Several hundred people gathered Tuesday night to protest the Shabbat closure of the newly completed Cinema City complex.
Standing on a plaza across the street from the complex, which is set to start selling tickets on Thursday, they held hand-lettered signs and chanted rhyming slogans and songs led by organizers from the Hitorerut Jerusalem party, which organized the protest.
“I have just one capital, and I want culture,” the protesters chimed.
“Shabbat is also mine, and I want culture on Shabbat.”
“Religious rulings are not legal.”
The speeches and slogans revolved around the rights of secular Jerusalemites to celebrate their own kind of Shabbat in the holy city.
“Religious and secular Israelis refuse to be enemies,” said Hitorerut council member Chanan Rubin, “for Jerusalem the capital is the home for everyone.”
The protesters even sang “Sisu et Yerushalayim,” or “Rejoice in Jerusalem,” based on words from the Book of Isaiah: “Rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in her, all you who love her.”
“This isn’t an issue of status quo,” said Ofer Berkowitz, Jerusalem deputy mayor and head of the Hitorerut Party. “Look what else is open on Shabbat: the Israel Museum, the Science Museum, the Cinematheque, the Rav Chen theater. We tried to get this passed in City Hall, and when we failed, we brought it to the Supreme Court. And now we’ll find out on March 12 who’s going to win this one.”
But while the protesters were eating free pizzas on the plaza, Yerushalmim council member Rachel Azaria commented that the protest was more about showing force, as the movie complex would ultimately be opened on Shabbat for other reasons.
“It will open because of competition,” she said.
With the under-construction Sherover complex in the Abu Tor neighborhood slated to include a Yes Planet movie complex that will remain open on Shabbat, the city will have to allow the Cinema City to open as well, she said.
“It’s about having art and culture open and available on Shabbat,” said Azaria. “If Sherover is going to be open, and the community centers are open, offering Shabbat activities, then Cinema City will also end up staying open.”