This week in Jerusalem: Whose kashrut is it?

A weekly round-up of city affairs.

 CAFE KADOSH returns to Chief Rabbinate kashrut.  (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
CAFE KADOSH returns to Chief Rabbinate kashrut.
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

Whose kashrut is it anyway?

After two years of operating under Tzohar kashrut certification, Jerusalem’s Cafe Kadosh returns to the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate. The decision was made following a clarification that the retracted requirements were not in matters of kashrut itself, explained the owner, hence the decision. The chairman of the Religious Council in Jerusalem explained the request as a means to prevent any deception in terms of Halacha (Jewish law) and health for customers. To date, there are at least three cafes and eateries that are still under Tzohar kashrut supervision.

Close the center

The Jerusalem District Court has ruled that the opening of a shopping center in Romema was done legally. After demonstrations, placards, opinions of the rabbis, and an appeal by residents of the neighborhood did not help, the court’s decision last week put an end to the struggle, led mostly by Belz Hassidic circles. 

The shopping center includes 52 stores in an area of ​​approximately 5,000 square meters. Among other issues, residents claimed that the number of parking spaces available to the tenants had been reduced and that there was no transportation plan for the project. Additionally, they said they had not been consulted about changing the original plan from residences and a parking lot to a commercial building.

Building bridges

The Jerusalem Municipality will upgrade the four bridges of French Hill. The concrete columns will be painted, and new acoustic walls and decorative lighting will be installed. The bridge restoration project will last about five months. It will include washing; restoration and painting of the concrete columns; treatment of expansion seams; replacement with new acoustic walls, which will be made of polycarbonate on top of steel columns; and installation of decorative lighting. In addition, landscape development of the entire bridge and intersection area will be carried out, including planting and supplementing the vegetation with new trees.

Help Israel

On Wednesday of last week, passersby at Mamilla Mall saw a rather intriguing scene: a cluster of beggars dressed in IDF uniforms, bearing a sign that read “Please help Israel, I can’t stand this life anymore.” It turned out that it was an artistic protest action, and the “soldiers” were actors performing on behalf of a protest organization called the General Return Collective, which aims to raise awareness about burning social issues. 

 MEDICAL EQUIPMENT lending center at Yad Sarah. (credit: Yonina/Wikimedia Commons)
MEDICAL EQUIPMENT lending center at Yad Sarah. (credit: Yonina/Wikimedia Commons)

The purpose of this particular action was to bring back the issue of the high cost of living. The General Return Collective, which includes hi-tech people, artists and lawyers from all over the country, “floods the public space with moments and situations that challenge Israeli society in a way that will evoke a different point of view on the issue,” the organizers explained.

Open or closed?

The Jerusalem District Court rejected earlier this week the attempt of the Jerusalem Municipality to close coffee shops in the city on Saturdays and holidays. Adir Schwartz, chairman of the Hitorerut movement, who appealed to the court, said this was an important day for Jerusalem and the liberal public in the city. The argument, which has been ongoing for the past few months, began following a tender published by the Jerusalem Municipality to operate a cafe in the Rose Garden in Talbiyeh. 

In one of the sections of the tender, the municipality added a new condition requiring the winner of the tender to close the cafe on Saturdays and holidays as a necessary condition for winning and not as a clause subject to his discretion. Hitorerut petitioned the Jerusalem District Court and requested cancellation of the terms of the tender. The organization launched demonstrations with the participation of dozens of Jerusalemites protesting what they called coercion by the Jerusalem Municipality. As part of the ruling, the court imposed legal costs of NIS 10,000 on the municipality.

Netzach tech

The Jerusalem College of Technology and the Netzach Educational Network have launched a new mechina (preparatory program) with separate courses for haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men and women who are seeking to become physicians. The program is designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree. It includes three semesters over 15 months, with additional online units for independent study. 

The goal is to prepare students for the entrance examinations at Israel’s medical schools and will equip haredi students to enter the medical profession. That will be an added benefit for their community and Israel’s society at large, supporting and empowering haredi students, particularly women. 

The program will include workshops on cultural competence in preparation for entering a profession that serves people from different cultures. It will also cover issues of Halacha (Jewish law) and medical ethics. Forty candidates have been accepted on the program from 150 applicants. 

Partial scholarships were offered to qualified students. Until now, medically oriented Haredi students have often been met with a glass ceiling when trying to enter Israel’s highly competitive medical schools. JCT president Prof. Chaim Sukenik said the program will not only train much-needed medical personnel but will further integrate Haredi society into the healthcare community.

