No Longer Eclipsed by Kosher Saga, Jerusalem Space Week Back On

Israel's Science Ministry had cancelled the week's festivities following complaints about nonkosher event venues

Attendees stand in front of the Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. booth during the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico in September 2016.
Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

Jerusalem Space Week will be held this week after Israel's Science, Technology and Space Ministry cancelled it last week in response to complaints by ultra-Orthodox leadership about events being held in nonkosher venues.

Two nonkosher venues are scheduled to host events for Space Week in the end. The only change to the itinerary is the cancellation of an event scheduled in Casino de Paris pub in the Mahaneh Yehuda Market. Organizers called the popular pub last week to ask whether it held a kashrut certificate, implying the cancellation of its event could be linked to such certification.

Jerusalem Space Week festivities will include lectures, movies, virtual-reality experiences and stargazing in planetariums all around Israel.

An alternative Space Week will be held in Jerusalem at the same time as the official program, originally organized in response to the event's cancellation by a group of activists from the Ayn Rand Center, the Israeli Freedom Movement and the Mada Gadol, Bektana (Big Science, Little Science) nonprofit organization.  

Space Week was planned for four locations in downtown Jerusalem, in a number of bars and restaurants in the Mahaneh Yehuda market when last week Yohanan Weizmann, a Jerusalem city council member representing United Torah Judaism, appealed to the ministry sponsoring the event and demanded they cancel it. He cited unkosher event venues and lack of business licenses.  

“I’m in favor of Space Week, I go to these events myself, I only asked that it be held in a place with a proper business license,” Weizmann said, adding that he also was disturbed by the failure to comply with the city’s noise ordinance.

But Weizmann’s letter to Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis, quoted in a report on the ultra-Orthodox news website B’hadrei Haredim, tells a different story: “As a member of the Jerusalem city council and as a resident of the nearby neighborhood of Mekor Baruch, I wish to draw your attention to the fact that ... one of the venues sells unkosher food and the others are not kosher. In addition, most of them don’t have a full business license, meaning that government resources will go to encouraging sales in places that do not operate in accordance with the law.”

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkovitch praised the decision to hold the events as originally planned. These are lectures held in various businesses, not a food festival, he said.