United Torah Judaism council members in the Jerusalem Municipality sent a harsh letter Thursday to Mayor Nir Barkat protesting the municipality's promotion of a festival they say desecrates the Sabbath.
Jerusalem municipal officials said the events involving Shabbat desecration had been removed from electronic publications and that the production company had made a copying error in its ads.
The issue of Shabbat observance sparked major struggles in the capital in recent months, such as the ongoing protest against the opening of the Karta parking lot on Saturdays and the campaign against the operation of an Intel plant on weekends.
Members of United Torah Judaism convened Wednesday for a special faction meeting following the advertisement of the Hamshushalaim festival, which includes events scheduled for Saturday.
In their letter to Mayor Barkat the representatives claimed that the ads constitute "a blunt violation of the status quo" and "a major breach of the sanctity of Shabbat." The ultra-Orthodox officials claimed that none of the festival's events in previous years had involved the desecration of the Sabbath and claimed that the municipality had never advertised such "controversial" gatherings, held either on its behalf, or organized by others.
Threat to municipal coalition
The haredi faction members demanded that the ads be removed and that the city spokesman release an official statement dissociating the municipality from them and explaining that they were published inadvertently, as well as confirmation that the "Jerusalem Municipality is in no way affiliated with or connected to events taking place on Shabbat."
The letter also included a recommendation to give one of the faction members the power to authorize all municipal ads prior to their publication in order to avoid future mistakes. The faction members implied that the wellbeing of the municipal coalition would be compromised should their demands not be met.
City councilman Shlomo Rosenstein told Ynet that the mayor's chief of staff admitted to him that the contentious ad was mistakenly published.
"The municipality had never published Shabbat desecrations, not in Lupolianski's time, not when Olmert was mayor and not even under Teddy Kollek's reign. We find this a grave violation which requires immediate correction."
The Jerusalem Municipality stated in response that the production company had made a copy error and added, "The city has always abstained, out of mutual respect, from officially promoting events taking place on Shabbat, and the error has been corrected in the electronic releases."