Majestic monsters

The annual Botanical Monster Festival has begun this week at the Botanical Garden and will run through August. Giant inflatable monsters combine with stories told at the entrance to the garden, where there stands a tall Cinderlotus – the beauty of the lake – a majestic and enormous installation created by artist and designer Alexander Chaitsky. 

Like the impressive lotus, scattered throughout the Botanical Gardens are 25 unique waterfall plants that rise to a height of three to 16 meters. The “Plant Waterfalls” – a combination of monsters and plants – were set up especially for the exhibition. 

Children and parents are invited to join a fun adventure on a 1.2-km journey around the garden. Together with Zahlia the bookworm, they will be able to explore the mysterious creatures that have taken over the garden and learn about nature, the laws of science, and the values of sustainability. 

Participants will be given sleds that they will carry along the route. Tasks include, among other things, making compost, taking selfies with the colorful monsters, playing hide-and-seek, and camouflage.


Yad Sarah has opened Israel’s first recovery and wellness center for women who have suffered the tragedy of a stillbirth or perinatal loss. The facility comprises an entire floor within Yad Sarah’s Yirmeyahu 33 hotel in Jerusalem, focusing on the specific needs of women who require healing in these cases. The initiative is medically supervised by Rabbanit Dr. Chana Katan, an American-born Israeli gynecologist, teacher, author, and winner of the Jerusalem Prize for outstanding accomplishments in her field. 

The new center provides a quiet and soothing environment for convalescents and offers excellent conditions for physical and mental recovery at the highest level. The wellness center provides a place for a spouse or supporter to stay and offers a private dining room, dedicated rooms for activities and enrichment, and free access to the hotel’s spa services. 

The cost for the mothers and their husbands is significantly subsidized. According to Rabbi Uri Lupolianski, president of Yad Sarah, until now, women who lost a child in a stillbirth had to go to a recovery facility alongside mothers and their infants, which made the process very difficult for them.

Don’t do it, Bezalel

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion; professionals from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Education, Finance and Jerusalem Affairs ministries; National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi; and Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar have called upon Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich not to cancel budgets for higher education and academic preparatory schools in east Jerusalem.

They all presented Smotrich with an unequivocal security recommendation stating that higher education reduces terrorism in the city. Yet Smotrich remains adamant about not funding such educational opportunities. Presidents of academic institutions in Jerusalem called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in the decision. Removal from the second five-year plan for east Jerusalem of a budget intended to encourage higher education among Palestinians living in the area has so far delayed the approval of the plan for more than two months. 

The decision could lead to the closure of pre-academic preparatory schools in Jerusalem, where hundreds of residents of the eastern part of the city study. A revised five-year plan will be submitted for approval by the cabinet, but without the relevant section. Instead of the higher education section, a new section called “Encouraging significant employment” was introduced into the program in an attempt to keep the overall budget of the program as it is. 

Sources at Safra Square hope they will be able to use the section in a way that will allow the continued funding of studies in preparatory schools. The cost of the new program – originally planned at NIS 4.2 million – is estimated now at NIS 2.5 billion, which will be invested in infrastructure, education, and encouraging employment. The education system in east Jerusalem has been undergoing a process of “Israelization,” with more students moving to the Israeli curriculum over the Palestinian curriculum, mainly due to students wanting to integrate into Israeli academies. 

If the preparatory schools are closed, the chances of Palestinian students to integrate into Israeli academies will decrease dramatically, as will the motivation to switch to the Israeli study program. Smotrich claims that studying at universities causes radicalization among young Palestinians. This stands in contrast to the position of virtually all professionals in the fields of education and security.

Culture in Kfar Shaul

A new cultural village was inaugurated this week in Jerusalem, with 60 theater, music, and dance performances in the ancient buildings and picturesque courtyards of the Kfar Shaul psychiatric hospital. Thousands of people came to the city’s 360 Degree Theater Festival. 

For the first time since its establishment, children and adults freely entered the hospital and, together with patients, watched the cultural shows in the alleys and buildings in the village. Family members of patients also came to the hospital and watched children’s plays. Hundreds of artists took part in this event. 

Mayor Lion was fascinated by the picturesque place. After being prompted by a patient during an earlier visit, he said, “Let’s think about how we can turn this into an artistic village.” Hospital staff want the public to know that the village is open and that visits and joint viewing of plays and classes are a great contribution to all participants and help build community resilience. 

Although the 360 Degree Theater Festival has ended, artists who want to perform there, teachers who want open classes to integrate patients, and guides who want to bring groups to the facility are all invited. The festival was held at the initiative of Adam Yakin and Michal Shukron from the Dancing Elf Theater, in full cooperation with Hadas Tadhar and the Kfar Shaul team, and with the assistance of the Har Nof community administration. ❖