A party is just not kosher
By Matthew Kalman
In Jerusalem Israeli officials and frustrated hoteliers are struggling with a cruel twist of calendrical fate: New Year's Eve 1999 falls on Friday evening, the Jewish Sabbath, when no music or entertainment is allowed. As the rest of the world, including mainly Muslim and Christian East Jerusalem, marks the countdown to the millennium in what promises to be the greatest party on earth, the Israeli rabbinate have decreed that predominantly Jewish West Jerusalem will be an island of tranquillity in the mad sea of celebration.
"They are talking about the possibility of millions of tourists coming here for the year 2000 but, because they will not be able to celebrate the most exciting holiday of the millennium in a public hall or a hotel in Jerusalem, where will they go to celebrate?" asks Mr Dvir. ''Bethlehem? Amman?"
Only in Jerusalem do the orthodox rabbinical authorities exercise such an iron grip on the observance of the Sabbath. Outside the Holy City, the rabbinate are content to monitor the kosher food served in hotels and restaurants while turning a blind eye to desecrations of the Sabbath such as discotheques. Elsewhere in Israel, Jews and non- Jews alike are expected to join the millennium madness. But in Jerusalem, any eaterie or public venue wishing to retain its kosher licence must adhere to strict Sabbath observance and agree not to mark any non-Jewish holidays, including New Year's Eve. The coincidence of December 31, 1999, with Friday night has left kosher hoteliers with little choice.
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