Bill Seeks to Redefine Shabbos Status Quo

The Knesset building in Yerushalayim (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
The Knesset building in Yerushalayim. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A bill that, if passed, would bring about a major shift in the relationship of the State to Shabbos is set to be proposed this week by four MKs, from the coalition and the opposition. The law, which seeks to redefine the “status quo” on religious matters, would, on the one hand, require the closure of businesses in cities and in shopping centers – and in return allow the opening of restaurants, places of entertainment and museums on Shabbos, as well as allowing limited public transportation on Shabbos, chalilah.

The four sponsors of the bill are MKs Rachel Azarya (Kulanu), Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), MK Miki Zohar (Likud) and MK Manuel Tranchtenberg (Zionist Camp).

Under the law, the work week in Israel would be cut from 45 hours a week to 39. All cultural institutions, including theaters and museums, as well as restaurants, would be allowed to operate on Shabbos, including Friday night. Commerce would be allowed only in industrial zones (not in city centers), and stores with a permit to be open on Shabbos would be allowed to open only in the afternoon, which term is not defined in the law.

In addition, local neighborhood stores that sell food and other household items, as well as pharmacies, will be allowed to do business, with a special permit issued by the local authorities. The law would allow for the local authorities to issue licenses to individual businesses, that would open in turn on different weeks, thus ensuring a fair distribution of the business.

Local authorities will also be allowed to operate their own public transportation systems to bring residents to and from places of entertainment. Inter-city transportation to national parks, beaches and so forth would be included in this change as well.

The law also includes provisions to allow those who do not wish to handle money on Shabbos to pay in advance. Thus, a visitor to a museum could buy tickets in advance. Public transportation that operates on Shabbos would also not require cash payments; instead, riders could travel using a magnetic smartcard that would charge their accounts for the ride.

Chareidi and religious MKs have not yet responded to the proposal.