Vote on controversial Shabbat bill postponed

December 21, 2015 17:36
2 minute read.
Jerusalem store

A convenience store in Jerusalem that is open on Shabbat. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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MK Miki Zohar agreed to freeze his legislation making opening businesses on the Sabbath carry a heavy fine or possibly a prison sentence, following disagreements with Kulanu.

“Because of our fertile and cooperative work with our coalition partner Kulanu, I agreed to postpone the preliminary vote on my bill by two weeks,” Zohar (Likud) announced on Monday.

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During those two weeks, Zohar plans to work with MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) to reach a compromise version, that will be “right and fair to the entire public,” he said.

Zohar’s “weekly day of rest bill” states that no business – excluding restaurants, bars and similar public entertainment places, gas stations and pharmacies – may be open on a day of rest – Saturday for Jews, other days for other religions – unless it received specific permission from the economy minister. The minister may authorize businesses to open on Saturdays if it is a matter of national security, bodily or property security, the economy or supplying services the minister determines are necessary for part or all of the public.

Breaking the law could carry a penalty of up to a year in prison or a fine of at least NIS 4,000 for every time the law is violated.

Several opposition MKs came out against the bill on Monday.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid called the bill an example of extremism.


“Judaism doesn’t have to be enforced, certainly not by draconian laws. For thousands of years Judaism existed without being legislated by the Knesset. Shabbat protected the Jewish People and the Jewish People kept Shabbat long before this despicable law reached the Knesset,” he said.

According to Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, the bill “symbolizes that the Likud is a clerical party with no connection to the Revisionist ideology. [Zohar] should read [Likud ideological forebear Ze’ev] Jabotinsky.

This explains why we’re not in the coalition.”

Zionist Union faction chairwoman Merav Michaeli said that the bill is “religious coercion in the guise of a social policy.

“There is a big difference between legislation out of concern for workers, and legislating Jewish law,” she added.

Mickey Gitzin, director-general of the religious freedom NGO Be Free Israel, praised the decision to freeze the vote.

“I hope this bill will finally be taken off the agenda because of a clear understanding that there are many different voices with different needs in the community and the state has to give a response to all of them,” Gitzin said.

“The matter of Shabbat must, in the end, be under local authorities’ control as much as possible, to allow every city to have local life that is considerate and suits the community and its residents.”

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