United Torah Jewry on Sunday demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “immediately call to order” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman after the “hurtful and shameful” display he put on in Ashdod on Shabbos. “Something new has happened here – in which a senior member of the government has chosen to deliberately put on a display that was intentionally designed to hurt the feelings of Shabbos observers, accompanied by government officials, using official government vehicles, and speaking out against the kedushah of Shabbos, which is dear to many people in this country.”
On a visit to Ashdod on Shabbos, Liberman protested along with secular residents the enforcement by the Ashdod municipality of laws requiring businesses to shutter on Shabbos. On his visit to the city, Liberman said that “anyone who says that the Supermarkets Law will not have an impact on society is misleading you. We can see the influence of the law in Ashdod. Until recently there was harmony in Ashdod” because the municipality allowed businesses outside the city center to operate on Shabbos, but because the city is now enforcing laws requiring businesses to close on Shabbos throughout the city, “the harmony in Ashdod has been violated. I hope we do not see this in other cities.”
The visit by Liberman was a predecessor to a major demonstration later in the day and Motzoei Shabbos, in which thousands of Ashdod residents demanded that the city lay off of businesses that open on Shabbos. The fact that Liberman used official government facilities to carry out his visit was bad enough, UTJ said in its statement, but in this case he was also deliberately inciting groups in order to advance his political positions.
“Liberman knows that the Supermarkets Law was meant simply to preserve the status quo on religious issues, but he chose to incite tension between different parts of the population and to harm Shabbos,” the UTJ statement said.