Pending hearing, Jerusalem Municipality postpones enforcement of Shabbat closure for minimarkets

Attorney for proprietors: Move is first step in legal battle to keep stores open.

September 2, 2015 19:35
2 minute read.
shabbat supermarket

AN EMPLOYEE of the Makolet 24-hour market on Hillel Street, one of the eight markets being forced by the Jerusalem Municipality to close during Shabbat next month. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Following a last-minute petition against the Jerusalem Municipality for forcing eight of the capital’s downtown minimarkets to cease operations during Shabbat, the municipality agreed on Wednesday to postpone the mandate until after Rosh Hashana.

In a statement, attorney Yossi Havilio, who represents four of the store owners, said that the closures – which were supposed to go into effect on Friday – will be postponed for all eight markets until September 16, after a rescheduled hearing.

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According to Havilio, the municipality is granting the postponement to allow him to prepare for the hearing, which will take place in city hall.

He said he was satisfied with the decision, adding that it was “the first step in the legal battle to keep the supermarkets open on weekends regularly.”

Wednesday’s postponement came less than a week after dozens of protesters denounced the forced closures as a violation of civil rights, during a demonstration in Safra Square. All eight store owners have said shutting their businesses for Shabbat will result in bankruptcy.

On August 19, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that minimarkets operating on Shabbat near haredi neighborhoods would be subject to “heightened enforcement” of limited hours of operation.

However, the municipality’s legal adviser said that markets that were not near haredi neighborhoods – including in Ein Kerem, Talpiot and Atarot – would be spared the mandate.

Several members of the city council have contended that Barkat ordered the weekend closures to placate religious city council members after the Yes Planet megaplex opened in southern Jerusalem amid widespread protests from haredi councilmen and their constituents.

United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev have threatened that the party’s Degel Hatorah faction could quit Barkat’s municipal coalition if the multiplex remained open on Shabbat.

But Yonatan Toker, chairman of the pluralistic Hitorerut Party – which is also in Barkat’s coalition – described the forced Shabbat closures as an affront to both religious freedom and basic human rights.

“If we want Jerusalem to be a city for all people – for the secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox – we need to understand where one person ends and another begins,” he said of the mandate. “So if Barkat won’t help do this, we will.”

Despite Wednesday’s development, Ariel Baydel, a 23-year-old cashier at the relatively new Marlek 24-hour market off Jaffa Road, said he was less than sanguine.

“I don’t think anything will change,” he said. “They’re just postponing it a bit.”

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