Tel Aviv grocery stores open on Shabbat fined by municipality

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Many Tel Aviv grocery stores remained open on Shabbat, despite a decision by Israel’s interior minister to strike down an amendment to a local statute to allow some stores to stay open legally.

Tel Aviv municipal inspectors on Saturday handed out fines of slightly more than $200 to businesses that remained open despite a law that makes it illegal in Israel to open retail businesses on the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown Friday and ends after sunset Saturday.

Employees at the large Tiv Tam grocery store  wore T- shirts with the slogan “Tel Aviv does not keep Shabbat,” while they worked on Saturday.
Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Saar late last month rejected an amendment to a Tel Aviv statute that would have allowed some stores to stay open on the Sabbath and holidays.

Saar said in his decision that he struck down the amendment approved by the municipality’s City Council in March because it was not explained why it was essential for the stores to remain open on the Sabbath rather than meet the public’s needs during the rest of the week.

Saar did, however, approve the Sabbath opening of businesses in the Tel Aviv Port, Jaffa Port and Hatahana D, the renovated Old Train Station complex. Convenience stores in gas stations also may remain open.

Israel’s Supreme Court in June 2013 ordered the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality to enforce a by-law that bans its businesses from opening on Saturday.

The high court ruled that the municipality and two large supermarket chains violated the municipal by-law against opening on the Sabbath. The court suggested the city could change the by-law to allow businesses to remain open on Saturday.

The owners of the small shops claimed they were losing customers to the chains that could afford to remain open on Saturday and absorb the fines.