Legislation aimed at reining in the proliferation of chillul Shabbos around the country passed an important hurdle on Sunday afternoon as the Knesset Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the Weekly Day of Rest bill.
Business owners who open on Shabbos without permission from the Economy Minister will be subject to up to a year in prison or a fine of at least NIS 4,000 for each time the law is violated.
Besides prohibiting businesses from operating on Shabbos, the new law bans contracts dependent on someone working on a Shabbos, and cannot demand the other side pay damages for not working on Shabbos.
“This is an impressive achievement and a historic one for the state of Israel, and to help the public and for anyone who wants to rest and spend time with his family during the weekly day of rest of Israel– which is Shabbos,” declared the bill’s author, Likud MK Mickey Zohar.
“I intend to sit down and discuss the law with the relevant bodies, businesses, organizations and all those who fear that the law will hurt them, in order to reach a true and fair [understanding of the] law [with] the general public,” he added.
The Israeli Merchants’ Association welcomed the news. “This is an important first step to saving tens of thousands of small businesses from economic collapse,” it said, referring to pressure from competition from retail chains that flaunt the law, hiring people to work on Shabbos while absorbing relatively small fines.
The new bill will go to a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Wednesday, and opposition has already arisen from the Yesh Atid and Kulanu parties.
MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) claimed that the bill is “draconian and violates the status quo…”, though the bill is designed to preserve what remains of the status quo, which has been weakened in recent years by well-financed scofflaws.