Israel's High Court of Justice today ruled that supermarkets, entertainment centers, and pharmacies would be allowed to operate in Tel Aviv on the Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). The Court had to rule on the issue, after three years during which Ministers of the Interior Gideon Sa'ar, Silvan Shalom, and Aryeh Deri refrained from making a decision.
The Court's judgment, written by Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor, stated that the amendment of the city bylaws initiated by the Tel Aviv municipality in 2014, which allowed the opening of certain businesses on the Sabbath, was a "balanced amendment that took into account various rights, the character of the city, and the status of the Sabbath day."
"The municipality is the appropriate entity to decide on the right point of equilibrium, giving weight to all the relevant considerations, including the composition of the population in each place, the city's way of life and character, and the circumstances preceding the amendment," Naor wrote. "In the end, the opening of a limited number of businesses is involved, constituting a negligible proportion of the businesses operating in the city during the week. This makes it possible to preserve the unique character of the Sabbath, and does not greatly change the city's character in comparison with the normative situation."
The first municipal amendment dealt with three aspects: Tel Aviv Port, Jaffa Port, and Hatachana, the site of the old Tel Aviv railway station. The Tel Aviv City Council later approved the opening of supermarkets on the Sabbath according to regions. Then-Minister of the Interior Sa'ar delayed the publication of the amendment, but no government decision has since been taken. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai welcomed the ruling, saying, "As I said four years ago, the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa was free, and will remain free."
Addressing the effect of the amendment on relations between religion and the state, Justice Dafna Barak-Erez said, "The special and separate arrangement for the Sabbath day reflects national Jewish culture, together with the important social values of democracy. At the same time, the arrangement includes an important democratic element at the local level making it possible to give more precise expression to the different characteristics of the population in every town and community.
MKs from the ultra-Orthodox parties have vowed to push legislation through the Knesset compelling Jewish businesses to close on the Sabbath.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on April 19, 2017
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