Disputed J’lem church concerts to go ahead as planned

May 13, 2011 06:00

The J’lem Opera Festival will include some 30 chamber and vocal concerts to take place in 10 of the city’s historic sites and churches.

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Congregants at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Church of the Holy Sepulcher 311. (photo credit: Travelujah)

All sides declared victory Wednesday in the dispute over the Jerusalem Municipality’s support of concerts due to take place in churches next month.

The Jerusalem Opera Festival, which will open in the beginning of June, will include some 30 chamber and vocal concerts to take place in 10 of the city’s historic sites and churches.

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Last week, the haredi and national-religious deputy mayors demanded of Mayor Nir Barkat that the city withdraw its support of the event, following which the mayor met with Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places Shmuel Rabinowitz on the topic.

“The Jerusalem Municipality is removing its sponsorship of the churches event,” Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitch (United Torah Judaism) declared on Wednesday.

“We were outraged, since there is a halachic problem for Jews to enter churches,” he explained. “Holy sites, of any type, should be above such events.”

“The city should not support events that are contrary to Jewish law,” Deitch continued. “Rabinowitz explained to Mayor Nir Barkat the halachic prohibition to enter churches. If an individual chooses to enter a church, that is their right. But the municipality should not be a funding and encouraging element.”

Asked exactly what kind of support – fiscal or otherwise – the city would not be providing, Deitch said that “the municipality was never meant to give money to the event, which will be funded by the tickets sold, but the logo of the city will be removed from the publications advertising it,” he said.

It was only at the end of March that the municipality was at odds with its haredi and religious members over the Jerusalem Old City flavors festival, which included non-kosher eateries in the Christian and Muslim quarters. At the end of the day, the supervision over the kosher booths was heightened, nonkosher establishments were clearly marked as such, and no beer was sold in the Jewish Quarter.

Regarding the church music, the city said that there would be no change whatsoever in the plans.

“The events initiated by the Israel Opera and produced by them will take place as planned in the Sultan’s Pool and a variety of other sites around the city, with the support of the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Jerusalem Municipality” and a variety of ministries and other bodies, the municipality said in response to a query regarding reports in the haredi media that the city was pulling its support of the event.

“It is no secret that united Jerusalem is home to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The city of Jerusalem and the Israeli government are committed to act with sensitivity and take into account all of the populations, publics, visitors and tourists in the city,” the municipality continued.

“It should be noted that cultural events in churches took place during the terms of previous mayors Olmert and Lupoliansky. Not promoting the Christian and Muslim sectors of the city would bring to claims from around the world that the Israeli government and the municipality do not care about all the city’s citizens, only the Jews. The Municipality agreed to the request of Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places Shmuel Rabinowitz to examine the issue of the presence of the city’s logo on the publications for the church events that have yet to be issued, this is of course without impairing the essence of the events,” the announcement ended.

Sources close to the event predicted that Barkat would decide to not remove the city’s logo.

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