(JTA) — The French city of Metz closed a street to vehicular traffic for the High Holidays season, provoking angry reactions from some Muslims.
Rabbin Bloch Street was closed on the afternoon of Sept. 6, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and will reopen at the close of Yom Kippur, the night of Sept. 14, according to the website of TCRM, the public transport company of the Messine region.
The website cited “the Jewish holidays” for closing the street, which has several Jewish institutions located there.
Metz, which is some 40 miles northwest of Strasbourg in eastern France, had a Jewish population of approximately 4,000 in 1987, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica. The Jewish community established itself in the city in the 16th century.
Some Muslims said the street closure reflected a double standard in the attitude of French authorities to Jewish and Muslim sensibilities in applying separation of church and state.
One of France’s leading Muslim news sites, islametinfo.fr, published an editorial on Friday saying that although “it is normal for residents to respect the wishes of others in special moments,” the closure at Metz “begs comparison” with a ban imposed in 2011 on street prayers by Muslims in Paris.
The street prayers at Barbes were the result of overcrowded conditions at the local mosque.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultranationalist Front National, compared the prayers to “the occupation” — a reference to the Nazi occupation of France.