The Tel Aviv Municipal Court has given stores that are flagrantly violating the law by operating on Shabbos and have been doing so for years to continue for another two months to afford them sufficient time for compliance.
Judge Aviyam Barkai rejected a petition to close the Tiv Taam, AM-PM, Dor Alon, Super Yuda and other stores because, as he said, “filing a petition on Tuesday and serving a closure order on a business on Thursday is unacceptable.”
“The Supreme Court said that if there is a law, it must be enforced, that is to take it to court, and you did. I’m asking why I have to issue an order to close the stores,” he said.
The High Court had made its ruling on a case brought by a small business union, which argued that the practice gives big chains an unfair advantage, and the court ruled that Tel Aviv was not properly enforcing its laws.
In a ruling several months ago, the District Court barred the Tel Aviv Municipality from merely fining supermarkets that opened on Shabbos — fines the big businesses easily absorb — and required it to close them down. Following the ruling, the municipality sought to amend the municipal bylaws to allow the opening of supermarkets on Shabbos.
Last week, the Tel Aviv city council sanctioned the opening of 165 supermarkets and kiosks in predominantly secular neighborhoods, while keeping stores closed in the religious ones and near synagogues.
This was in defiance of a decision by Interior Minister Gideon Saar in June which restricted Shabbos openings chiefly to commercial zones in Tel Aviv Port and Jaffa Port.
Small grocery store owners have filed a court petition charging contempt of court by the municipality.
In a statement released by them at the end of last week, they accused the Tel Aviv city council of a “public relations gimmick designed only to buy time while it tramples on the ruling of the High Court,” in order to favor the tycoons and corporations.
The small businesses further declared that they would send out their own inspectors to replace those of the municipality, to see to it that the High Court ruling and the Interior Minister’s directive are obeyed.
The city council’s latest scheme will also be subject to review by the Interior Minister, within 60 days. As a result, his decision is expected before the next court date, which the judge set for November 6th.