Mar 10, 2013

Shuk Mahane Yehuda to host cultural events on Shabbos

The weather is heating up, and with it comes the secular activism and the haredi protests.

The upcoming ground zero for the near future is going to be the Mahane Yehuda shuk. According to NRG, a new initiative is being pushed to make use of the Mahane Yehuda shuk and the Hebrew University campus on Shabbos by having special events, such as musicians, performers, guest speakers, group meals. The plan for this is not to be a short-term series of events, but to become a weekly tradition that will draw the youth and other residents of Jerusalem and give them some cultural activities and things to do on Shabbos.

The initiative is part of a project called "Yeru-Shalem" led jointly by a group of secular and dati leumi young adults attempting to change the status quo in Jerusalem and take back the Shabbos for everybody. The flip side of the initiative is that a number of shuls will open their doors to joint meetings and joint study groups for religious and secular in advance of the upcoming Pesach holiday. I imagine that it will continue after Pesach as well, focusing on other topics weekly.

Without reading any further, my guess would be that the parties in Mahane Yehuda and Hebrew U will find themselves far more popular a destination for the young Jerusalemites than the joint lectures in synagogues.

The organizers are quoted as saying that until now only one sector has controlled the public areas on Shabbos on Jerusalem, creating a situation that every Israeli knows there is nothing to do in Jerusalem on Shabbos, as everything is closed. No more. Now there will be cultural events of every kind, for everybody. People will be able to find whatever interests them and enjoy the Shabbos each in their preferred way.

Obviously nobody should expect this to go down without a fight. The Eida is already responding with threats. Obviously there will be protests, though hopefully they won't get too violent. In addition to the expected protests, Bechadrei claims that the Eida is planning sanctions on the vendors in the Mahane Yehuda shuk by immediately removing the kashrut certifications from tens of shops. They expect that these vendors will be upset enough by the potential loss of business that they will protest the approval of the shuk directors to allow the chilul shabbos and pressure  the board to change and retract its approval.

I see information about performances and events taking place in the empty shuk area. I don't see anything about the shuk opening for business, with stalls and shops selling their wares on Shabbos. While I expect protests, and they definitely have what to protest, taking it out on vendors who are not involved is wrong. The vendors selling cucumbers or rogelach had nothing to do with the decision to allow such events, and they themselves are seemingly not doing business on Shabbos, so on what grounds does the Eida have the right to retract the kashrut certificate from these vendors? Just to use them as tools in the battle isn't a good enough justification for me.

Two years ago the Haredi askanim in Jerusalem were already upset about cultural events taking place during the summer months in Mahane Yehuda which caused a breach in tzniyut. Since then they have been "threatening" to establish their own haredi shuk elsewhere in Jerusalem. I don't know why this has not yet happened. And, I don't know that even if or when a haredi shuk does get established that the Eida won't continue to protest chilul shabbos, or tzniyut issues, at the original shuk. While I am normally for more integration into society, a separate shuk might be a good solution. Nobody should be forced to support chilul  shabbos, and it is reasonable to get so upset over such a drastic change in the status quo.


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  1. If there are going to be 'attractions', then certainly, this is an incentive to open a stall to sell something

  2. Now that Jaffa Road is closed to traffic and the light rail doesn't run on Shabbat, it would make more sense to hold these events somewhere on Jaffa Road than in the shuk. This would also reduce the turmoil on Aggripas Street which will inevitably occur if the organizers succeed in their goal of having the events draw people to the shuk from the whole city.


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