MK Eli Yishai
MK Eli YishaiIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A radical new law regulating the public activities of business and cultural groups on Shabbat is just another attempt “by those in Yesh Atid and Hatnua to harm Judaism and the entire Jewish world,” said MK Eli Yishai (Shas). “It's also just another sad attempt by these MKs who are doing poorly in the polls to grab a vote or two in preparation for the next elections.”

Yishai was referring to a bill to be proposed by MKs Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid) and Elazar Stern (Hatnua) that would require stores, factories, and places of business generally open to the public to be closed on Shabbat (with exceptions made for businesses that have special Shabbat 'operating licenses,' such as pharmacies), while giving full permission for the opening of restaurants, theaters, community centers, museums, zoos, and other “cultural” organizations and institutions to operate without restraint on Shabbat. Organizations will be able to sell tickets and take payments on Shabbat, although they can also, if they wish, sell tickets before Shabbat begins to those who do not wish to handle money on Shabbat.

If a local authority wants to allow a business to operate on Shabbat, it will have to get a special permit signed by the Interior Minister. Cultural institutions, organizations, and restaurants that file for a permit will be granted one automatically.

According to the law's authors, the measure is needed because “there is a growing gap between Judaism and Israeli life among many communities. This requires the state to set up basic principles for the place of Shabbat in Israeli life.”

Yishai said that while the MKs claim to seek to provide a better Shabbat experience for secular Israelis, the law has a built-in component of discrimination against Sabbath observers. “Religious and traditional Israelis who do not want to work on Shabbat will have a hard time getting a job, because once these places get a permit, they will open on Shabbat and require their employees to work. Those who refuse won't get hired.”

Yishai added that the entire enterprise “insults the intelligence of the voters these MKs claim to care so much for. Shabbat watched out for the Jewish people for 3,000 years, we must watch out for Shabbat.”