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Fake Jerusalem Beach Gets Heated Response

Local ultra-Orthodox rabbi calls the new outdoor offering an ‘abomination’

Stephanie Butnick
June 18, 2014


An artificial beach opened last weekend in a restored train station complex in Jerusalem, drawing crowds of residents excited for a reprieve from the oppressive summer heat. The new addition to First Station—which also features restaurants, bars, and cafes, all of which remain open during Shabbat—has angered ultra-Orthodox locals, who object to both the beach’s un-kosher hours and potential for immodesty. According to Religion News Service, ultra-Orthodox rabbis lodged a complaint with city council arguing that “the beach will encourage unseemly behavior and desecration of the Jewish Sabbath.” (A surfing simulator is reportedly opening soon on the site.)

Haaretz reports that ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem rabbi Moshe Sternbuch went so far as calling the new recreational offering an “abomination, unheard of, where they frighteningly violate the sanctity of the Holy City.”

The city, meanwhile—which issued a permit for the privately funded manmade beach—is fighting back against ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne’eman after an article was published with the incendiary—if not so SEO friendly—headline “Scandal: The Jerusalem municipality intends next week to open a huge complex for Shabbat-violators and terrible deeds.”

This incident is the latest in a series of events causing increasing friction between ultra-Orthodox Israelis and their less religious neighbors in Jerusalem, as well as between ultra-Orthodox leadership and local government, with ultra-Orthodox leaders clashing more and more frequently with Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.