Battle for Shabbos Spreads to Haifa

YERUSHALAYIM -

The religious community in Haifa is mobilizing to oppose plans of the “Big” shopping mall chain to extend its chilul Shabbos operations to the northern city.

The Haifa outlet is located in the Checkpoint, a major shopping area, where it threatens to generate chilul Shabbos on an unprecedented scale. Big’s decision to open on Shabbos in Haifa comes at a time when it is telling the public in Ashdod that it will be lowering its Shabbos profile there.

Since last Pesach, the company has defied protests against its decision to open the Big mall in Ashdod on Shabbos, which involves dozens of stores and thousands of shoppers from around the entire Ashdod region. A broad range of religious groups in Ashdod initiated a nationwide boycott of the chain, including a halachic ruling that anyone with funds invested in it must withdraw them.

Leaders of the campaign to halt the chillul Shabbos from Ashdod and Haifa met on Tuesday and made a joint decision to take immediate steps to counter Big’s plans to spread its chillul Shabbos to the north. To that end, a mass demonstration is being organized in Haifa for the coming days. They pledged to wage an uncompromising battle against the operation of businesses on Shabbos, “which deeply offends the sensitivites of the entire shomer Shabbos population of the city.”

The group sent the Big management a letter putting it on notice that the religious community “will not tolerate and will not consent to the continued descration of the holy Shabbos, and will declare war against the company that threatens that which it holds most precious.”

At the next meeting, representatives from the shemiras Shabbos committees of Yerushalyim, Beitar and Beit Shemesh are expected to participate, and to carry the outcry against the chilul Shabbos across the country.