Israel Shabbos Shopping Increasing Despite Laws, Fines and Boycotts Due to Unrelenting Consumer Demand


subway-israelIsraeli consumers, not the Knesset, are likely to determine the future of shopping on Shabbos, according to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers in a new study published in the Politics and Religion journal.

“Both religious and secular communities use their power as consumers, albeit in different ways, to shape the public sphere,” according to Drs. Guy Ben-Porat and Omri Shamir of the Department of Public Policy and Administration in BGU’s Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management. “The shift away from the formal political realm is a result of a deadlocked political system that is no longer able to regulate boundaries between the religious and secular realm.”

During the past 20 years, there has been increased consumer demand for mall and store owners to open on Shabbos despite of fines which pale in comparison to the potential profits, and some 30 malls are now open on Shabbos.

Outrage among religious communities found little outlet in government action. In response, religious leaders have begun to leverage their communities’ ability to boycott stores that open on Shabbos and frequent those that are not.

Strife between the secular and religious in Israel has been a factor since before the founding of the State. Many of the lifecycle functions were given over to religious institutions and parties’ control to ensure their support for the nascent state. One of those compromises was that businesses would be closed by law on Shabbos.

As Israel transitioned from a socialist to a capitalist country and adopted Western consumer values, secular store owners noticed a rising demand for shopping on the weekend as a leisure and family activity, creating lucrative new markets.

However, religious leaders have harnessed their communities’ abilities to stay committed to a cause over the long haul and have boycotted certain chains for being open on Shabbos, with some success. The researchers site Shefa Shuk, a chain of supermarkets with 40 percent of its clientele in frum communities, that was boycotted when the same owner opened his AM:PM convenience store chain on Shabbos and 24/7 in Tel Aviv. That boycott over 18 months has forced the stores in chareidi areas to close.

As the formal political system has failed to yield solutions, the matter has gone to the streets where the potential for profit squares off against commitment to preserve the ritual nature of Shabbos. Ben-Porat and Shamir predict that the trend will only strengthen in the coming years.

{Yair Israel}


  1. Because “outrage”, using the term from the article, won’t make one single Yid love Shabbos. Neither will coersion. Only love and showing them the beauty of Shabbos.

    Why isn’t this simple for our Israeli brethren? Why do they insist on doing it the wrong way?

  2. Unfortunately the Land of Israel can’t tolorate chillul shabbos & arayos. The further away we move from the protections from these aveiros set up by the g’dolim who negotiated with Ben Gurion upon the formation of the State, the more the resident are at peril of chas v’sholom being “spit out” or worse. However, forcing yiddishkeit down the throats of the secular is not going to work either. Education & outreach seems to be the only option here. And of course tfilla.