The final of Israel’s equivalent to Pop Idol is scheduled for Saturday night and strictly Orthodox rabbis object to it for fear that the preparations for the broadcast will take place on Shabbat, and that the heavy traffic expected will block the road for those planning to get to the Western Wall for the first night of selichot (penitential prayers said before the High Holy Days).
This is the first season in which the popular programme is filming its live final in Jerusalem, as a result of intense lobbying by Mayor Nir Barkat, but the event is threatening a crisis within Mr Barkat’s coalition.
“Quiet talks with the mayor did not result in anything,” said United Torah Judaism city councillor Shlomo Rozenshtein. “We are moving from quiet activity to open demonstrations of pain and protest at the desecration of Shabbat.”
Yossef Rosenfeld, the chairman of the Committee for the Holiness of Shabbat, promised that there would be big demonstrations backed by all the main leaders of the Charedi community. “Seeing such a serious desecration of Shabbat we will not remain quiet, but take to the streets.”
Both Keshet, the TV company which produces the programme, and Jerusalem City Hall, have promised that the preparations will be completed before Shabbat on Friday evening and that the broadcast will only begin 90 minutes after Shabbat ends.
Deputy Mayor David Hadari, of the National Religious Party, admitted this week that there obviously would be work on Shabbat but “there have always been events at the Sultan’s Pool on Saturday night – and we can’t change that, as it is part of the status quo in Jerusalem.”