Cafe Mizrachi in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda Shuk .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman, who could be the kingmaker in the October 30 race for Jerusalem mayor, declared on Sunday that his party would only back a candidate who closes cultural sites in the city.
Litzman singled out the Mahaneh Yehuda market, which in addition to fruit and spice stalls now has bars and entertainment areas.
“Mahaneh Yehuda has drugs and noise and breaks the law every night,” Litzman told reporters outside Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “I have asked law enforcement authorities to deal with the situation.”
The nearby Nahlaot neighborhood has a yeshiva of Litzman’s Gerrer hassidic sect.
The Hamodia newspaper that is affiliated with hassidic Jews led Sunday with the threat to not back a mayoral candidate who would not close the “debauchery” at the market.
Litzman has also demanded the closure on Shabbat of the First Station’s restaurants and entertainment, which is not located near a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhood.
The candidates for mayor have vowed that First Station will be open on Shabbat and the bars in Mahaneh Yehuda will remain open. This has led to speculation that a haredi candidate could run and get elected if the non-haredi candidates split the vote.
Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who announced his candidacy on Thursday, said that even though he is in charge of enforcing noise complaints, he had not received any about Mahaneh Yehuda.
“Jerusalemites don’t need to worry,” Elkin said. “Mahaneh Yehuda won’t be closed at night. We haven’t gotten complaints. If there will be, we will deal with them. There is no reason to make it political.”
Elkin’s main challenger in the race, deputy mayor Moshe Lion, said he was very familiar with the noise problem of the market. He said he would deal with the noise and filth of the market but not close it.
“Mahaneh Yehuda is hell for its neighbors,” Lion said. “The Mahaneh Yehuda market is an important cultural base for Jerusalem and a source of income for thousands of the city’s families.”
Lion called First Station “a pearl of Jerusalem” and vowed that the status quo at the site would be maintained.
Assistant Attorney-General Dina Zilber ruled Sunday evening that Elkin could run for mayor without giving up his Jerusalem affairs portfolio.
Elkin’s critics had said holding the portfolio was an unfair advantage and a conflict of interest.
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