‘Part of the Tel Aviv experience’

The city’s fight against Gideon Sa’ar’s decision to close stores on Shabbat has just begun.

Tiv Ta’am. (photo credit: SHULY WASSERSTROM)
Tiv Ta’am.
(photo credit: SHULY WASSERSTROM)
“We aren’t open on Shabbat for the money. We are part of the Tel Aviv experience and are open to serve the residents.
“For over 20 years we’ve been playing this little game with the municipality. This time, we may actually have to fight. It really just depends on what they decide to do,” he explains.
Although no fines were handed out this week, he thinks this is only due to the security situation. The weekend before, he received his NIS 730 fine and, as usual, paid it. When the situation calms down, he says, the fight will start up again – and he may be forced to close until a final decision is made.
Employees at the supermarket report different feelings.
Some said they would be happy to not work on Shabbat, while others say they are students and need to work on the weekends.
Cohen says some of his employees will be disappointed if they do close down on Shabbat. “Look, sure I have employees who will be happy, but we don’t force anyone to work on Shabbat anyway. We have employees who are studying during the week, though, and prefer taking shifts on Shabbat.”
At AM:PM on King George Street, the employees are much more tight-lipped. A cashier says that either way she will still work there, and while it is unfortunate for residents, she has no personal feelings on the matter.
While Sa’ar and other supporters of the measure say the move is also to help small businesses, Tommy, the manager of Shalom Kiosk on Ibn Gvirol Street, says his small business closes on Shabbat by choice. “Even before all these laws existed, we closed. We close by choice; if we wanted to be open, we would.
“I know some smaller businesses feel it’s unfair that they are open and we aren’t, but here we don’t mind.”
On the other hand, Tel Aviv residents of all ages and nationalities believe that keeping businesses open on Shabbat is a part of the charm of Tel Aviv, helping it maintain its reputation as the city that never sleeps.
“We want to be able to shop in Tel Aviv without having religious orders above us,” says 26-year-old Ma’ayan, a customer in line at Tiv Ta’am on the corner of Ben-Gurion and Ben-Yehuda streets.
Gila Almagor, an accomplished actress who is considered one of Israel’s all-time cultural icons, told Army Radio last month that closing businesses on Shabbat means that “Iran is here,” comparing the new policies to that of the Islamic Republic and its strict religious rule.
“This is a city of freedom, and it’s fun being here,” Almagor said of Tel Aviv.
On Facebook, a campaign on the website Atzuma, a public forum on which campaigns can be spearheaded by citizens, is being shared in an attempt to stop the order by Sa’ar. With almost 15,000 signatures, the petition is titled “We support Tel Avivim against the decision of Gideon Sa’ar to close the city on Shabbat.”
The description reads, “We won’t allow Tel Aviv, the bastion of secularism, to become Bnei Brak or Mea She’arim.”
A Facebook page linked to the campaign is titled in Hebrew, “Tel Aviv doesn’t observe Shabbat,” and has over 25,000 “likes.” Like many 2014 viral campaigns, the campaign is calling for citizens to upload photos of themselves on social media holding signs that read “Open on Shabbat.”
For now, however, as tension builds due to the violence coming from Gaza and Operation Protective Edge, it seems the city’s own “war” has been put on hold.