All businesses that are currently open in Ashdod on Shabbos must be closed down, an Ashdod court ruled Monday, in a decision that puts the burden on the municipality to enforce its own laws – or change the law. In its decision, the court said that the city’s current attempts to close only some businesses while leaving others alone was discriminatory and that it needed to enforce the law on an equal basis.
The roots of the issue go to a petition by local residents demanding that the city enforce municipal by-laws that require businesses to close on Shabbos. The law applies to any store or business that does commerce, including grocery stores and supermarkets, within the city limits, but does not apply to restaurants, theaters and the like. The municipality in a previous hearing had agreed that it was responsible to enforce the law, and said that it would do so.
However, it said that the closures could only be carried out “in stages” – with enforcement to be applied only to businesses with a sales area of 120 meters or more. This, of course, angered the larger businesses, which claimed they were being discriminated against – especially since even larger businesses were operating without interference in a large shopping center beyond the city limits.
In response, the court said that the city had no right to discriminate against businesses on the basis of size. In a ruling on the petition by five of the larger businesses, the court said that the city needed to enforce the law equally – or strike it from the books, a move considered unlikely, given Ashdod’s significant religious and chareidi population. The city was ordered to pay NIS 100,000 in court costs, which will be split among the five businesses.
According to figures presented in court by the city, about 100 businesses altogether are open, lo aleinu, on Shabbos in Ashdod.