Shabbat stalemate: No deal on TA businesses

Gov't appointed committee failing to agree on policy outline for Tel Aviv businesses on Shabbat; issue may now go to Supreme Court.

Shai Landesman,

Tel Aviv supermarket
Tel Aviv supermarket
Flash 90

A committee of ministry officials appointed by the government to discuss the operation of businesses in Tel Aviv on Shabbat, and which is supposed to forward it's recommendations to the government in two weeks, seems to be in a state of deadlock. 

According to reports first published at Behadrei Haredim, no compromise seems forthcoming because committee members Orna Hozman-Bechor and Oded Plus, Director-Generals of the Interior and Religious Services Ministries respectively, are adamant about not allowing any businesses to be legally open on Shabbat, while other committee members are insisting on allowing at least some businesses to operate legally on Shabbat. 

Debates around this issue usually center around Tel Aviv mini-markets and grocery stores, which have generally been open on Shabbat in practice, though the legality of this practice is under dispute. Public transportation doesn't operate on Shabbat in most of Israel, and this has also been a hot topic, as many demand that at least limited public transportation should be made available. The committee of Director-Generals was appointed in an attempt to reach a resolution to these issues. 

Four main proposals have been brought before the committee:

  1. The Tel Aviv municipality's proposal to lower the number of businesses open on Shabbat from the current 280 to 160. A by-law legislating something similar has been proposed in the past, but was struck down by the Interior Minister Gideon Saar.

  2. Closing all businesses on Shabbat, with the exception of those operating in the areas already protected in by-laws: the old train station site, the Tel Aviv harbor and the Jaffa harbor.

 3. Adopting the Gabison-Madan contract (referring to a proposal by Professor Ruth Gabison and Rabbi Ya'akov Madan meant to set new rules for the relationship between state and religion in Israel), which would mean closing all stores, but opening all leisure and recreation establishments, and providing public transportation to these places.

 4. Lowering the number of open businesses to 80.

All of these proposals have been rejected by the aforementioned Director-Generals of the Interior and Religious Services ministries, as they oppose officially allowing any businesses of any kind to be open on Shabbat. 

A source involved in these proceedings told Behadrei Haredim that the issue may need to go back to the government, to be dealt with directly. He added that it's unlikely that the government will adopt a policy resolution that will satisfy the Haredi factions, as the Likud will be afraid of angering it's secular constituency and losing future votes to centrist parties such as Yesh Atid and Kulanu. If the government is unable to resolve the issue, it may transfer the responsibility for resolving it to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who would then have to fight it out with the Supreme Court. 

The committee has reportedly met five times already, and an additional meeting meant to take place today was canceled at the last minute.