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January 11, 2018 11:07 am

Israeli Mayors Rail Against Law Limiting Commerce on Shabbat

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A minimarket in Ramat Gan, Israel. Photo: Rakoon via Wikimedia Commons. – Dozens of mayors across Israel vowed on Tuesday to fight the country’s new law limiting commerce on Shabbat, saying they will not enforce it.

The controversial “supermarkets bill” passed in the Knesset with a razor-thin majority of 58-57 on Tuesday morning. The law, an amendment to the Local Authorities Law’s provisions on the operation of local businesses on days of rest, gives the interior minister the power to shutter businesses that choose to remain open on Shabbat.

The legislation, which mainly targets convenience stores, has been lambasted as a change to the religious-secular status quo and as coercion by haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, which threatened to exit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition if the law was not enacted. On Monday, Netanyahu warned members of his coalition that “voting against the supermarkets bill is like voting to bring down the government.”

During the past few weeks, Israeli municipalities have raced to bypass the looming supermarkets law, passing and bolstering bylaws allowing businesses to remain open on Shabbat.

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“The supermarkets bill is meaningless. It is up to the mayors to enforce it and I say in no uncertain terms that I have no intention of sending inspectors to enforce it,” Ramat Gan Mayor Yisrael Zinger said Tuesday.

“We are a liberal city, and we believe in allowing people to live their lives according to their own beliefs. This is what creates the fabric of life in the city,” he said.

Prior to the vote on the bill, Holon Mayor Moti Sasson pledged “to do everything within my power to preserve the status quo in the city, as part of which some businesses will be open on Shabbat for the benefit of the residents.”

Givatayim Mayor Ran Kunik also announced he would not enforce the new law, telling reporters he is determined to preserve the status quo in his city.

“Givatayim knows what’s best for its residents better than any minister,” he said.

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  • Reb_Yaakov

    Preserving the status quo is always a relatively weak argument, akin to “But we’ve always done things this way.” It stifles change for the better. The chareidim, not surprisingly, consider Shabbat to be a major issue; after all, it’s the most important Jewish holiday and the only one that’s part of the Ten Commandments. But what I would prefer to hear from them is the desire to put Jewish ethical business practices in place. What a difference that would make in Israel. It might even be legitimately called a Jewish state.