Shabbat in Jerusalem

A source close to the orchestra told Cidor that the company received a call three hours before the festival was scheduled to open and was ordered to cancel the shows.

By
August 3, 2019 20:09
3 minute read.
Eurovision Shabbat dinner Dov Lasker, an active member of the Modern Orthodox community in Tel Aviv,

Eurovision Shabbat dinner Dov Lasker, an active member of the Modern Orthodox community in Tel Aviv, prepared for visitors to the event. (photo credit: OR MALKA)

Israel is a Jewish state, but there are all types of Jews. There are Jews who don’t drive on Shabbat and there are Jews who do. There are Jews who observe the laws of Kashrut and there are Jews who don’t. There are also non-Jews who live in Israel, and they of course have the right to practice what they believe.

This is important to keep in mind after Peggy Cidor, our veteran Jerusalem affairs reporter, revealed on Thursday that a municipal official had unilaterally decided last week to order the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra to cancel two of its concerts that were scheduled to be held on Shabbat, as part of the city’s annual baroque music festival.

A source close to the orchestra told Cidor that the company received a call three hours before the festival was scheduled to open and was ordered to cancel the shows. Furthermore, the request included a demand not to give anyone an 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.

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.

What made this story even more peculiar was that the order to cancel the shows was made by the municipal official on her own, without consulting with Mayor Moshe Lion or after coming under pressure from haredi members of the City Council. Apparently, the official feared that haredi members of the council might find out about the shows on Shabbat, and then accuse her of breaking the city’s fragile status quo on matters pertaining to religion and state.

This should not have happened. Jerusalem is a city that needs to cater to all of its residents, not just those who observe the strict rules of Shabbat. There are non-Shabbat observers in the city, and they have rights that include being provided with options for entertainment on Saturday, their day off. Steps should be taken to ensure that this entertainment does not disrespect residents of the city who observe Shabbat, but as Cidor reported, the two shows were scheduled for the YMCA and the Scottish Church, venues not frequented by Jerusalem’s haredi or Shabbat-observing population.

While we commend Lion for announcing that he would investigate the matter, this is not the first time shows have been canceled or changed due to religious objections.

The Eurovision contest, for example, is usually held in the capital city of the country that won the song competition the year before. In May though, Israel held the Eurovision in Tel Aviv, partly because it knew that such a competition in a city like Jerusalem would be met by protests. Even though the show was in Tel Aviv, hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men and boys clashed with police in Jerusalem during a protest against the “desecration” of Shabbat.

In 2008, a dance group of young girls was forced to wear dresses so they could perform at the inauguration of the String Bridge constructed at the entrance to the city. And earlier this year, waitresses at a Jerusalem café picked up their shirts and showed their bras to scare away haredim who were protesting their shop being open on Shabbat and were blocking nearby roads.

Jerusalem is a special city. It is deemed holy by three of the most ancient religions in the world – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – and it is important that people be respectful of the religiously observant. At the same time though, the observant need to respect the needs and rights of the secular residents in the city.

When city officials cancel shows out of a fear that someone might protest, there is a problem. Lion, who will soon mark his first anniversary as mayor, should make it clear to his municipal staff that there is nothing to be afraid of. Jerusalem is a city that belongs to all of its residents.


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