Relax, Animal-lovers: Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo to Stay Open on Shabbat

Despite reports to the contrary, City Hall reassures visitors that they will still be able to see the animals on the day of rest.

Tess Scheflan

Despite objections in the observant community, no, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo will remain open on Shabbat, the zoo itself and the city of Jerusalem reassure.

Certain media reports stated that not content with going after businesses that open on the Sabbath, the Rabbis' Committee for Shabbat explicitly urged the city of Jerusalem to force the sprawling zoo to observe the sanctity of Shabbat, and shut down that day.

"There is no such plan on the agenda. The zoo will stay open on Shabbat as it has until now," the Jerusalem municipality stated in answer to Haaretz's query.

The Biblical Zoo, whose formal name is the Tisch Family's Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, stated for the record that it never received any such demand or request from the religious authorities. "Nobody ever asked us to close down," stated the zoo, adding, "We will continue to host everybody – religious and secular, Jews and Arabs. We are an island of peace."

If anything, the zoo could become even more attractive, Shabbat or not, with the addition of a new habitat for the Israeli beech martens (martes foina) in about a month's time, following last year's addition of an enclosure for the yellow-throated marten of Asia, says the zoo spokeswoman Sigalit Dvir-Hertz. The Israeli marten habitat is going up next to the Israeli wolves.

Rushenb, Wikimedia Commons

Beyond delighting visitors with a predilection for pointy-faced omnivores, the zoo is meeting a need: it keeps winding up with abandoned marten kits that it brings up but cannot return to the wild, Dvir-Hertz says. And in about a year's time, the zoo plans to inaugurate "Sea Israel," a vast new aquarium complex featuring the life of the Mediterranean Sea, which will require an extra ticket. And is appropriate for a visit on a  rainy day, Dvir-Hertz points out.