Report: Tel Aviv Shabbos Business Permit Program a Bust

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

After many protests and an appeal to the High Court, the city fathers of Tel Aviv finally got their way, with the court authorizing the city’s ordinance that stores could operate on Shabbos. The city is authorized to distribute 164 operating licenses, with all other stores required to close. That in itself would be an improvement, observers say, as there are currently over 300 businesses operating in the city on Shabbos today.

But a report in Yediot Acharonot said that it seemed that Tel Aviv storeowners weren’t that interested in opening on Shabbos – as only 88 businesses had applied for the waivers. That figure was correct as of last Friday, but the city said that it would take further applications only until the beginning of next week.

The city ordinance allowing grocery stores, candy shops, newspaper stands, and the like to operate on Shabbos was authorized by the city council in 2014. The law was changed after numerous legal challenges, and in a recent decision, the High Court authorized the latest version of the law.

It’s not clear why the businesses that are currently operating on Shabbos have not all filed for a permit. Many of them appear to be in Jaffa, and are owned by Arabs; it is not clear if the city will enforce the law against them. However, it did say that it would enforce the law in the rest of the city.

According to the report, the majority of businesses that have asked for a permit are in the older areas of north Tel Aviv, in the area of City Hall and northwards, and in the beach and hotel area around Hayarkon Street. The measure does not apply to restaurants and places of entertainment, and it also does not apply to the Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv Port and Sarona Market areas; those areas have their own permit system, the report said.