Thousands of haredim protest new Jerusalem multiplex operating during Shabbat

Demonstrators throw rocks at police during simultaneous protests in separate ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods

August 15, 2015 20:40
2 minute read.
REEL DEAL: The new Yes Planet complex in Jerusalem.

REEL DEAL: The new Yes Planet complex in Jerusalem.. (photo credit: ERAN LAM)


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Clashes with police broke out in the capital Friday night when thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at simultaneous demonstrations to protest the opening of a multiplex operating during Shabbat in southern Jerusalem.

The demonstrations took place in the haredi neighborhoods of Mea She’arim and Romema, kilometers away from the new 16-screen theater, Yes Planet, which opened to the public in Abu Tur on Friday night without incident.

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According to police, violence erupted at the Romema demonstration when protesters blocked roadways and then threw rocks at members of the media filming the spectacle and responding officers.

Police were able to disperse the crowds without serious injuries. It was unclear whether any arrests were made.

Prior to the theater’s grand opening, hundreds of flyers stating “Shabbat in Jerusalem is in terrible danger,” “The city is being desecrated,” and “Stop this plague,” were distributed throughout several of the city’s haredi neighborhoods.

While commercial enterprises built on state land in Jerusalem are prohibited from operating during Shabbat – such as Cinema City, which opened last year – Yes Planet was constructed on private land, precluding any government intervention.

An organization known as the Rabbinical Committee for Shabbat Issues, composed of rabbis from all sectors of the haredi community, has been leading the opposition to the project.

Earlier last week, Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, who is a member of the Rabbinical Committee, told The Jerusalem Post that preparations were under way to conduct protests against the theater but that they likely would not take place outside Yes Planet itself, since it is a considerable distance from the haredi neighborhoods where the protesters reside.

“We look at Jerusalem as the Holy City, and do not consider it from the standpoint of individual neighborhoods alone, but of the city in its entirety,” he said. “Jerusalem has inherent holiness and it is unthinkable that Shabbat will be desecrated in this way.”

Before Yes Planet’s grand opening, Moshe Greidinger, CEO of the multiplex’s parent company, Cineworld PLC, said that while he anticipated the possibility of protests, he believed tensions would quickly dissipate.

“I grew up with the Jerusalem ‘Shabbat wars,’” he told YNet. “In the end, you reach a status quo, and I believe it will be that way this time, as well.

“I believe in live and let live, anytime it doesn’t hurt someone else,” Greidinger said.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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