Jerusalem Street Closed for Shabbat

Jerusalem’s Bar Ilan Street, which has become a flashpoint between Israeli religious and secular interests, is slated to be closed to traffic on the Sabbath for an experimental period of four months.

Transport Minister Yitzhak Levy, of the National Religious Party, announced his decision after President Ezer Weizman’s mediation efforts failed to bring both sides to a compromise.

Levy told the Knesset this week that for the next four months, the road would be closed to vehicles during prayer time on the Sabbath — from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

In recent months, the street has been the scene of demonstrations, some of them violent, between fervently Orthodox Jews living in neighborhoods near Bar Ilan and left-wing Meretz activists, who argue that the street is a main thoroughfare and should be open to traffic on the Sabbath.

Meretz activists believe that the temporary measure would become permanent and soon lead to other laws aimed at maintaining Sabbath observance.

“Bar Ilan is just a precedent,” Meretz Knesset member Yossi Sarid told Israel Television.

“Unfortunately, this shows that violence wins. They [the Orthodox protesters] stood there, blocked the roads, threw stones.”

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