A Thousand Israelis Demonstrate Against Supermarket Bill for Third Week in a Row

Ashdod residents protest the closure of businesses on Shabbat, carrying signs the likes of 'Who will save my house' and 'It's time to wake up – freedom is crumbling'

Residents of Ashdod demonstrate outside city hall against the so-called supermarkets bill shuttering businesses on Shabbat, January 28 2018.
meged gozani

In the third week in a row of demonstrations against the so-called supermarket bill, around 1,000 residents of Ashdod congregated outside city hall Saturday evening to condemn the city's move to close businesses on Shabbat.

The bill was passed into law by the tiniest of margins two weeks ago and actively pushed by Interior Minister Arye Dery, head of the ultra-Orthodox (or Haredi) Shas party.

Protestors carried signs that read "Who will save my house" and "It's time to wake up – freedom is crumbling." The crowd also called on Mayor Yechiel Lasri to resign. Demonstrators as young as 14 showed up Saturday evening, including Eviatar from Ashdod, who told Haaretz: "I came to the first demonstration and I come every week, and it's important for me support secular businesses and promote secular life in the city.

"To see that we are the majority, that we want to preserve certain rights, such as the freedom to decide whether to open the store on Shabbat or not," he added.

For more than a year now, demonstrations have been held every Saturday night around Israel to protest government corruption. At the beginning of December, their location moved from Petah Tikva – a sprawling city situated in central Israel – to Tel Aviv, where the number of protesters has naturally grown.

Although smaller in scale, the Ashdod protests could prove more dangerous for Netanyahu: Unlike Tel Aviv, Ashdod is his base and has long been a right-wing stronghold. In the last national election, in 2015, right-wing parties won more than two-thirds of the vote here. Netanyahu’s Likud alone captured almost a third, followed by Yisrael Beiteinu – the party headed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that draws most of its support from Israel’s Russian-speaking population.