Petition Demands Jerusalem Theater Stay Open on Sabbath

Secular activist: Struggle is important because it shows we won't just be dragged along by ultra-Orthodox protests.

A new Internet petition is calling for the Jerusalem Theater to be opened on Saturdays, at first for cultural programs and movies, and later also for theater productions.

About 3,000 people have already signed the petition, which started a week ago.

Jerusalem journalist Shimon Bigelman is leading the fight for Shabbat shows.

"The supply of culture in Jerusalem on Friday and Saturday is very limited. There is no reason that this institution is not open, movie theaters operate in Jerusalem," said Bigelman. "The theater may be a municipal institution but Teddy Stadium is such an institution and is open on Saturdays. The theater is also not near ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods."

Bigelman says in the 1980s the theater, located in the capital's Talbieh neighborhood, was open on Saturdays and held Shabbat-Culture programs. Nevertheless, even then the organizers took care that the microphones were hidden behind a large flower arrangement. Those flowers were known in Jerusalem as a symbol of religious coercion.

The petition states that closing down all the halls in Jerusalem on Shabbat contradicts the stated goals of the city's new leadership, who promised to develop culture, tourism and the attractiveness of the city.

"Allow the numerous [people] who want to enjoy cultural events just like in any modern city," states the petition.

Deputy mayor Yosef (Pepe) Alalu of Meretz, who carries the city's culture portfolio, admits the battle is "not easy."

"The struggle is important since it shows that we, the nonreligious, also can take the initiative and not just be dragged along by ultra-Orthodox protests," said Alalu.