Cinema city 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Nearly 500 demonstrators gathered outside the Jerusalem Municipality in Safra
Square Saturday night to again protest the government’s decision to force the
capital’s newest and largest movie complex to remain closed on
Cinema City, a 15-screen, NIS 125 million compound being
constructed above the National Government Center parking lot, has become a
lightning rod for debate since its owners were given a building permit in 2010.
The permit was accompanied by a stipulation from the municipality and the
Finance Ministry that it remain closed on Shabbat.
It is scheduled to
open for business this summer.
Ofer Berkovitch, who led Saturday’s
protest and a similar one in April, said he was pleased by the strong
He was particularly heartened, he said, by the support of a
handful of haredi protesters he claimed supported religious freedom in the
“This demonstration tonight showed that it was very important to
the people of Jerusalem that Cinema City should be open on Shabbat,” said
Berkovitch, who chairs a pro-pluralism group calling itself Awakening in
Jerusalem. “It was especially significant that a few members of the haredi
community joined us as well, and said 30 percent [of them] wouldn’t object to
Cinema City being open [on the Sabbath].”
He emphasized that the protests
were for freedom of religion and not against haredim.
He added that one
haredi protester who attended Saturday’s demonstration but declined to be
interviewed had said he hoped to work with the NGO to ensure secular
“We keep saying all the time that we want to work with religious
groups to come to an agreement [on this matter],” Berkovitch said. “The
possibility of cooperation between the haredim and [secular Jews] shows that
people want to change this situation so that everyone’s rights are
Upon signing the permit for the 2,390- seat theater,
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the municipality was “investing enormous
resources in transforming the city into a cultural and entertainment capital so
that it will attract and draw young people, tourists, and businesses.” However,
members of Awakening in Jerusalem continue to argue that keeping Cinema City
closed on Shabbat will drive young people and businesses away from the
Aviad Gispan, who attended the protest, summarized this
“Shabbat is my only holiday and I want to live in Jerusalem,”
he said, “but I also want to enjoy it the way that I choose.”
added that he was hopeful the matter would be resolved in the coming weeks. If
the High Court of Justice does not rescind the mandate, however, he said he
would pursue legal action against the municipality and the Finance Ministry.