Tel Aviv Grocery Store Owners: Court Plans ‘Party’ Over Shabbos Bylaw Decision

An AM:PM convenience store in Tel Aviv. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

The High Court is set to give its decision Thursday on a lawsuit over the legality of municipal rules banning the operation of businesses on Shabbos – but the chief plaintiffs in the case, a coalition of Tel Aviv shopkeepers seeking to force the city to enforce the municipal bylaws against operating businesses on Shabbos, are withdrawing from the lawsuit, a report in Yisrael Hayom said Wednesday. “We hereby proclaim, before the judgment is rendered, that we already know how the court is going to rule, after it did everything it could to ruin our chances for a fair trial. We will not be part of a show orchestrated to glorify the Chief Justice’s last day on the bench.”

The lawsuit, against the Tel Aviv Municipality and Mayor Ron Huldai, was brought in 2014 by the Tel Aviv Grocery Store Association, and demands that the city enforce bylaws against operation of businesses on Shabbos, which the city had stopped doing. The lawsuit names specific chains, such as the AM:PM supermarket chain, as violating laws that ban businesses from operating inside cities on Shabbos. The plaintiffs claimed that the lack of enforcement by the city harms them because it gives those who remain open on Shabbos a business advantage that those who follow the law do not have. The city seeks to strike down the laws, claiming that it violates Basic Laws on doing business. Most of the members of the Association are in fact not observant, but do not want to work on Shabbos.

While the decision is still under wraps, there is growing suspicion in the religious community that the court is set to rule in favor of striking down the laws requiring businesses to be closed on Shabbos, arguing that the concept of Shabbos as a day of rest applies only to Jews – and if non-Jews operate a business, it would not be in violation of the law. Thursday is the last day of Chief Justice Miriam Naor on the bench, and the feeling in the religious community – and among the business owners suing the city – is that the court timed its decision for that day in order to mark it with a “historic” decision.

That’s not justice, the business owners said – that’s a farce, and they refuse to be a part of it. “We have come to the sad conclusion that the court is not prepared to acknowledge our point of view, which represents the ‘little people,’ the independent business owner who is pitted against the large chains,” the plaintiffs told Yisrael Hayom. “We have asked our attorneys to cancel the lawsuit, but it may not be possible at this point, they tell us. In any event, we do not plan to be in court for the reading of this decision, which we already can guess in advance. The court arranged that the decision be read on this day as a ‘goodbye party’ for the Chief Justice, and we do not plan to be a part of this ‘theater of Naor.’”