Mayor Nir Barkat
Mayor Nir BarkatFlash 90

The haredi councilors in the Jerusalem Municipality are not assuaged by Mayor Nir Barkat's plan to enforce Shabbat laws against eight minimarkets operating in central Jerusalem.

Barkat reportedly took the step in order to assuage haredi anger over the opening of a new cinema complex on Shabbat.

The haredi leaders are not playing along, however – not outwardly, at least. In a letter to the city's legal adviser, Attorney Eli Malka, the haredi councilors wrote that they do not understand where Malka and Barkat got the notion that they can selectively enforce the law in different parts of the city.

"A letter from the legal adviser, dignified as it may be, cannot replace the municipal bylaws,” wrote Councilors Yitzhak Pindros, Yossi Deitsch and Shlomo Rosenstein. “The place to determine policy is the City Council plenum, and any other body doing so is usurping authority it does not have.”

The councilors expressed their opposition to the Barkat plan and added in the letter to Malka: “We ask you to issue a corrected letter, determining that the bylaw will be enforced throughout the city.”

Barkat is set to stop the Sabbath operations of eight minimarkets in central Jerusalem, according to Army Radio. Secular city councilors said that this is part of a tradeoff Barkat has made with haredi councilors, according to which they will countenance the opening of the Yes Planet movie theater on Sabbaths.

The affected minimarkets are located between Shivtei Yisrael, Keren Hayesod and Agrippas streets.

Wide opposition to movie theater

The opening of the new movie theater on Sabbaths aroused opposition among a very wide swathe of the religious and haredi public in Jerusalem, from the extremist-haredi Eida Hareidit, which organized a protest outside the cinema, to religious Zionist councilors who also protested the move.

The Jerusalem Municipality did not deny the report.

“There is no change in the status quo that has been in place for several years in Jerusalem, according to which cinemas in the city are allowed to open on Sabbaths,” it said.

Regarding the bylaws on opening stores on Sabbaths, it added: “The municipality's legal adviser instructed that various areas in the city be set aside for lessened enforcement (Ein Kerem, Talpiot, Atarot and the southwestern part of the city), and areas where there will be heightened enforcement (the haredi neighborhoods, Kiryat Haleom, the Jewish Quarter and parts of the city center).”

"It is important to stress that in accordance with the law and the status quo, entertainment spots, restaurants and cinemas will continue to operate as usual,” the city added.