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Aug 22, 2011

Jerusalem Haredi Opening New Gender-Separate Shuk

It is actually amazing that it has taken this long for the haredi community to complain about tzniyus issues in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk, and because of it to break off and open a "competing" shuk with separate hours for men and women.

Mynet is reporting (it was also reported on NRG and later on Bechadrei) that the most recent demands and complaints from the haredi community have fallen on deaf ears and have been ignored. The complaints were about various events and activities around Jerusalem that they consider to be inappropriate, such as street fairs too close to their own neighborhoods, concerts in the shuk and other events and situations.

The straw that broke the camels back is the Mahane Yehuda Shuk. The city has designed an event called "Baale-basta" in which on Monday evenings various performers go to the shuk and perform - singers, musicians, etc. As a result, Monday sales are reportedly up 30% due to the extra crowds that come to enjoy the performances.

The Baalebasta is upsetting the haredi community. They consider these performances consisting of secular music, mixed crowds, people dressed immodestly, to be a problem and it either drives them away from the shuk and it is just a bad thing to have in Jerusalem in an area that affects them.

The mayor has rejected the complaints saying nobody is being harmed, cultural events are happening around the city in various neighborhoods, and he plans to continue encouraging more events. The merchants from the shuk are also quoted as being in favor of the continuation of the events. They say sales are up and the shuk is for everybody. "It is not a shul or a yeshiva or a rally for Shas. There is no sex or stripping. it is simply good music and good food."

In response, the haredi councilmen and askanim have decided to begin preparations to open an alternate shuk. The new shuk will be located somewhere between Ramot and Ramat Shlomo (i.e. near Har Hotzvim) and it will operate in a limited fashion, only a couple days a week, with hours for men in the morning and women in the evening. As well, they will only sell a limited selection of items such as vegetables, baked goods and perishables but no meats, dairy and fish.

In my mind I see no point in shopping there. People go to the shuk and can get everything in one place at great prices. If they cant get everything, they will still need to go to the other shuk (Mahane Yehuda) to get the stuff they couldnt get there, or pay higher prices in the supermarket or local shops, which shuk-goers don't generally want to pay. Regardless, if they open the new shuk, I wish them well.

Another thought - it sounds like this nothing more than the neighborhood sales that have become quite common in haredi areas. In Ramat Bet Shemesh alone there are at least three such weekly sales of vegetables and paper goods, with the list of available items sometimes being expanded. Many other neighborhoods with haredi populations have similar sales. I guess the difference is that with these weekly sales, often run by local tzedaka organizations, one (usually but not always) has to order in advance and with this new shuk it seems that it will be a regular, albeit limited, marketplace.

I will be curious to see if the hechshers will remove, or be pressured to remove, their certification from the stalls in Mahane Yehuda. It might be a powerful "threat" to get the merchants to capitulate. Besides for that, if they consider the whole area to be immodest, would it not be hypocritical for them to make money off it by keeping the hechshers while banning it and setting up alternate markets?

They remove their hechshers from restaurants that have seating after specific hours, that stay open later than specific hours, that don't comply with various other rules. it seems only fitting that if they go ahead with this plan, they should also remove their hechshers from Mahane Yehuda bastas as well.


  1. You really think that it would be a good thing if the stalls in Machane Yehudah lost their teudot?

    It would be a TERRIBLE thing. It would take a public area where all types of Jews now gather in the same space, and turn it into yet another place where only the non-religious would be found.

    What the country -- and J-m in particular -- needs is MORE mixed public spaces, not fewer!

  2. 1. i do not think it would be good for stores to not have a hechsher. I didnt say that.

    2. I think for the hechshers to fight this and say the place is inappropriate and we can buy there, they should be consistent and remove their hechshers as well. not that it will be good or bad for the stores, but for the consistency of the hechshers. otherwise they are selling out their ideals for money. when they then threaten individual restaurants to follow specific policy to keep certain modesty standards, we all know they are bogus because they wont do the same for larger, bigger money, instances.

    3. any hechsher that does pull itself out, specifically the Eida but others as well, will be quickly replaced by any of a myriad of other hechsherim, so the kiosks and stalls will not be left with no hechsher.

  3. I buy from a haredi sale. I almost never buy anything but produce. They have frozen meats and veg, paper goods, cleaning supplies and whatever they think the haredim need. Once before Pesach they sold packages of raw shnitzel. The order form had said 8 to a box but there were really 16 and each person was supposed to get half a box. They had to call people (automated) and beg them to bring back the extra. Here is a description of hte sale: http://www.cookingmanager.com/tips-food-shopping-cooperative/

  4. So the hechsher is not only about the food anymore?! Because if it was for food only then I would think it's best to keep the hechsherim on the restaurants and other foods.
    To be honest, out of comfortability, I don't know how many of the charedim living nearby the Mahane Yehudah shuk will actually travel to the further away located shuk and at different hours.
    How many men are actually free in morning hours? I would change the seperate hours to women in the morning and men in the evening...

  5. By the way, the sale that I go to is totally mixed when it's time to pick up produce. I thought they might object when I signed up because I am obviously not haredi but I've never had a problem.

  6. MOI - I have never seen them stop anybody from shopping in these sales. you just have to be willing to follow their rules.
    and I agree, I also thought it strange that they did this and did not make them separate. the more advanced ones had separate lines for paying

  7. Leah - the food has been just a very small part of what the hechsher is about. and it has been like that for a long time.

  8. I was just at the shuk this week in yerushalayim. There were very few places that did not have rabanut or rabanut mehadrin hashgachas anyhow. I dont think that its going to be an issue


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