Monday, June 08, 2009

Paving Paradise Can be Hell in Jerusalem

Jerusalem's black-hatted ultra-Orthodox are nothing if not forceful in their campaign to make the whole city -- Jews, Christians, Muslims and unaffiliateds-- live by their religious rules, especially the Shabbat lockdown. The latest tussle is over the mayor's decision to open a downtown parking lot on Saturday, a day when the Old City draws crowds of visitors.
Thousands of the pugnacious pious rioted-- rampaging apparently not counting as a prohibited activity. At least six police officers were injured before the violence was quelled with the help of water cannons. The demonstrators pelted police with stones and bottles and torched dumpsters. A small group of secular counter-demonstrator was met with screams of "Those who defile shall be put to death."
The parking lot-- which was operated free of charge and by non-Jews (aka a Shabbas goy) in a bid to avoid offending religious sensibilities-- closed after just a few hours.
Mayor Nir Barakat bravely vowed to keep the parking lot open on Saturdays. We'll see. In the meantime, let's all hum a few bars of that old Joni Mitchell song, you know, the one that goes: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

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