Shabbos In Israel’s Cities And Towns


After the defeat last month of a Yesh Atid bill aimed at increasing business and public transport on Shabbos, four MKs from both sides of the government divide proposed a similar law to break Israel’s religious status quo.

The MKs responsible for the bill are Rachel Azariah of Kulanu, Elazar Stern of Yesh Atid, Manuel Trachtenberg of Zionist Union and Miki Zohar of Likud. They propose to legalize non-obtrusive chillul Shabbos. Thus, they suggest permitting quiet public transport on Shabbos paid for in advance and operated by non-Jews and opening small stores on Shabbos while closing down large shopping centers. But they realize there’s a good chance that the chareidi parties will torpedo their plans.

Meanwhile, a committee of ministerial director generals appointed by the Knesset to find a solution to the opening of businesses on Shabbos in Tel Aviv met five or six times but reached an impasse due to the refusal of two of its members, Interior Ministry Director General Orna Hozman-Bechor and Religious Services Ministry Director General Oded Palus, to allow even partial chillul Shabbos.

The committee considered four alternative plans. One was the Tel Aviv municipality’s proposal to reduce the number of Shabbos operating businesses from the 280 currently open to 160. Another plan was to close all supermarkets and leave open three shopping areas which are already permitted to operate on Shabbos by law: The Station Compound and the Tel Aviv and Yafo port areas. A third idea was to close all commercial businesses and open cultural and entertainment venues instead, and a fourth alternative was to reduce the number of businesses open on Shabbos to 80.

An official involved said that if the issue is transferred back to the government, it will be difficult to find a solution that satisfies the chareidim and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri may need to fight out the issue directly with the Supreme Court.

At the same time, rov of Herzlia Rav Yitzchak Yaakobowitz and Herzlia councilman Elad Tzadikov asked Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to try and foil the city’s plan to provide public transport to the beach and places of entertainment between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

In response to their request, the Interior Ministry’s legal advisor sent a query to the Herzlia city council asking for the source of the city’s authority to initiate a new public transport system, noting that in 2012 the city already appealed against the refusal of the Transportation Ministry to grant authority for such a system, and noting that according to transportation regulation 386A, no such authority would be given on Shabbos except for specific purposes specified in the regulation.

In Yerushalayim, Agudas Yisroel councilman Yochanan Weitzman complained that more stalls are now open on Shabbos at the new mall of the city’s old railway station. UTJ municipal chairman Eliezer Reichberger said that the compound was specifically opened in order to increase chillul Shabbos in the city and that he hoped that all chareidi and religious councilmen would unite to close it down.

David Steger – Israel


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