Secular campaign to open sleek Jerusalem cinema on Sabbath suffers setback

Supreme Court says city council, which is predominantly made up of Orthodox lawmakers, must vote on matter.

Cinema City protests in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Cinema City protests in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The protracted battle to have the capital’s newest and largest cinema operational during Shabbat, despite a government mandate to keep it closed, hit a roadblock Sunday when the Supreme Court ruled that the decision to keep Cinema City open must be put to a vote at Jerusalem’s city council.
The 20-screen, NIS 125 million uptown complex, which opened two weeks ago, has been a lightning rod in the city’s religious tug of war since its owners were issued a building permit in 2010, with the stipulation that it remain closed on Shabbat.
That edict, issued by the Finance Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality to the private entrepreneurs who built the complex on government land, has led to a heated debate about the perceived religious polarization of the city.
Although a formal date for a vote was not designated by the court, Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz (Jerusalem Awakening), who filed the appeal, said he expected it to take place within the next several months.
Despite the setback, Berkowitz described the decision as an “achievement.”
“I think this is an achievement because the High Court is forcing the Municipality and Finance Ministry to negotiate for a new agreement that will allow Cinema City to remain open during Shabbat,” he said.
Still, Berkowitz conceded that his party is facing an uphill battle.
“The city council won’t make this easy on us because many in the council are Orthodox and against keeping it open,” he said. “This is forcing us to continue to lead the struggle with social and political actions.”
Berkowitz implored secular citizens to rally behind his cause.
“I think the people who have been hurt by this must support us to get this deal to go through,” he said. “We still believe we can achieve our goals and will continue to fight to make Jerusalem more tolerant and open minded.”
Berkowitz said he may file another appeal to keep the multiplex open, adding that he would work diligently over the coming weeks to garner the support necessary to win the vote.
“It’s clear that it’s going to be difficult, but we’re going to do everything we can to keep it open,” he said.