After Blow in Tel Aviv, Haredim Draft Bill to Foil Shabbat Commerce

Bill follows High Court affirmation of Tel Aviv bylaw permitting a certain number of businesses to operate on Shabbat

Moti Milrod

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties have drafted a bill aimed at preventing local authorities from allowing businesses to open on Shabbat.

The bill, which endeavors to prevent other Israeli cities from adopting bylaws similar to those in Tel Aviv, says that any city bylaw regarding the opening of shops and other types of institutions on Shabbat must have the interior minister’s approval.

The bill was signed by all United Torah Judaism and Shas MKs, and several from the religious Zionist Habayit Hayehudi party. To pass, it will need the support of the other coalition partners, including Yisrael Beiteinu, which favors Shabbat commerce.

The bill will be advanced in tandem with an Interior Ministry bill that seeks to grant the interior minister authority to annul city bylaws if they have national implications. Interior Minister Arye Dery also plans to present the cabinet with an initiative for boosting enforcement of the law governing work hours.

The bill says the High Court violated the status quo with its decision to permit convenience stores to open on Shabbat and that Shabbat commerce “lets the greedy tycoons get rich at the expense of the low-level workers.” The authors even quote David Ben-Gurion, Bialik and Ahad Ha’am regarding the benefits of resting on Shabbat.