines of double-parked cars near the Old City that have become an impenetrable maze for emergency vehicles and “an issue of public safety,” mayoral aide Stephen Miller said.

But because ultra-Orthodox Jews consider driving on the Sabbath an abomination, Barkat quickly discovered that in the holy city, even mundane matters of municipal governance are anything but routine.

Here in the world’s most contested piece of religious real estate, Barkat has learned that there is no such thing as a small issue, not even a parking lot.