An ordinary tourist would hardly feel the need of watching a Hollywood movie in Jerusalem but if he does, many cinemas are not necessarily located downtown. As a matter of fact, until a few decades ago, cinemas could be found downtown but the haredi population was demonstrating. Officially, these demonstrations were the reason for various cinemas to either close or open at a different location. Today we find cinemas at the Jerusalem theater, near Emek Refa’im, in Talpiyot and now at the newly opened Cinema City. The location of Cinema City, however, is definitely not the best: Right across the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When governmental office workers finish work, the entire area seems totally abandoned.
Last night was my very first time at the Cinema City and the building complex was basically empty. Maybe I was just there at the wrong time and normally it is packed with people. Since Cinema City opened it’s gates, the owners have been fighting with the Municipality about the opening hours. The owners want to open on Shabbat because, so their claim, this would draw more customers to the place. When the complex always looks as empty as last night, there is indeed not a lot of money to earn. However, I very much doubt whether opening the place on Shabbat would attract more customers.
The owners state that the Municipality allows other places to open on Shabbat (e.g. the Old Train Station) but not Cinema City. The truth of the matter is that the cultural center at the Old Train Station is open on Shabbat but most restaurants and cafes are actually kosher and closed.
It has become an ongoing dilemma for Jerusalem, as more and more cafe owners want to keep their place open on Shabbat. A couple of months ago, another cafe began to open on Shabbat. Located next to Bezalel Street at the border to Nachlaot. Some Haredim were protesting because the cafe is not too far away from the haredi part of Nachlaot. The latest news on this issue is that now the direct neighbours of the cafe are protesting. Secular Jews who live in the area and don’t want all the noise from screaming customers on Shabbat.
My guess is that, in the end, Cinema City will be open on Shabbat. The same as the Rav Chen cinema complex in Talpiyot or the Cinematheque. On the other hand, most restaurants I saw at the Cinema City are actually kosher. So, how can this work out ? Keep the building complex open on Shabbat but the restaurants closed ? Or kick out anything kosher and put in treife food places ?
Even if there are many secular Jews living in town, Jerusalem itself is still a very special place. Why can’t people just have peace for one day a week ? Why can’t they just sit at home and have coffee with friends there ? Why do they have to go out ? Can’t they just wait until the evening when Shabbat is over and then go ? One day a week ?
The Cinema City is huge but empty. Long corridors and a vast hall in the middle but it was all abandoned last night. It rather looked like the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station where you just walk through in order to catch a bus and leave as fast as possible. I wouldn’t go that far claiming that the design is unpleasant but, nevertheless, something is missing. Plants and something green making you feel comfortable. Instead we find this huge emptiness and feeling of being lost.
Watching a movie at an Israeli cinema is never cheap. Especially when you intend buying popcorn and coke. I didn’t because I went to a special event where a Holocaust movie was shown. Rabbi Berel Wein introduced his new documentary on the survival of Judaism after the Shoah. There were so many people coming to this event that the Cinema City actually got crowded. Packed with religious Jews. 🙂