Jerusalem's religious-cultural wars took another turn on Sunday with the owners of Cinema City informing the Supreme Court that they do not intend to operate their Jerusalem-based branch on Shabbat. The announcement brings to a close the current round in the ongoing battle between Haredi and secular society over the character of the city.
Things came to a head when a Jerusalem-based party, Wake Up Jerusalem, submitted a petition to the Jerusalem municipality in order to request that the cinema remain open on Shabbat. As early as 2010, the municipality – under the authority of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat – announced that the theater would not operate during the Sabbath. In response, further petitions were submitted calling for the theater to remain open through the weekend.
Cinema City has, over the past few years, become one of the symbols of the battle between the ultra-Orthodox and secular populations in Jerusalem. Since it began operating, the cinema has remained closed on Shabbat. Cinema City management had originally claimed to be interested in having the cinema remain open all weekend, but said that the municipality had forbidden it.
Two years ago, Wake Up Jerusalem submitted a petition to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled last March that the matter must go back to the city council, while the cinema management signaled that they were going back on their previous stand and did not intend to open the theater on Shabbat and holidays.
Jerusalem city councilor and co-founder of Wake Up Jerusalem, Ofer Berkovitch, said that they would respect the decision of Cinema City's management, adding, "We will not go against the decision of the cinema management by requesting that the cinema open on Shabbat. However, this only brings into focus the city bylaw which states that cultural institutions must remain open throughout the weekend.
"Many businesses have in the last year opened on Shabbat in order to fulfill this requirement. The public is thirsty for it and we will continue to work towards it," Berkovitch added.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitch responded, "This is a victory for the sanity of the city, as well as for maintaining the fragile status quo in Jerusalem. The cinema management has understood that most of the Jerusalem public sticks to tradition and prefers to avoid a battle between religious and secular."
Despite the decision of Cinema City, the Yes Planet cinema in Jerusalem does operate on Shabbat and has already been the subject of violent clashes between ultra-Orthodox protesters and security.
Cinema City management has declined to comment.