Pressure Mounts to Shut Down Late-Night Entertainment in Machaneh Yehudah

Buying tomatoes at the Machaneh Yehudah market in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

By day, Yerushalayim’s Machaneh Yehudah is a marketplace that sells fruit, nuts, meat, baked goods and other household necessities – but at night, it has turned into a major entertainment area, with restaurants, taverns and events attracting thousands into the wee hours.

Not everyone is happy about that – in particular, the residents of the adjoining neighborhoods, Yerushalayim city council member Aryeh King said in a radio interview Monday. The issue of the “nightclub” atmosphere in Machaneh Yehudah has come into the headlines recently, as Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said that he would demand that any mayor chosen in municipal elections set for later this year commit to restoring the marketplace to its original purpose.

“I am very happy that this issue is now getting the public attention it deserves,” said King. “I agree with 90 percent of Rabbi Litzman’s criticism of what is going on there, and if you would come with me on a Thursday night you would agree too,” he told 103 Radio on Monday. “I know people who if they want to sleep have to put wax in their ears to keep the noise out.”

Several politicians have sought to make the issue of shutting down the shuk at night into a “religious” one, given Rabbi Litzman’s opposition to it – but King said that that was ridiculous. “This is not another religious versus secular ‘debate.’ The problem is that the current mayor does not bother to enforce municipal laws, which are on the books, against noise in residential neighborhoods, which the areas adjacent to Machaneh Yehudah are. People literally cannot sleep, and we cannot allow the situation to persist.”

“Our lives have turned into one long nightmare,” said one resident, furious at the authorities’ inaction. “They are harming our quality of life and creating a very real health hazard, and all this without a license. Yet, no one in City Hall or the police does anything about it.”

Rabbanim and educators who see the spiritual dangers of the phenomenon stress that “we are talking about a spiritual terror attack in the heart of Yerushalayim, and the public should know that it’s not just a terror attack but one that has many wounded that we mustn’t come to terms with.”

The problem is getting worse; the filth and the stench disturb residents and owners of fruit and vegetable stands who come to work in the morning.

“They’ve hurt our income and our customers,” said one merchant.

Added a resident: “If this isn’t taken care of right away my family and I will be forced to move out. It is intolerable to live in a place that is so noisy at night. It is particularly difficult to raise children in Torah and yiras Shamayim when we are surrounded with such sights and sounds.”