'Yes, Jerusalem nightlife hotspot bothers me'

Haredi leader doubles down on demand that future J'lem mayor close Mahane Yehuda market's nighttime attractions, saying they harm residents.

Michal Levy ,

Yaakov Litzman
Yaakov Litzman

A senior haredi lawmaker reiterated his party’s demand that a popular Jerusalem nightlife hotspot be closed as a condition for haredi support in this year’s mayoral election in the capital.

Last week, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said that the city’s large haredi population would not line up behind any single candidate without a specific pledge to close the Mahane Yehuda market in central Jerusalem at night.

In recent years, the market has become a popular entertainment center for religious, secular and haredi youth.

While the conversion of the marketplace into a nighttime attraction has provided the city with a new venue for tourists and residents alike, it has also drawn criticism from some living near Mahane Yehuda, who say that the increased noise and pollution have made living in the vicinity of the market unbearable.

About six months ago, members of the Jerusalem city council toured the Mahane Yehuda market following complaints from residents living near the market. The city council members were exposed to gas-burning chimneys, the unbearable noise, parking problems and sidewalks occupied by restaurant and pub owners.

Litzman and his United Torah Judaism faction have backed calls from those living near the market to bar businesses from operating there at night.

"The Mahane Yehuda Market is a place where drug use goes on every night and there is noise," said Litzman.

But Jerusalem Affairs Minister and Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud), who has thrown his hat into the ring in this October’s mayoral race, rejected the demand.

"Let's calm down the Jerusalemites. The Mahane Yehuda market will not close," Elkin told Ynet. "It's an important place to spend time in Jerusalem and I do not think anyone can actually shut it down. To this day I have not heard as the Minister of Environmental Protection that there is a special problem with it."

"If the residents have any specific complaint, I would love to hear from them," added Elkin. "I emphasize to the residents, this should not be a political issue. It is clear that the Mahane Yehuda market should continue to operate in Jerusalem and in the end, everyone understands this."

On Monday, Litzman reiterated his demand that the market be closed at night, adding that the transformation of the shopping area into a nighttime attraction had also harmed a nearby yeshiva affiliated with the Gur Hassidic movement.

“I don’t have any problem with the Mahane Yehuda market as a shopping center,” Litzman told Army Radio. “I have a problem just with it becoming a nightlife hotspot which hurts residents.”

“There aren’t business licenses there, no enforcement of noise laws or sanitation and health regulations, and the local residents are suffering as a result.”