The Jerusalem District Court on Monday ruled that a new public pool in the city’s Har Huma neighborhood will operate on Shabbat for two years, initially, following “the degree of damage to the Shabbat atmosphere” in the neighborhood will be assessed.
Har Homa is a Jewish neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem, whose demographic makeup is reflected in its schools: it has eight elementary schools, of which two belong to the secular public school system, two are Haredi, and four are national-religious. In other words, on Shabbat, the pool will serve only 25% of the residents, give or take, while being an affront to everyone else.
According to the Jerusalem municipality, the neighborhood is made up of “60% religious and 40% Masorty (traditional) and secular,” which is an unusual way of presenting demographic data in Israel, where the secular are considered a standalone sector. Does it mean that Masorty residents don’t keep Shabbat? Hard to tell.
Yosi Havilio, a resident of the neighborhood and a public figure, posted a celebratory message on Facebook featuring himself standing in front of the country club where the pool is located. You’ll get the essence of the situation immediately from his combative note: “This was a crude and blatant attempt at religious coercion on the part of a predatory community administration seeking to turn Har Homa into Mea Shearim, and Jerusalem into Bnei Brak. We won’t let that happen. The days are over when the liberal and moderate public in Jerusalem bowed its head and surrendered to the Haredim and Hardalim (national-religious Haredim).
Har Homa is home to Rabbi Zvi Israel Tau’s Har Hamor yeshiva. Rabbi Tau is affiliated with MK Avi Maoz, chairman of the Noam party, who succeeded in maximizing his single mandate by demanding and receiving an influential post as Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Jewish education.
Judging by images of the neighborhood’s country club, it appears that it is situated at quite a distance from the neighborhood’s main streets where people would normally be going to shul on Shabbat morning at the same time secular residents are splashing about in the pool.
District Judge Miriam Ilani ruled that only swimming would be allowed in the pool on Shabbat. No food and drink vending, no public events, and no use of the PA system. She also commented that maybe, if “the tranquility of the neighborhood is disturbed due to the entry of vehicles and buses from outside the neighborhood, even non-religious residents would prefer to close the pool on Shabbat. In the end, Shabbat is a day of rest for all of us, and usually, even those who do not observe Shabbat according to law, enjoy the tranquility that Shabbat instills in the public space.”
Say what you will about the politics of state and religion, some Israeli judges are just delightful.