Man shopping in supermarket 300.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the Tel Aviv Municipality must impose
stronger penalties on businesses that operate on Shabbat, which will allow
secular owners of small shops to take the day off.
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 times.
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
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
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 municipality has 60 days to decide how to enforce
The Supreme Court on Tuesday 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 large
stores’ operations in February 2012.
The petitioners argue 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.
The municipality responded on Tuesday,
saying that “Tel Aviv-Jaffa will continue to be a free city. We will study the
court ruling and find a solution that will balance the Shabbat rest and the
freedom that the city has allowed until now.”
MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit
Yehudi), chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, praised the court’s ruling
for “strengthening the foundational value of keeping Shabbat, a value that has
accompanied the Jewish people from the dawn of its
Enforcement of the law will allow religious shop owners to
compete more fairly with their secular counterparts, he said.
Hotovely (Likud) expressed similar sentiments.
“The State of Israel is a
Jewish state and it’s impossible to have a situation in which the free market
tramples the livelihood of those who observe Shabbat,” she said.
Toporovsky (Yesh Atid) disagreed with the ruling on the basis that Tel Aviv is a
liberal city, and therefore shop owners should be allowed to keep their stores
open at any hour on any day.
However, he said he understood the ruling
because under the present circumstances small business owners are
“I call on the Tel Aviv Municipality to stop avoiding truly
addressing the issue of opening businesses on Shabbat,” said Toporovsky. “The
Yesh Atid party supports small businesses, freedom from religion and freedom for
religion, and therefore I think it’s possible to open businesses on Shabbat in
secular areas.”Ben Hartman and Rachel Marder contributed to this report.