High Court: Jerusalem street to stay open during Sabbath

JERUSALEM, April 13 (JTA) — Israel’s High Court of Justice has ruled that a main Jerusalem thoroughfare which runs through fervently Orthodox neighborhoods remain open on the Sabbath. In its 6-1 ruling Sunday, the justices, led by Chief Justice Aharon Barak, ordered Transportation Minister Yitzhak Levy, who backed closing Bar Ilan Street during prayer times on the Sabbath, to come up with a solution that would also address the needs of the secular community. The court decision was handed down after Levy rejected earlier compromise proposals, including one that called for the street to be closed during prayer times, and another road, currently closed, to be open to traffic. Levy said he would meet with city officials this week to discuss the matter. The street links Jerusalem’s northern neighborhoods to the western entrance to the city. The court’s ruling prompted clashes Sunday night between police and hundreds of fervently Orthodox protesters, who hurled bottles and rocks at police. Last summer, Bar Ilan Street was the site of repeated violent clashes between fervently Orthodox demonstrators and the police. The street has become the flashpoint for an ongoing debate between secular Israelis, who want to be free of religious constraints when it comes to setting public policy, and the fervently Orthodox, who view the presence of Sabbath traffic on the street as a violation of religious law. Petitioners from secular groups hailed the ruling as a victory for democracy. “The court recognized our civil rights,” said Lior Horev, who submitted one of three petitions aimed at keeping the street open. “We are willing to make a compromise with the religious community. They are the ones who have been refusing us.” Religious petitioners expressed disappointment with the decision, and leaders of the fervently Orthodox, or haredi, community warned that there would be a resumption of the weekly protests against Sabbath traffic. “We are going to go back and demonstrate,” said Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a haredi activist. “This ruling will not stop us from fighting for our rights. It’s our neighborhood.”

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