Jerusalem Report

Tel Aviv and the Sabbath

This is the moment to lay the basis for peace within Israel and arrest the slide into polarized sectoralism

A greengrocery in Tel Aviv
Photo by: SERGE ATTAL / FLASH 90
Observant Jews in Israel recently had the feeling of waking up on third base. In late June the Supreme Court ruled that the Tel Aviv municipality would have to do more than go through the motions in enforcing its 1980 bylaw prohibiting businesses from opening on the Jewish Sabbath. Religiously observant Jews were pleasantly surprised since they have generally not received much joy from the judicial system or from the Attorney General’s Office.

But before this morphs into a test case of religious freedom on the order of the Women of the Wall kerfuffle, it should be noted that the Orthodox were not the plaintiffs. The suit was filed by mom-and-pop grocery store owners whom the supermarket scofflaws were driving out of business. Supermarkets in Tel Aviv would open for business on the Sabbath, knowing that when an inspector called they would receive a slap on the wrist in the form of a $200 fine. The daily sales volume made the payment of such a niggardly amount a veritable bargain.

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