Tel Aviv allowing some stores to open on Shabbat

Tel Aviv will permit a limited number of grocery and convenience stores to stay open on the Sabbath and holidays.

The municipality’s city council approv-ed an amendment March 24 giving the stores the go-ahead, but the country’s Interior Ministry also must approve.

It is illegal in Israel to open retail businesses on Shabbat, from sundown on Friday until after sunset on Saturday.

“We mustn’t turn this issue into a religious war,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said during council debate on the issue, according to reports.

“The principle that led to this bill is keeping the Tel Aviv spirit, one that cares for the Shabbat as the day of rest, as a social value in the Jewish state,” Huldai said, “and also allows for the provision of services and the freedom for everyone to use this day of rest as they wish.”

Haredi Orthodox council member Rabbi Naftali Lubert said the vote was “a black day,” Ynet reported, and called those who voted for the amendment “traitors.”

Last June, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Tel Aviv–Jaffa municipality to enforce a bylaw that bans its businesses from opening on Saturday. But the court also said the city could change the bylaw.

The owners of small shops claimed they were losing customers to chain stores that could afford to absorb the modest fines levied for remaining open on Saturday. — jta