The haredim are pushing forward an initiative to establish a market that will serve as an alternative to the Machne Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. The reason – events held at Machne Yehuda include women's singing. A suitable location was found a few days ago, a 10 dunam area between Sanhedria and Mount Hotzvim.
The initiative to establish the alternative market was launched a few months ago. The haredim declared war on the market over the Balabasta Festival, an event that includes live performances between the market stalls. The haredim's main claim was that the festivals include women's singing and are a source of "immorality that harms our children's education."
The market borders on a number of haredi neighborhoods which leads to friction between the retailers and the haredi sector.
Last summer the haredim held a gathering at the home of Rabbi Zvi Steiner in the Knesset Yisrael neighborhood. Senior Jerusalem Municipality and haredi officials participated in the gathering where it was decided that should the events at the Machne Yehuda market continue, the haredi sector would find an alternative site for a market.
Jerusalem City Council Member Shlomo Rosenstein said: "It is our intention to establish a market that would be similar to Machne Yehuda and would include only strictly kosher (mehadrin) stalls. There will be no interaction between men and women, a complete separation of the sexes.
"We have been in touch with several tradesmen at the market and some have claimed that they intend to open a branch in the haredi market."
Shimon Darwish, head of the Mahane Yehuda Merchants Association said he does not understand what the haredim are complaining about: "The events are cultural affairs that are meant to attract people to the market and the merchants have no intention of surrendering and preventing women's singing."
The Jerusalem Municipality said in response: "The Balabasta events which were held as part of the city's cultural revolution, were a huge success and attracted hundreds of visitors from every sector of society throughout the country.
"The events are of extreme importance to the prosperity of the market and the city center, and with the help of the merchants and businesses they were held in coordination with representatives from the market and nearby neighborhoods."