Interior minister puts the brakes on Tel Aviv Shabbat store openings

Gideon Sa'ar strikes down amendment to municipal by-law for markets to stay open; three commercial zones in city allowed to remain open.

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar. (photo credit: Aloni Mor/Sof Hashavua)
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar.
(photo credit: Aloni Mor/Sof Hashavua)
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Sunday disqualified a Tel Aviv Municipality amendment to a municipal bylaw that would have allowed hundreds of neighborhood markets and kiosks to operate on Shabbat throughout the city.
But Sa’ar approved the part of the proposed bylaw that allows for the opening of businesses in three commercial zones in the city: Tel Aviv Port, Jaffa Port and Hatahana D – the New Station compound. The interior minister approved the amendment allowing for the opening of convenience stores attached to gas stations.
He released a statement Sunday saying the disqualified law “harmed the values of the Sabbath disproportionately, and unreasonably contravened the rule prohibiting commerce on the Sabbath.”
The Likud minister wrote Sunday that before the passage of the impugned law, the Tel Aviv Municipality gave small fines to businesses that opened on the Sabbath. He said this practice of giving fines allowed establishments who could afford to pay them to stay in business.
In June 2013 the High Court of Justice severely criticized the municipality for failing to enforce the municipal ordinance that prohibits commercial activity on Shabbat.
Following Sa’ar’s decision, MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said it would negatively impact the city’s urban fabric.
“The issue of secularism aside, Sa’ar’s decision to allow Shabbat openings in the three commercial zones and not in the markets in the center of the city harms the urban character,” she tweeted.
Mickey Gitzin, a Tel Aviv municipal council representative (Meretz) came out against the decision.
“Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a free city and we need to keep it that way. But beyond this issue of freedom, the decision to send city residents to do their shopping on the weekends in the commercial zones is bad for the urban fabric and for the character of the city,” he said.