Israel's Shabbat wars come to gardening nurseries

Nursery owners and MK Yellin argue that nurseries have been open on Shabbat for many years without state interference and that possibility of being fined is unjust.

February 4, 2016 18:32
1 minute read.
Cactus plants

Cactus plants at Regev Gardens.. (photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)


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The Shabbat wars continue to find new battle grounds, with Yesh Atid MK Haim Jelin protesting on Thursday against the Economy Ministry fining gardening nurseries that open on the Sabbath.

In recent weeks, several dozen nurseries around the country have received warning notices informing them that they will be heavily fined if they continue to open on Shabbat.

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The owners argue that some 30 percent of their income is derived from Shabbat trade when many people have the time to visit and buy what they need, and that closing would cause them significant financial damage.

The warnings from the ministry stated that if the nurseries continued they would be subject to fines of several hundred thousand shekels.

The Hours of Work and Rest Law prohibits forcing someone to work on Shabbat, while most municipal jurisdictions prohibit commercial activity, but permit businesses providing leisure and entertainment to operate.

Nursery owners and Jelin argue, however, that nurseries have been open on Shabbat for many years without state interference and the possibility of being fined is unjust.

“Shabbat and actualizing the values inherent in it is one of the most important and complicated issues in the Jewish and democratic state,” Jelin said. “All citizens should be allowed to implement the values of Shabbat in their own way and in accordance with his own beliefs.

The uniqueness of Shabbat as the state-mandated day of rest should be preserved, but nonetheless allow activity that provides the needs of all Israeli citizens.”

The MK said that such issues should be resolved through discussion and called for an emergency debate on the issue in Knesset.

The ministry said in response that the law was “designed to protect workers and allow them a day of rest every week when they are have no obligations to their employees.”

The ministry said that it did not prevent opening a business on Shabbat but rather prohibited employing workers on their day of rest, “Jews on Shabbat and non-Jews in accordance with their faith,” and that nurseries could employ non-Jews if they so wished.

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