Leading up to an end-of-the- week court-set deadline to clamp down on businesses
operating on Shabbat, the Tel Aviv Municipality’s legal counsel on Monday said
it is still working on formulating the city’s official response.
response is presented in a court of law, it will be released to the public, the
official explained, adding that it will be in keeping with what Mayor Ron Huldai
has said in the past – that Tel Aviv-Jaffa will remain a free city.
Supreme Court on June 25 ruled that the municipality must impose stronger
penalties on businesses that operate on Shabbat, which will allow secular owners
of small shops to take the day off, and gave the city 60 days to do
The ruling called on the municipality to enforce the closing of the
large, popular supermarket chains Tiv Ta’am and AM:PM on Saturdays, noting that
the current fine of NIS 660 per week imposed on the businesses does not achieve
the objective of the law regarding business opening and closing
The court emphasized that it was not taking a side in the debate
over the place of religion in Israel, only enforcing the law as
Secular owners of small grocery stores say they lose
customers to the large chains, and are entitled to a day of rest observed by all
according to law without losing business.
Previously, the petitioners had
noted that they were secular and were not seeking to observe Shabbat according
to Jewish law, only to have at least one day off.
The court’s decision
had overturned a ruling by the Tel Aviv District Court, which, sitting as an
administrative court, threw out a petition by small supermarket owners regarding
the larger stores’ operations in February 2012.
The petitioners had
argued that by opening on Saturdays, the supermarkets are violating the
provisions of the Business Licensing Law (1968) and its associated regulations,
specifically the Hours of Work and Rest Law (1951) and a 1980 bylaw of the Tel
Aviv Municipality regarding business opening and closing times – and that the
municipality should be ordered to enforce the law.
At a 24-hour kiosk on
Hayarkon Street near the Tel Aviv Port, cashier Uri Shamai said he was in favor
of shutting down all kiosks and grocery stores in the city on Shabbat, saying
that today it just doesn’t pay for small kiosks to stay open on that
Shamai reached below the counter and showed off a stack of NIS 730
fines from the municipality for staying open on Shabbat. He said that with all
the large grocery stores that are open on Shabbat, fewer and fewer people go to
the small kiosks that are open on the day of rest, making it hardly worth
He added that his opinion has changed over the past 31 years working
at the store, adding, “Eventually, if you let the kiosks and the grocery stores
stay open, then why not the malls? The shuk? Will it eventually still be
Shabbat?” Around the corner, Yossi, the manager of a 24/7 Super Baba on
Ben-Yehuda Street, said that in theory, he supports closing on Shabbat – but
only if all of the other stores were required to stay closed as well and real
enforcement is carried out.
“In the meantime you can’t do it. Why should
I close on Shabbat if the guy across the street won’t? It’s a competition.”