A silent Tel Aviv city council listened to the impassioned speech of Agudas Yisrael representative Naftali Lumbert denouncing the proposal to legalize the opening of hundreds of businesses on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Tragically, his plea fell mostly on deaf ears, as the council voted to place its imprimatur on chillul Shabbos.
“This is a black day,” declared Lumbert, who broke down in tears during his speech, in which he stressed that for all its history, over a century, Tel Aviv has officially respected Shabbos, and that they are voting down the sacred tradition for which Jews have sacrificed down through the ages.
Nevertheless, the vote was 19 in favor, 6 opposing, 4 abstaining and 2 absent.
The law grants about 300 grocery stores and kiosks permission to remain open on Shabbos. However, the amendment must still be approved by the Interior Ministry.
The decision came in response to High Court ruling last June, which ordered the city to either enforce the existing ban on opening businesses on Shabbos, or to pass a new law.
Supporters of the bill point to the fact that it limits business openings to certain parts of the city where the law has often gone unenforced, while keeping the ban in the Shabbos-observant neighborhoods.
In a letter last week to Mayor Ron Huldai, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau implored him to withdraw the proposal, arguing that it will not be limited, but will lead the general destruction of Shabbos in Israel’s largest city. It was, Rabbi Lau noted, the first time in his many years serving in Tel Aviv that he had ever made a personal request of the mayor, describing it as “a cry from the heart.”