The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbinic and political leadership, along with the community’s media, has roundly denounced the creation of a simulated beach in Jerusalem, set to open on Sunday, claiming that it will cause Sabbath desecration and immorality.
An imitation beach, 2,000 sq.m. in size, has been created at the First Train Station complex in south Jerusalem, with wading pools, musical performances, a surfing simulator and other attractions, in order to give Jerusalemites a taste of the summer in the hill-top city.
But the haredi community is up in arms over the idea, claiming that the “beach” will undermine the sanctity of the holy city.
Earlier this week, a group of senior rabbis from the Old City of Jerusalem sent a letter to the members of the Jerusalem Municipal Council asking them to prevent the opening of the beach complex.
The Jerusalem municipality did not initiate or fund the beach, but did authorize requests to create it.
“I request from the depths of my heart from every one [of the religious municipal council members] to stand with full strength and to prevent the desecration of the Sabbath which is being done at the train station complex,” wrote Rabbi Avigodr Nebenzahl, former chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem and a widely respected Torah scholar and author.
“And in addition, they have added recently terrible immorality at the complex, and we must arise and protest so that this thing will be stopped as soon as possible, and anyone who fears Heaven understands how important it is to work in order that our holy city be not further humiliated, and to remove this awful immorality immediately from the palace of the King,” he said.
Joining Nebenzahl in his letter were Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook who serves as the president of the Rehovot Rabbinical Court and the rabbi of the Hurva Shul in the Old City; Rabbi Eliyahu Medina, and several others.
According to the largest- selling haredi daily Yated Ne’eman, MKs Moshe Gafni, Uri Maklev and Yaakov Asher of the Degel Hatorah Party, a constituent of the haredi United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, will meet this evening with Degel representatives on the Jerusalem Municipal Council in order to discuss how to halt what the newspaper describes as a series of initiatives by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to “secularize the city.”
According to a source in the Jerusalem municipality, they will, in addition, examine possible ways of cutting Barkat’s budget through various parliamentary processes.
The haredi MKs and city hall representatives are also to discuss what is described as “the terrible problems” in terms of planning, construction and education facilities for haredim living in mixed haredi-secular neighborhoods in Jerusalem, such as Ramot, Kiryat Yovel and others, Yated Ne’eman said.
The haredi news website B’hadrei Haredim labeled the initiative “the beach of abomination,” while Yated Ne’eman wrote that the simulated beach would bring “unprecedented spiritual destruction to the city, with a severe and terrible breach in the holiness of Jerusalem that has never been seen before.”
The Jerusalem Post has learned that the legal adviser to the Jerusalem Municipal council has sent a letter to Yated Ne’eman following the paper’s publication on Thursday, in which it was falsely claimed that the municipality was operating the beach.
The municipality is demanding an apology and correction from Yated Ne’eman.