Tel Aviv Shops Open on Shabbat, for Now

The Tel Aviv municipality had asked the court on Wednesday to order 21 convenience stores that were open on Saturdays - in violation of municipal bylaws - to close.

Ofer Vaknin

Convenience stores in Tel Aviv will remain open, at least this weekend, after a municipal court yesterday denied the city’s request to close several chain stores on Saturdays in the meantime.

Judge Aviyam Barkai scheduled the next court session on the issue for November. However, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar may issue a decision regarding the stores’ operating on weekends before then.

The Tel Aviv municipality had asked the court on Wednesday to order 21 convenience stores that were open on Saturdays – in violation of municipal bylaws – to close. The stores include the chains AM:PM, Tiv Ta’am, Super Yuda, Drugstore Food, Dor Alon and others.

“The Sabbath isn’t the only factor to determine whether or not to close a business, and a judge is authorized to consider not only the opening on Saturday but beyond that,” Judge Barkai said.

Hundreds of convenience stores and kiosks have been operating in the city on weekends for many years. However, at the end of June, Sa’ar refused to approve a bylaw enabling Tel Aviv convenience stores to remain open on weekends.

The municipality subsequently drafted a new bylaw that Sa’ar is due to approve or reject within 60 days.

Under the new law, 164 supermarkets and kiosks – less than a third of the businesses currently open on weekends in the city – would operate on Saturdays, grouped by area.

Last week, a group of small-business owners and supermarket chains filed a complaint in the Tel Aviv District Court. They asked the court to hold the municipality in contempt for violating previous court rulings to enforce the laws that prohibit businesses operating on Saturdays. They said the municipality has disregarded the court rulings and failed to issue fines during Israel’s conflict in Gaza.

Consequently, the city last week issued 730-shekel ($210) fines to stores that were open on weekends, after refraining to do so for several weeks.