Top Jerusalem official shuts down Shabbat music concert - without consent

A source close to the orchestra said the company received a call three hours before the festival began, leaving no time to prepare or inform people of an alternative.

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August 1, 2019 16:47
2 minute read.
Top Jerusalem official shuts down Shabbat music concert - without consent

THE JERUSALEM Baroque Orchestra, under Latvianborn Jerusalemite conductor David Shemer (right), will anchor the Vocal Fantasy Festival.. (photo credit: RUSTAM BAERAMOV)

A personal initiative of a high-ranking official at the Jerusalem Municipality threatens to undermine Mayor Moshe Lion’s credibility with the nonobservant sectors of Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Last week, the high-ranking official decided on her own accord and without the consent of the mayor to request that the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra immediately cancel two of its concerts, which were scheduled on Shabbat, as part of the city’s annual baroque music festival.

A source close to the orchestra said the company received a call three hours before the festival began, leaving no time to prepare, or to inform people of, an alternative. Furthermore, the request included a demand not to give anyone any explanation as to why the concerts were canceled. The conversation, according to the source, ended with a heavy hint that any other action by the orchestra would jeopardize the financial support it receives from the municipality.

The festival was planned to run for three days, starting on Thursday, and included featured musicians and choirs from abroad. The two Jerusalem orchestra concerts were scheduled to take place on the following Saturday – one in the morning and one in the afternoon, at the Scottish Church and at the YMCA hall.

As requested by the municipal official, the concerts were canceled. A laconic announcement was hung at those scheduled locations and no further explanation was given.

Within a few hours, a trail of rumors burst out on social media, noting that since the concerts were scheduled for Shabbat, their cancellation was probably the result of some “haredi coercion” to prevent any public transgression of the holy day under the municipality’s auspices or financial involvement. The more the orchestra’s administration refused to give any explanation, the more suspicion arose that haredi members of the city council stood behind the decision.

However, it turned out that none of the haredi members of the city council knew about the festival or the concerts on Shabbat, and one of them even pointed out that since they were to take place in Christian venues (the Scottish Church and the YMCA hall), it didn’t bother them.


On Monday morning, a reliable source close to the mayor revealed that it was a one-person decision made by one lone official, who apparently feared that haredi members of the council might find out and accuse her of breaking the status quo.

The orchestra said that aside from what it considers a blow to its reputation due to the anger of those who registered for the concerts, there was also a financial loss.

A representative of the mayor’s office told the Post that the move likewise results in harm to the mayor’s reputation, as there are many trying to prove that he is subject to haredi coercion. In Lion’s close circles, there is a serious concern that this incident could harm his image.

A spokesman for the Jerusalem Municipality said that the matter is being taken care of inside the administration.


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