(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In defiance of the government’s “minimarket law” passed on Tuesday morning, Mayor of Herzliya Moshe Fadlon declared that the city’s municipal council would vote on and pass a municipal bylaw next Sunday, allowing minimarkets to open on Shabbat.
The government approved the minimarkets law at the behest of the Haredi political parties, which will allow the interior minister to approve or reject any municipal bylaws allowing stores to open on the Sabbath. The vote has generated opposition from several municipal councils who have rushed to approve such ordinances in recent weeks.
“If the [Herzliya] bylaw is not approved by the interior minister, I intend to continue the opposition [to the government law] and go to the High Court of Justice,” said Fadlon.
Although the law will not increase enforcement against stores which currently open on Shabbat in various cities, it will prevent this situation from being further legalized.
This is significant since Tel Aviv’s bylaw, passed in 2014 and allowing some shops to open, was advanced by the city’s municipal council as a result of a High Court petition by a group of small businesses against the municipality for failing to fine stores which were open on Shabbat, despite the existing bylaw which banned such activity.
Many cities have bylaws prohibiting commercial activity, although they are loosely enforced, if at all.
Legal challenges to stores opening on Shabbat, which are largely considered part of the status quo, would now lead to such stores being shuttered on weekends, including in largely secular cities, since such bylaws will be rejected by the current interior minister, Shas chairman Arye Deri.
Because of this concern, a number of cities have recently passed bylaws allowing minimarkets to open, including Rishon Lezion, Holon, Givatayim and Modi’in.
The municipal councils of Herzliya, Ramat Gan, Arad, Hod Hasharon, Rehovot, Netanya and other cities have all begun working on such bylaws.
Work on a bylaw in Herzliya was particularly advanced, although secular activists in the city blame Fadlon for failing to hold a vote on a bylaw before the government passed its legislation.
Although there was widespread criticism of the bill from liberal NGOs, the moderate National Religious organization Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah said that nothing would change on the ground as a result of the law, but criticized the government for failing to deal with the issue of Shabbat responsibly.
“This law sparked unnecessary battles and wars. We expect from everyone for whom Shabbat is really beloved to advance a real debate and real solutions for how to manage life between Jews of different beliefs and to stop abandoning Shabbat to the whims of irresponsible politicians,” NTA said in a statement to the press.
The secularist Israel Be Free organization was more critical, however, saying that the minimarkets law was “the opening shot” in the upcoming municipal elections to be held later this year and that the NGO would campaign heavily on this issue.
“We will remind everyone who chose to support a free and pluralistic Israel and who capitulated to Haredi pressure and sold out its voters,” said Israel Be Free director Uri Keidar.