One of the only restaurants in Jerusalem’s city center which is open on the Jewish Sabbath is coming under increasing pressure from a mob of ultra-Orthodox protesters to close on Friday nights and Saturdays.
The nonkosher bar-restaurant Barood has been operating for the last 24 years in the Feingold Courtyard compound in the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, just off the city’s main Jaffa Road, and is open on Shabbat.
Over the years it has hosted many distinguished figures and officials, including former president Yitzhak Navon.
The Finegold Courtyard was a popular destination for young Jerusalemites during the 1990s, but has deteriorated in recent years as most of the eateries — some of them famous — closed down one after the other, until Barood remained the only one.
In recent weeks, Channel 10 reported Tuesday, hundreds of extremist ultra-Orthodox men have been gathering near the entrance to the restaurant every Shabbat and harassing its owners and clients.
“Young and old people, aged 3 to 90, stand here at the entrance to the courtyard, scream ‘shabbes’ [Shabbat in Yiddish] and ‘shikse’ [a disparaging term for a non-Jewish woman or girl] and curse us,” Daniella Lerer, owner of Barood, told Channel 10.
In footage aired by the TV station from one of the protests, a police car can be seen next to the demonstrators, doing nothing to stop the harassment.
“I saw a police vehicle following them, but it’s as if they’re protecting them, not me,” Lerer said.
The report added that when she tried to approach the protesters and talk with them, they cursed her and police intervened.
Feingold Courtyard has been neglected and dirty in recent years, since the municipality refuses to clean it, claiming it is privately owned.
The ultra-Orthodox protesters also regularly try to block the streets and harass customers and staff of a number of bars and restaurants on the other side of Jaffa Road, in the area of Heleni Hamalka Street, on Shabbat, The Times of Israel was told. Here, too, customers have complained that the police do not intervene.
It is the latest development in a long history of religious-secular battles over Jerusalem’s character, with many ultra-Orthodox wanting the holy city to completely observe Shabbat.
“They have reached Nevi’im Street,” said Eli Levi, one of the owners of Feingold Courtyard, referring to a major route that separates Haredi neighborhoods from the city center, and that is close to Heleni Hamalka. “They can’t cross Jaffa Road, because if that happens, Jerusalem will become Bnei Brak.” In fact, the harassment in the Feingold Courtyard means the protests have indeed already crossed Jaffa Road.
Bnei Brak is an ultra-Orthodox city in central Israel, whose once significant non-Haredi minority has slowly left or been driven out.
“Now they are fighting against a single place, which is me, and they are coming in masses, hundreds,” Lerer said.