Barkat defends closure of Cinema City on Shabbat

Opponents argue J'lem mayor's statements based on reelection fears of alienating ultra-Orthodox voters.

By
May 21, 2013 19:29
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

As the debate over the operating hours of the capital’s largest and newest (yet-toopen) movie complex Cinema City continues, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat – who launched his reelection campaign last week – said on Tuesday he supports its forced Shabbat closure.

The 15-screen, NIS 125 million theater, scheduled to open this summer, has become a lightning rod for debate since its owners were given a building permit in 2010 with the precondition by the Finance Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality that it remain closed on Shabbat.

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In a statement issued Tuesday by the Jerusalem Municipality on Barkat’s behalf, who is abroad, it defended the mayor’s arrangement with the ministry to keep the complex closed during Shabbat, citing other competing theaters that remain open during that time.

“The status quo in Jerusalem includes movie theaters being open on Shabbat,” the statement read.

“Jerusalem residents have enjoyed going to the Cinematheque, Smadar and Rav Hen; these movie theatres are located throughout the city.”

The statement continued: “The agreement that was signed between the developers of Cinema City and the [Finance Ministry] determined that the complex will be closed on Shabbat. This is in compliance with the [ministry’s] policies that businesses located on government property are not allowed to be open on Shabbat.”

However, Merav Cohen, a city council member and representative of Awakening in Jerusalem – a pluralistic, grassroots organization that has organized multiple protests against the government- mandated decision – said Barkat could change the terms of Cinema City’s contract.

“Barkat claims the Shabbat closing is a government decision, but that’s not true,” Cohen said.

Indeed, Cohen said Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy has told her personally that the government has no qualm with Cinema City being open during Shabbat and that the mayor is free to change the terms of the contract.

“[Levy] told me he doesn’t want to interfere with the municipality’s work, but that if Barkat wanted to he could absolutely change the [theater’s] operating hours to be open on Shabbat – without any interference from the Finance Ministry,” she said.

Furthermore, Cohen contended that Barkat is balking at keeping the complex open during Shabbat due to fears of alienating ultra-Orthodox As the debate over the operating hours of the capital’s largest and newest (yet-toopen) movie complex Cinema City continues, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat – who launched his reelection campaign last week – said on Tuesday he supports its forced Shabbat closure.

The 15-screen, NIS 125 million theater, scheduled to open this summer, has become a lightning rod for debate since its owners were given a building permit in 2010 with the precondition by the Finance Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality that it remain closed on Shabbat.

In a statement issued Tuesday by the Jerusalem Municipality on Barkat’s behalf, who is abroad, it defended the mayor’s arrangement with the ministry to keep the complex closed during Shabbat, citing other competing theaters that remain open during that time.

“The status quo in Jerusalem includes movie theaters being open on Shabbat,” the statement read.

“Jerusalem residents have enjoyed going to the Cinematheque, Smadar and Rav Hen; these movie theatres are located throughout the city.”

The statement continued: “The agreement that was signed between the developers of Cinema City and the [Finance Ministry] determined that the complex will be closed on Shabbat. This is in compliance with the [ministry’s] policies that businesses located on government property are not allowed to be open on Shabbat.”

However, Merav Cohen, a city council member and representative of Awakening in Jerusalem – a pluralistic, grassroots organization that has organized multiple protests against the government- mandated decision – said Barkat could change the terms of Cinema City’s contract.

“Barkat claims the Shabbat closing is a government decision, but that’s not true,” Cohen said.

Indeed, Cohen said Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy has told her personally that the government has no qualm with Cinema City being open during Shabbat and that the mayor is free to change the terms of the contract.

“[Levy] told me he doesn’t want to interfere with the municipality’s work, but that if Barkat wanted to he could absolutely change the [theater’s] operating hours to be open on Shabbat – without any interference from the Finance Ministry,” she said.

Furthermore, Cohen contended that Barkat is balking at keeping the complex open during Shabbat due to fears of alienating ultra-Orthodox As the debate over the operating hours of the capital’s largest and newest (yet-toopen) movie complex Cinema City continues, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat – who launched his reelection campaign last week – said on Tuesday he supports its forced Shabbat closure.

The 15-screen, NIS 125 million theater, scheduled to open this summer, has become a lightning rod for debate since its owners were given a building permit in 2010 with the precondition by the Finance Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality that it remain closed on Shabbat.

In a statement issued Tuesday by the Jerusalem Municipality on Barkat’s behalf, who is abroad, it defended the mayor’s arrangement with the ministry to keep the complex closed during Shabbat, citing other competing theaters that remain open during that time.

“The status quo in Jerusalem includes movie theaters being open on Shabbat,” the statement read.

“Jerusalem residents have enjoyed going to the Cinematheque, Smadar and Rav Hen; these movie theatres are located throughout the city.”

The statement continued: “The agreement that was signed between the developers of Cinema City and the [Finance Ministry] determined that the complex will be closed on Shabbat. This is in compliance with the [ministry’s] policies that businesses located on government property are not allowed to be open on Shabbat.”

However, Merav Cohen, a city council member and representative of Awakening in Jerusalem – a pluralistic, grassroots organization that has organized multiple protests against the government- mandated decision – said Barkat could change the terms of Cinema City’s contract.

“Barkat claims the Shabbat closing is a government decision, but that’s not true,” Cohen said.

Indeed, Cohen said Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy has told her personally that the government has no qualm with Cinema City being open during Shabbat and that the mayor is free to change the terms of the contract.

“[Levy] told me he doesn’t want to interfere with the municipality’s work, but that if Barkat wanted to he could absolutely change the [theater’s] operating hours to be open on Shabbat – without any interference from the Finance Ministry,” she said.

Furthermore, Cohen contended that Barkat is balking at keeping the complex open during Shabbat due to fears of alienating ultra-Orthodox constituents.“I think he doesn’t want to have a crisis with ultra- Orthodox voters and politicians as he runs for reelection,” she said. “He wants to create a quiet atmosphere, otherwise [the ultra- Orthodox] might get together to support another candidate.”

Cohen cautioned that if Barkat is reelected, his decision not to keep the complex open for the city’s secular residents may backfire.

“Even if he will be reelected, he should worry about his standing with the City Council because if he wants to be a strong mayor he will need support within the [council], which is largely secular,” she said. “I say he doesn’t have the right to decide the issue, it should be up to the businessmen.”

While Cinema City’s owners – brothers Moshe and Lyon Edri – could not be reached for comment, the municipality said it has not received any requests from them to keep Cinema City open during the weekend.

“The municipality does not know of any requests from the Cinema City developers to the [Finance Ministry] to alter the terms of the agreement,” the statement said. “If the developers would like to change their contract, they should do so with the [ministry].”

Meanwhile, Ofer Berkovitch, chairman of Awakening in Jerusalem, has said if the High Court of Justice does not rescind the mandate, he would pursue legal action against the municipality.


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