(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Jerusalem City Council is expected to discuss and approve a new law at the
city council meeting next week that would limit hours that businesses are open
in residential neighborhoods. The current law about business hours dates from
1955 and is outdated, said city council members.
The new law will divide
neighborhoods into districts based on whether they are heavily residential or
heavily commercial, requiring businesses in heavily residential areas to close
The new law is being met with severe opposition from Hiddush, a
religious freedom advocacy group, and business owners, who claim that the
initiative is an attempt by haredi (ultra-Orthodox) politicians to curtail night
life and places of entertainment in the city.
“We’re talking about a
proposed bylaw that is unnecessary and dangerous and never should have been
born,” said Hiddush director Rabbi Uri Regev. “It’s unclear why Nir Barkat
initiated this law and we hope he’ll return to his ways and not give into the
pressure from the haredi activists,” he said.
The organization also
expressed concern that the new law would make it easy for a future
haredi-controlled city council to apply the more stringent laws to the entire
city, not just residential areas.
David Levy, the owner of Bar Ilan Pizza
and Kebab Burger in a northern Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, slammed
the proposal, which he said unfairly affected businesses in haredi
“On Bar Ilan Street, there are so many cars going past 24 hours a
day that closing one or two stores won’t affect anything,” he said.
City Council member David Hershkovitz (Yerushalayim Beiteinu) denied that the
new law would adversely affect businesses.
“We’re trying to find a
compromise between the need of people to live their lives and the need of
businesses to be open, but it’s important to let people sleep in their
neighborhoods,” he said.
He said the new law was “absolutely not” a
haredi initiative, though he agreed that it would affect haredi neighborhoods
more since those areas are less commercial and more residential.
that the city supported the proposed law, planned to come into effect in March
2012, in an effort to regulate nighttime noise complaints so police are not
continually returning to the same problematic areas.
At the beginning of
this year, when the proposed law was first discussed, the municipality said the
current zoning rules are from 1955 and not enforced. The current laws only allow
restaurants and bars to operate from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from 5
p.m. to 8 p.m.
The municipality also noted that businesses would be able
to apply for exceptions to the new zoning laws and present their cases before a
committee that could grant them longer hours. Hershkovitz said the permits would
cost around NIS 200 and would be approved by a separate committee.
the areas of concern is an up-and-coming area around the Mahaneh Yehuda market,
which in the past few years has transformed into a night life destination, with
tiny pubs that seat no more than 20 people scattered in the narrow streets
around the shuk. The noise from the night life irritates many in the traditional
The area around the shuk, as well as the downtown area and
the Rehavia neighborhood’s Azza Street, are set to be included in “night
activity” zones that may have later closure times, the municipality said
Hundreds of young people attended a New Year’s Eve protest party
against the proposed closure times this year.