Gila Almagor, an accomplished actress who is considered one of Israel’s all-time cultural icons, caused a stir Monday by referring to laws requiring businesses to close on the Sabbath as “a cancer” while proclaiming, “Iran is here.”
In an interview with Army Radio, Almagor was responding to Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s decision on Sunday to strike down the Tel Aviv municipality’s attempt to enshrine into law an edict which would allow supermarkets to operate on the Jewish Sabbath.
“This is a city of freedom, and it’s fun being here,” Almagor said of Tel Aviv. “All of a sudden somebody comes along carrying an axe and wields it, closing down supermarkets on Sabbath. Tomorrow, he’ll decide that bars and pubs can’t be open past a certain hour.”
The fiercely secular Almagor has made a career of appearing on stage as well as starring in such films as Munich, Under the Domim Tree, and The Human Resources Manager.
“Iran is already here, because it’s like a cancer – cell after cell,” Almagor told Army Radio. “This appears to be a very disheartening, populist decision. Tel Aviv is special. It’s a place where people of all faiths and sectors live side by side.”
“Let Tel Aviv breathe at its own pace,” she said. “Let the student who didn’t have time to do shopping in the middle of the week put on his flip-flops and walk to the supermarket. This isn’t a matter of pursuing profits.”
“Live and let live,” Almagor said. “Don’t take over our lives.”
But Sa’ar approved the part of the proposed bylaw that allows for the opening of businesses in three commercial zones in the city: Tel Aviv Port, Jaffa Port and Hatahana D – the New Station compound. The interior minister approved the amendment allowing for the opening of convenience stores attached to gas stations.
He released a statement Sunday saying the disqualified law “harmed the values of the Sabbath disproportionately, and unreasonably contravened the rule prohibiting commerce on the Sabbath.”
The Likud minister wrote Sunday that before the passage of the impugned law, the Tel Aviv Municipality gave small fines to businesses that opened on the Sabbath. He said this practice of giving fines allowed establishments who could afford to pay them to stay in business.