Gafni: Enforcement of Shabbat closures to be heightened

MK Gafni said that the minimarkets bill will "[protect] the status quo and [advance] the issue of Sabbath observance."

Haredi man in Jerusalem  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Haredi man in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni has hinted that enforcement of laws prohibiting shops and businesses from opening on Shabbat will soon be stepped up following passage of the Haredi-backed “mini-markets bill.”
In audio footage obtained by the Kikar Hashabbat Haredi news website, Gafni is heard speaking last Saturday night at a convention of United Hatzalah about the strides the Haredi parties were making in not only reinforcing the status quo on religion and state, but changing it in accordance with Haredi values.
“There was an agreement with the prime minister, and this is what is supposed to happen now. There is a problem with the enforcement of the law, and the agreement was that since in the Interior Ministry there are hundreds, if not more, of inspectors who deal with illegal infiltrators, and they are not Jewish,” said Gafni, somewhat obliquely.
“I request that this not be [mentioned] outside of here... It could do damage, and all of a sudden they’ll use this. [But] it doesn’t matter – the issue of enforcement is going into effect in two months, and this path is positive and essential, and if this whole system finishes, we are not only protecting the status quo, we are also advancing on the issue of Sabbath observance.”
Gafni seemed to be referring to the fact that although many cities have municipal laws prohibiting businesses such as mini-markets from opening on Shabbat, in some cities, many nevertheless do business on Shabbat, and municipal authorities do not fine such stores or otherwise enforce the law.
The UTJ MK’s reference to Interior Ministry inspectors would appear to suggest that they will be employed in identifying businesses that do indeed open, and will fine them.
The mini-markets law, passed last week, stipulates that the interior minister be empowered to reject any bylaw passed by a municipal council allowing businesses to open on Shabbat.
The current interior minister is Shas chairman Arye Deri, who says he will not authorize any such bylaws. But during his speech on Saturday night, Gafni said that even if a secular interior minister were to be appointed, he would not be able to authorize such bylaws.
The MK said that certain “restrictions” had been worked into the legislation, including a need to demonstrate a need to open such businesses on Shabbat.
“I’m not going to go into details, but technically speaking, if there will be a secular interior minister, he will not be able to approve or reject the bylaw at the stroke of a pen.”
Gafni’s comments garnered angry protests from other lawmakers, with Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer saying the Haredi parties were mistaken if they thought the status quo on such issues would be changed.
“The status quo won’t be changed by even a millimeter,” he said. “Yisrael Beytenu will stand strong on this issue and we won’t allow Gafni to implement his plans.”
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern said that although he had no expectations from the Haredi MK other than to advance a Haredi agenda, he did expect the Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties, and the prime minister, to block such efforts.