Acting Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has announced that any mayoral candidate hoping to receive the support of the Gur Hassidic dynasty will have to promise to close Shuk Mahane Yehuda’s bars.
According to Litzman, the shuk’s nightlife is a hotbed of “debauchery.” The shuk sits near a major educational institution and the article Litzman wrote to announce his opposition cited the concerns of teachers that the Shuk had become dangerous while being “encouraged by the municipality.”
Gur is Jerusalem’s largest Hassidic sect. They are also the leading group in Agudat Yisrael, the main national Hassidic political body. During the last election, their decision to support Nir Barkat against the wishes of most of the Haredi community was key to helping Barkat secure a victory. Litzman’s announcement could have been intended to put pressure on the Haredi world to only support a Haredi candidate, someone like Yossi Deutsch.
Another council member, Arieh King, claimed that families in the area have to sleep with earplugs due to the noise. The religious Zionist politician said that he agreed with 90% of Litzman’s complaints and accused Nir Barkat of not enforcing noise laws.
Litzman’s declaration came on the heels of Minister Ze’ev Elkin’s announcement that he would be running for mayor. Elkin would likely need Haredi support in order to win the race. In addition, Moshe Lion will need Haredi support to win.
Candidates, including Elkin, were quick to announce that they had no intention of closing the Shuk’s now popular bars. However, as elections come closer, a candidate slightly behind in the polls could be tempted to make a deal with the large dynasty. Jerusalem is still reeling from the fight to close the First Station. The attempt to close one of Jerusalem’s main leisure locations went unopposed by religious Zionist candidate Moshe Lion.
Mahane Yehuda has become a popular Jerusalem attraction for both Yerushalmim and tourists. As a result, real estate prices there have skyrocketed.