June 28, 2014

​Ultra-Orthodox Jews Cry Foul over Jerusalem’s New Artificial Beach

 ©2014 Religion News Service

The creation of a temporary artificial beach in Jerusalem—a landlocked
city located atop a mountain—has outraged many ultra-Orthodox Jews in this holy

Several ultra-Orthodox rabbis lodged a complaint with the Jerusalem
city council charging that the beach will encourage unseemly behavior and
desecration of the Jewish Sabbath. The city issued a permit for the private
initiative but provided no funding.

Built at the First Station, a restored train station complex that,
unlike most of West Jerusalem, boasts restaurants and activities that are open
on Shabbat, the whimsical “beach” consists of tons of white sand, beach chairs,
a lifeguard’s station and a watermelon stand. A surfing simulator will open

The outcry over the beach—which officially opened June 15 but was
already attracting many people, including some modern-Orthodox Jewish families,
over Shabbat—is just one of the many battles the ultra-Orthodox community has
waged in recent years over the issue of Shabbat closures and the sanctity of

An article in the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne’eman last week
dubbed the beach a “scandal” and accused the municipality of opening a huge
complex “for Shabbat-violators and terrible deeds.” The First Station, it said,
is part of “a long chain of persecution and harassment of all things sacred” by
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Barkat, who is secular, has tried to strike a balance between the
religious and cultural needs of the city’s diverse residents.

her children play in the sand on Saturday June 14, Chava Gardner, a
modern-Orthodox Jerusalemite, said, “I have no problem with the ‘beach’ here in
Jerusalem, and maybe it will actually discourage some people from driving to
Tel Aviv and breaking Shabbat in the process.”