HIS FRIENDS and colleagues, along with customers who shop on Friday nights or during the day on Saturday, are waiting to see whether international tycoon David Wiessman will back down in the face of a boycott by the haredi Committee for the Sanctity of the Sabbath, and close all the stores in his AM:PM chain of supermarkets on the Shabbat. If it was just the 24/7 AM:PM chain that would suffer from the boycott, Wiessman might be tempted to dig in his heels against haredi coercion. But the boycott, as announced in the haredi media, would extend to all his business interests, such as Dor Alon petrol stations, and Blue Square, Mega, Mega Ba'Ir and Shefa Shuk supermarkets. The latter enterprise caters to the haredi community, and a protracted boycott could be disastrous. The committee is particularly outraged that one of the AM:PM stores is located near several religious institutions in Tel Aviv, and made its displeasure known to Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who has tried in somewhat gentler tones to persuade Wiessman to close on Shabbat, saying that if he remains open, it will lead to wide scale desecration of the Sabbath by other enterprises. Wiessman and his representatives have proposed gradual closures rather than closing all 35 AM:PM stores in one fell swoop. This was unacceptable to the committee, which took the attitude that one can't be a little bit pregnant. Likewise desecration of the Sabbath by only one store in the chain is still desecration, and while there is desecration, the haredi community has been ordered to stay away from AM:PM, Shefa Shuk, Blue Square and Mega. This is particularly difficult for poorer haredim who have Pessah vouchers for purchases in Shefa Shuk. The Religious Kibbutz Movement has publicly dissociated itself from the boycott, saying it does not lead to increased Sabbath observance or contribute to any love for Jewish law. "The boycott system used by the haredi community is well known, and not a few people have been seriously hurt by it, including Rabbis Kook and Soloveitchik of blessed memory," said Nehemiah Rappel, secretary-general of the Religious Kibbutz Movement, who is concerned that the problem can only be aggravated by a boycott. If no solution presents itself before Pessah, a lot of poor haredim will be even poorer because they will be unable to use their vouchers. THE FINANCE Ministry and the Israel Broadcasting Authority have been at odds for years, because the ministry is unwilling to cover the IBA's deficits. If the Treasury had its way, the IBA would probably close and there would be no public broadcasting in Israel unless the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which subsidizes multilingual international public broadcasting in the United States, came to the rescue. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who four years ago, under the Sharon government, was given responsibility for the Broadcasting Authority, has called a meeting next week between people in his office and those in the Treasury, including Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, to discuss the future of the IBA. It is known that Olmert has no desire to see the demise of the IBA, which is under threat of closure unless proposed reforms becomes a reality. Meanwhile, the IBA is marketing itself, not only through radio and television promos, but also via a conference scheduled for Thursday, April 10, at Beit Sokolov, the Journalist's House in Tel Aviv. Conference participants will examine the relevance of public radio today. Speakers will include radio and print media journalists, as well as executive members of the IBA board of management and plenum, and of course government minister Isaac Herzog, who is currently responsible for the IBA. AUSTRALIAN-HEADQUARTERED global investment group Babcock & Brown, which does not really require an introduction to the Israeli upscale business community, nonetheless decided to hold a reception at Hangar 14 at the old Tel Aviv Port to announce the opening of its Israel office. Babcock & Brown which has been operating in Israel for the best part of a year, has acquired Golden Pages and has let it be known that it is interested in bidding for other potential acquisitions such as a Negev power plant that relies on solar energy. It has also put out feelers in other directions. Phil Green, the company's CEO and a member of the tribe, came to Israel for the inauguration of the Israel office - but his arrival turned out to be somewhat premature, because construction is not yet completed. Nonetheless the reception went ahead as scheduled, as did Green's meetings with Israeli dignitaries. Heading Babcock & Brown's operations in Israel is Eyal Gabbai, a former director of the Government Companies Authority. PROMOTION IS the name of the game and Castro decided to launch its summer campaign by way of a party at Academia in Tel Aviv's Shalom Tower. The added attractions were the company's two presenters for the season, Jonathan Wagman, and Gal Gadot, a former Miss Israel who has landed a leading role in the fourth episode of the Fast and Furious series. It seems that Castro is a stepping stone to Hollywood. Sandy Bar, one of the company's former presenters, has also scored a couple of Hollywood successes, but she had to work a lot harder than Gadot. Apropos Sandy Bar - she is currently the presenter for the New Hamashbir, and came from Los Angeles for the photo shoot. While modeling items from the Keds collection, she hinted delicately that as someone who is fashion and sportswear oriented, she really loves the Keds merchandise. The production crew for the New Hamashbir got the message and filled a suitcase full of Keds items in Bar's size, and dispatched it to New York. Nice work if you can get it. THE STRAUSS Group will be able to market more of its own products after completing its acquisition of the Elite Coffee to Go chain of coffee shops. The number of Elite Coffee shops and free standing coffee bars has grown to encompass 75 sales points around the country - and is still developing. Created by joint managers Roni Rosenblum and Ilana Badash-Weiss, who recently expressed a desire to sell, the coffee shops, which are now fully owned by the Strauss Group, still have unfulfilled potential that will be exercised in the not-too-distant future. The new manager of Elite Coffee to Go is Nadav Arens. PRICES FOR household goods always become more attractive in the weeks that immediately precede Pessah. Just in case the bargain prices are not a sufficient incentive when threats of recession are around the corner, Home Center has introduced an additional bonus. Anyone who spends NIS 299 or more will be entitled to a voucher for an all-inclusive family vacation in Turkey for $299 per person, providing that at least four people are included in the deal. The campaign will remain in effect until April 30.