City inspectors put Shabbat-violating stores on notice

Ashdod city inspectors warn store store owners in Ashdod that they can expect fines if they continue operating on Shabbat.

Tzvi Lev ,

Municipal inspectors
Municipal inspectors
Yoni Kempinski

City inspectors from the southern Israeli coastal town of Ashdod handed out notices to owners of stores that operated on Shabbat this past Saturday, warning them that they can expect fines if they continue opening on Shabbat illegally.

While it is officially forbidden for stores to operate on Shabbat, the city had turned a blind eye to the phenomenon until haredi council members pressured Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri to act. The haredi Kikar Hashabbat website noted that Saturday marked the first time that city officials had ever enforced the ordinances forbidding business from operating on Shabbat on the BIG Mall, a major shopping center on the outskirts of Ashdod.

The increased enforcement comes at a particularly sensitive time, as the Netanyahu government is attempting to pass the Supermarket Law, which would grant the Interior Minister the powers to block bylaws passed by municipal authorities that allow grocery stores and mini-markets to open on Shabbat.

While the haredi factions have stressed the law's importance, the bill is opposed by many members of the coalition, including the entire Yisrael Beytenu faction, a significant amount of Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu party, and Likud MKs Sharren Haskel and Science Minister Ofir Akunis.

As a result of Haskel's decision to oppose the Supermarket Law, which she alleged "widens the division between religious and secular Israelis", Coalition Chairman MK David Amsalem asked the Likud party's legal adviser to expel her from the Likud, which would prevent her from running on the Likud slate for the next Knesset and likely end her political career.

The vote for the Supermarket Law had already been pushed off by a week after it became clear that the coalition could not muster up the necessary support. Netanyahu stressed at his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that the law was crucial for the coalition's continued stability. "This law must pass," Netanyahu reiterated.