Jerusalem Grocers Face Charges for Opening Doors on Shabbat

'This is a blow to the pluralistic public that wants Shabbat, its day of rest, to suit its beliefs and needs,' lawyers say after municipality presses charges in local affairs court.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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An ultra-Orthodox Jew gestures during a protest against the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat in Jerusalem July 4, 2009.
An ultra-Orthodox Jew gestures during a protest against the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat in Jerusalem July 4, 2009.Credit: Reuters
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The Jerusalem municipality indicted eight grocery store owners on Monday for opening their businesses on Shabbat in violation of municipal bylaws.

The indictment, filed in the capital’s local affairs court, is in line with the municipality’s policy of preventing businesses from opening on Shabbat in the center of town, where all eight stores are located.

Attorney Yossi Havilio of the Tzahor organization, who is representing some of the grocers, lambasted the indictment.

“We’re arguing that beyond the harm to the grocers themselves, this is a blow to the pluralistic public that wants Shabbat, its day of rest, to suit its beliefs and needs,” he said.

“There’s no substantive justification for closing groceries in the center of the city, which isn’t an ultra-Orthodox or religious area.

“It’s clear the considerations behind this step were political, and its goal is to appease the ultra-Orthodox. Nir Barkat is once again betraying the public that elected him out of political considerations,” Havilio added, referring to Jerusalem’s mayor.

In August 2015, the municipality decided to enforce the bylaw that bars businesses from opening on Shabbat in the center of town. In other parts of town, the city allows restaurants and cafes to open on Shabbat.

But the groceries refused to comply with the bylaw, opting instead to fight the city’s decision.

Barkat’s office said its decision did not stem from political pressure, but from the legal problem posed by a High Court of Justice ruling in a case involving Tel Aviv groceries that opened on Shabbat in violation of municipal bylaws.

In that case, the court ruled that Tel Aviv could either enforce its bylaws or amend them, but could not simply keep allowing businesses to open in violation of the law.

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