Secular Mayors Slam Interior Ministry for Canceling Shabbos Store Opening Bylaws

Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The mayors of Herzliya, Givatayim, Holon, Rishon Lezion and Modiin are threatening to sue the Interior Ministry in a High Court petition over the ongoing refusal of the Ministry to authorize the opening of businesses on Shabbos.

A report on Reshet Bet said that in recent weeks all five cities have presented requests to Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri requesting that he approve the openings – and that he has refused each one.

The recently passed Supermarkets Law gives Rabbi Deri the right to do that. Under the law, Rabbi Deri must approve the opening of stores on Shabbos, and permits are to be given only to stores that are required for the benefit of residents, such as pharmacies and supermarkets.

In practice, the Ministry has yet to approve any openings. In response, the cities legislated bylaws to bypass the Supermarkets Law, and the Ministry responded by canceling the bylaws – also within the power of the Interior Minister, as prescribed by the Supermarkets Law.

That has raised the specter of “religious coercion” as the reason attributed to Rabbi Deri’s refusal to approve the openings. Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid said that Rabbi Deri’s actions “will not pass quietly. Deri will not tell us how to live, where to shop, and what to do on Shabbos. Like with other laws, such as the draft, core curriculum, and the transfer of huge sums to yeshivos, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to surrender to the chareidim.”

Zionist Camp head Avi Gabay chimed in as well, saying that “the mask is off, the main purpose of the Supermarkets Law is to prevent the public from living life as it sees fit. This all stems from the cheap and cynical politics of the government, which acts only to preserve itself. We will replace you and fix everything you have ruined over the past decade.”

In his own comments, Rabbi Deri said that his refusal to sign off on store openings had nothing to do with religion, but with the tenets of the law. Commenting on the law passed by Modiin, whose mayor, Chaim Bivas, is also head of the Local Authority, representing hundreds of cities and towns, Rabbi Deri said that the bypass measures were legislated “in a very amateur manner. The bypass measure passed in Modiin sought to allow the opening of all stores without limitation – clothing stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, appliance stores, furniture stores and more. The process shows a lack of professionalism, and disrespect for the Supermarkets Law.

“The accusation by Bivas and others of his ilk that we are doing this just to get votes is a good example of hypocrisy. With this move, Bivas himself is seeking to advance his election campaign with a cheap, populistic, and inaccurate campaign that seeks to obstruct a legitimate law,” Rabbi Deri added.

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