The Tel Aviv municipality has declared its intention to legalize the operation of hundreds of businesses on Shabbos.
The decision to change the local regulations comes eight months after the High Court ordered the city to either enforce its bylaws or amend them. That ruling was in response to a petition from small businesses who sought enforcement of the bylaws in the case of the AM:PM chain and Tiv Taam, which were open on Shabbos in violation of the law.
United Torah Judaism chairman MK Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Mozes denounced the decision and blamed the current Knesset:
“The conduct of the central government is influencing the local government to make disgraceful decisions such as these, which have no precedent since the establishment of the state.”
Rabbi Mozes noted that he has in his possession a letter from David Ben-Gurion to Harav Yitzchak Meir Levin, zt”l, which illustrates the difference between the leaders of that time and the present. In the letter, Ben Gurion states that the Jewish character of the state must stands on three pillars: “prevention of public transportation on Shabbos, safeguarding of the Jewish family and kosher food in the army and government offices.”
The news from Tel Aviv comes at a time, Rabbi Mozes also observed, when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is in Washington telling President Barack Obama that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He called on Netanyahu and his government to themselves act in accordance with such recognition.
The proposed amendment would officially permit grocery stores and kiosks to open on Shabbos, though it would impose limits on how many can open on each street.
In addition, any type of business will be able to open on Shabbos in three specified locations: Tel Aviv Port, Jaffa Port and Hatachana D — the New Station compound.
Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir said that the amendment would essentially legalize the status quo in Tel Aviv. The city, he said, surveyed every street to find out how many businesses are open on Shabbos and found about 300. This number will remain about the same under the new bylaw, he said.
The bylaw was approved by the city’s executive on Monday and will be brought to the city council for approval at its next meeting.
The old bylaw allowed cafes to open on Shabbos and festivals, but not bars or ice-cream shops. The new bylaw cancels this restriction. It also cancels the limits on operating hours imposed by the old law; businesses can now stay open from 10 a.m. until whenever they please. The only exception is Yom Kippur, when commercial activity will still be prohibited.