Law Allowing Tel Aviv Business to Open on Shabbat Languishes Month After Landmark Court Ruling

Justice Ministry hasn't put law into effect, with a source saying the bylaw's publication was taking much longer than others

A woman rides past AM:PM, a 24-hour supermarket in Tel Aviv.
AP

More than a month has passed since the High Court of Justice approved a Tel Aviv municipal bylaw that permits the opening of businesses in Tel Aviv on the Sabbath, but the Ministry of Justice has not yet put it into effect by publishing it in the state’s official gazette.

The municipality submitted the bylaw for publication the day after the court rendered its decision. At first, the Justice Ministry contacted the municipality, informing it that the Interior Ministry was refusing to approve the bylaw’s publication, but the municipality clarified that there was no need to consult the Interior Ministry since the court had ordered the publication of the bylaw.

The Justice Ministry then issued some technical comments about the bylaw and the municipality made some slight amendments. A source at the municipality said the publication of this bylaw was taking much longer than others. Justice Ministry officials said they were preparing it for publication and that there was no intention of holding up its going into effect, pending another court decision on whether to review the case with a larger complement of justices.

Three weeks ago the Association of Merchants and Self-Employed Businesses asked the High Court to hold another session with a larger group of justices to discuss the opening of businesses in Tel Aviv on Saturdays. “The meaning of the ruling is the shattering of the principle of a weekly day of rest, which is an incontrovertible, universal social-economic value, meant to afford protection for weaker segments of society,” wrote attorneys David Shub, Ivri Feingold and Uriel Bony. They added that this ruling changes “the order of the world” and contradicts earlier court rulings.

Interior Minister Arye Dery has asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to request an additional High Court hearing. As far as is known, the state will be supporting the merchants’ request. Dery said after the ruling that he would strike down the bylaw. He signed the order but did not publish it before the court ruling was published. He said that “this significant issue should be decided on its own merits and not on a technicality.”

A protest in Tel Aviv against the lack of public transport on the Jewish Sabbath, September 3, 2016. The main placard says, "Waiting for a bus for Shabbat."
David Bachar

On April 19 the High Court of Justice approved the municipal bylaw that permits the opening of 160 supermarkets and fast-food outlets on Shabbat, as well as 80 other businesses, within three commercial areas in Tel Aviv – at Jaffa Port, HaTachana shopping area near the old railway station and Tel Aviv Port.

The court’s president Justice Miriam Naor, along with Justices Esther Hayut and Dafna Barak-Erez, determined unanimously that the bylaw was reasonable. They criticized the government’s foot-dragging, as evidenced in its refraining from making a decision on the bylaw for two and a half years.