Injunction issued against Jerusalem municipality over park cafe’s Shabbat restriction

Hitorerut party petitions court against tender for Rose Garden eatery requiring operators to close on Jewish day of rest; city hall says complying with local residents’ wishes

Screen capture of the Rose Garden, Jerusaelm. (Google Street View. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture of the Rose Garden, Jerusaelm. (Google Street View. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Jerusalem District Court last week issued an injunction against the municipality over its demand that a new planned cafe in a neighborhood park commit to staying shut on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.

The court order against proceeding with a tender to set up a cafe in the Rose Garden, located in the Talbiya neighborhood, came in response to a petition filed by the Hitorerut (Awakening) party against its terms.

Hitorerut charged the stipulation was wrongly setting a precedent that would impact the religious-secular status quo in the capital.

In a statement after the ruling reported by the Kol Ha’ir outlet, the Jerusalem municipality said that it was “confident that its claims and the proper public needs will be reflected in the final decision.”

Earlier this month some 100 local residents held a protest against the tender under the banner “yes to a cafe, no to coercion,” organized by Hitorerut.

The Rose Garden is known as a quiet retreat from the city’s bustle. A municipal plan to raise the profile of the park and attract more people included the opening of a cafe there.

A few months ago the Ginot Ha’Ir Community Council responsible for the park conducted a survey of local residents asking them if they want the cafe, while stipulating that it would be closed on Shabbat, Walla reported.

According to regulations, if at least 60 percent of 200 participants in such a survey are of the same opinion, then it must be taken into consideration. The poll sampled 500 people from the neighborhood, and 62% were in favor of the Shabbat restriction, 36% were against, and less than one percent were undecided.

However, Hitoarerut said that the municipality should not be laying down the Shabbat condition in the first place.

אוהבים את השבת בירושלים- לא שותקים למול הכפייה הדתית ושומרים על ירושלים של כולם!השבוע נחשף כי העירייה פרסמה מכרז…

Posted by ‎התעוררות בירושלים‎ on Saturday, May 6, 2023

In its ruling, the court found that the petition “seemingly raises questions that deserve clarification.”

Hitorerut said in response: “The court accepted in principle that there is truth in our argument that the tender authorities in the municipality are not allowed to force closure on Shabbat in advance, contrary to the bylaw”

The municipality responded to the court ruling saying: “The possibility of operating the coffee shop on Shabbat is against the wishes of the residents of the neighborhood, the conclusions of the public participation survey and the wishes of the community leadership.”

“This fight is on the future of this city,” Hitorerut party chair Adir Schwartz told Walla. “Jerusalem is everybody’s. That is how it was and that is how it will be.”

The operation of businesses on Shabbat is a hot button issue in Israel where local authorities can issue bylaws either permitting or preventing sites to remain open. In Jerusalem the topic has been particularly contentious.

Last year a report from the Israel Democracy Institute found that rules limiting Shabbat activity are increasingly ignored in many municipalities.

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