AM PM Supermarket.
(photo credit: PR)
Supermarkets in Tel Aviv will be able to remain open on Shabbat following Tel Aviv Municipal Court Judge Aviyam Barkai’s Tuesday decision.
The ruling was a highly technical one, due to the confusing procedural context in which Barkai denied the Tel Aviv Municipality’s requests to enforce its orders to close stores that were open on Shabbat even though it had previously passed an amendment to a local law that permits stores to remain open on the Jewish day of rest.
Former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, the ultimate authority over municipal matters, refused in June to approve the amendment, leaving the municipality with no choice but to penalize stores that operated on Shabbat and to request court approval to close them.
The court not only refused to so, but it also nullified Sa’ar’s decision, appearing to remove any further moves against the stores and barring an appeal to a higher court.
Sa’ar was supposed to address the amendment within 60 days, Barkai said, but merely refused to approve it instead of formally rejecting it, as required in a case of non-approval.
The ruling also declared that incoming interior minister Gilad Erdan will not have the right to hold up the amendment’s publication and its going into full effect.
Barkai said he understood that his decision impacted Tel Aviv’s character and the rest of the country in terms of the value it placed on Shabbat and the balance between religion and state.
Prior to the amendment, the High Court of Justice had ruled in 2013 that, because of the old law that stores cannot open on Shabbat, the municipality needed to enforce the closing of the large, popular supermarket chains Tiv Ta’am and AM:PM on Saturdays, noting that the fine of NIS 660 per week imposed on the businesses does not achieve the objective.
Secular owners of small grocery stores had requested the law to close stores on Shabbat to be enforced, saying they lost customers to the large chains, and were entitled to a day of rest observed by all without losing business.
An appeal to a higher court will likely not draw sympathy from it, as in 2013 the High Court of Justice suggested that the municipality should pass a law permitting stores to remain open on Shabbat.