Jerusalem’s cultural and entertainment centers are blossoming, from the renovated First Station complex (above) to the brand new Cinema City .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Regional Committee for Planning and Construction in Jerusalem gave approval on Thursday for the continued operation and activities of the First Station, including on Shabbat, revoking the decision made earlier this month.
Two weeks ago, the Jerusalem City Council voted to close the complex on Shabbat, after haredi council members succeeded in securing a majority in favor of the motion.
The First Station, an Ottoman-era railway station close to the capital’s German Colony neighborhood, is a vibrant center of cultural and recreational activities, with numerous restaurants and shops, several of which are open on Shabbat.
But the property is leased by the Israel Railways Authority to the Jerusalem Municipality and as such requires a special permit to change its designated use to a cultural and recreational center, including on Shabbat.
Haredi political leaders in the city have been increasingly hostile to the complex’s activities on Shabbat, despite the fact that it is not close to a haredi neighborhood.
The haredi parties in the city council submitted a motion to the agenda on Thursday evening, following the Regional Committee decision to repeal the council’s earlier decision.
The city council legal advisers reportedly said, however, that such a motion had not legal weight.
Interestingly, Jerusalem Mayoral candidate and municipal council member Moshe Lion voted against scheduling the motion to the agenda, but then left the building before the motion came for a vote. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who has opposed closing the complex on Shabbat but could not muster a majority against it, said he was pleased by the Regional Committee’s decision.
“The status quo in the city is that restaurants and recreational activities can be open on Shabbat, and there should be no commerce in the Jewish part of the city,” said Barkat following the decision.
“This is exactly what happens in the First Station, and these have always been the principles in Jerusalem,” he said, adding that the different sectors of society “must know how to live together in Jerusalem.”
Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, head of the Yerushalmim party in the city council also welcomed the decision, but said the victory had come despite, not because, of city council.
“I am very concerned that in the city council it is the extremists who set the tone,” she said, saying that the pluralist parties and activists had to fight very hard to ensure that the Regional Committee overturned the city council’s decision.
“The pluralist community does not have enough power in the Jerusalem City Council despite being the numerical majority in the city. This happens because people do not come out to vote in the local elections, and abandon the city council to the extremists who try to tell us all how to live.”