Yediot Yerushalayim reports that in the last month, businesses in the First Station have, on average, lost 30% of their income on Shabbat.
Many business owners attribute the drop in income to the fact that residents and tourists assume that the First Station is now closed on Shabbat. Recently, Haredi parties along with far-right religious nationalists attempted to close the popular attraction due to stores there being open on Shabbat. While the attempt was unsuccessful, some fear that the controversy has impacted business.
Itamar Tergan, Director of the First Station, said that a third of the area’s business is done on Shabbat.
The religious tensions surrounding the First Station is characteristic of the western portion of Jerusalem, which attempts to balance the needs of large religious and pluralist populations. Makolets in the city center recently won a battle in their fight to remain open on Shabbat when the municipality agreed to stop fining stores for 60 days while it examines the issue further.
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has also set about trying to close bars and restaurants in Shuk Mahane Yehuda that stay open too late. The Shuk’s burgeoning nightlife was promoting “debauchery” and negatively effecting Haredi educational institutions in the area according to the minister.
Another example of religious tension on a more minor scale was new restaurant Ti Amo’s decision to ask the public whether it should be a kosher restaurant. The restaurant sits in Independence Park where Cafe Alma closed. For many secular Jerusalemites, Alma operating on Shabbat represented a major victory for the community.
Secular residents feel that the city’s lack of transportation and recreational options on Shabbat make it difficult to live in the city. On the other hand, some religious residents believe that Jerusalem’s unique status with Judaism means that the city should not do anything to violate tenants of Orthodox Judaism beyond the existing status quo.
As elections near, both camps are expected to become more entrenched in their positions.