TA Denies Refugee Request to Operate Store on Shabbat

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa city council on Sunday ruled against granting a permit to a Sudanese refugee seeking to operate a clothing store during Shabbat. Although city bylaws allow the council to grant such authorization, members present at the hearing said they ruled to withhold permission to avoid setting a precedent for other shopkeepers, and to preserve the city's "status quo."

The clothing store is located near the city's former central bus station in the Neve Sha'anan neighborhood, an area heavily populated and patronized by foreign workers and refugees.

City regulations allow businesses to operate on Shabbat in Jaffa - just a few minutes' drive from Neve Sha'anan.

In its ruling, the council noted that the bylaw is intended only for areas in which the majority of registered residents are not Jewish. While exceptions are made for Arab-owned businesses in Jaffa, it seems different rules apply to areas populated by non-Jewish temporary residents or refugees, some of them undocumented.

The plight of the store owner, Simon Duka, previously made headlines several months ago when the municipality fined him tens of thousands of shekels for opening his tiny store during Shabbat.

Weekend shopping represents the bulk of Duka's income, which he uses to raise his 9-year-old daughter from his former partner, an Israeli who has since relocated to England.

At Sunday's meeting, only two council members voted in favor of granting the permit. Councilman Arnon Giladi said such a move would harm the city's "status quo," and could lead to the kind of squabbling between city communities that is common in Jerusalem. "You can't just talk about this specific instance, because it will have broad implications for the entire city," he said.

In response to the ruling, Duka told Haaretz, "All of my buyers are foreign workers who come during days off on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sunday they return to work and the street is empty."

Duka's attorneys said they plan to appeal the ruling.