Shabbat plans

Some of the old struggle is still in the air when it comes to keeping movie theaters in Jerusalem open on Shabbat.

Cinema City Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Cinema City Jerusalem
Oneg Shabbat is the Hebrew term for activities that make Shabbat pleasurable. For some, this may include going to the beach or the movies.
Although Jerusalem – unlike in the ’80s and ’90s – now has quite a few movie theaters that are open on Shabbat, some of the old struggle is still in the air. There is, for instance, the ongoing Cinema City saga, which is still closed on Shabbat and holidays despite repeated attempts by Hitorerut city council members to change that.
But is a new battlefield emerging in the Talpiot industrial zone? On the surface, it looks like movie-goers in the capital are about to lose a place where they could watch films in seven theaters on Friday nights: the Rav Chen complex.
City councilman and supermarket magnate Rami Levy, who owns the complex that houses the Rav Chen cinema, recently announced plans to promote the construction of a new project there. It could be affordable housing for young couples, it could be a hotel, it could be another new commercial complex; Levy says he is still undecided about what to do with the property, which he acquired less than three months ago. (He already owned the ground floor and the cinemas, and now owns the rest of the building as well.) But until the businessman, who is a member of Mayor Nir Barkat’s Jerusalem Will Succeed city council list, reaches a decision, one thing is clear: From now on, Rav Chen will have to be closed on Shabbat. Levy explained to the cinema’s directors that he wouldn’t allow the theater or any other business to open on Shabbat in any of his properties, since he is observant. As a result, Rav Chen will close down within a few weeks.
Levy’s new regulations are not the only reason for the Rav Chen owners’ decision; it coincides with their opening of the Yes Planet complex in the brand new Sherover Center in nearby Arnona.
But Levy’s mandate that none of his businesses be open on Shabbat is not a Jerusalem first. About two years ago, another real estate and business magnate in the city, Laurent Levy (no relation), did the same. This Levy bought the building that contained the Resto-Bar, which was open on Shabbat and holidays, and ordered it closed on those days. As a result, Resto-Bar management chose to shut it down; it was replaced by Cafe de Paris, a kosher coffee shop closed on Shabbat.
Laurent Levy also founded the Music Square project in the heart of the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, with restaurants and galleries that are, needless to say, all closed on Shabbat.
It therefore seems that there is a new city policy of businessmen who happen to be religious not allowing businesses – including movie theaters – to operate on Shabbat. This trend may even render unnecessary the haredi sector’s protests in front of kiosks or cinemas that are open on Shabbat – although something of a colorful local tradition may be lost in that.
But above all, the decisions by the two Levys are completely lawful moves, and nothing can be done against them. Indeed, it is probably the most honest way to promote such a policy. Private property is private property, whatever those who enjoy Shabbat movies or meals out may think.
One question remains: Are there also some wealthy Jerusalem businessman who want to promote the opposite policy?