Jerusalem - Orthodox Politicians Battle Over Shabbos Business Ruling
Jerusalem - Orthodox politicians said on Thursday that they would fight yesterday’s High Court of Justice ruling permitting mini-markets to open on Shabbat.
Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, as well as Jewish Home Ministers Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to convene an urgent session for coalition members to draft a series of measures to defend a verdict they consider a “breach in the walls of the Shabbat.”
In addition, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to use his authority to ask the court to reconsider the issue with an expanded panel of judges, and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said his party would propose legislation that would seek to undermine the ruling. UTJ colleague MK Moshe Gafni said the “poor” decision would turn the Sabbath into a regular workday both in Tel Aviv and around the country.
Gafni also said the change in the religious status quo violates coalition agreements.
Notably, not all religious elements in Israel disagree with the ruling. The Hiddush organization, directed by Reform Rabbi Uri Regev and which bills itself as being “for religious freedom and equality,” hailed the decision, calling it a victory over religious coercion.
“The High Court of Justice acted in a balanced, responsible way, once again heeding the will of the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public, the core values of freedom of religion and conscience, as well as a profound respect for the Jewish Shabbat,” Hiddush said in a statement. “All proponents of democracy should welcome the court’s decision, which emphasizes the will of the local citizenry, and views this as a proper expression of Israel’s identity as a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state.”
The decision stemmed from a 2014 attempt by the city of Tel Aviv to draft a bylaw to bypass national laws prohibiting most forms of commerce on the Sabbath by allowing small (less than 500 square meter) mini-markets and kiosks to operate on Shabbat.
But the ordinance requires the signature of the interior minister to become law and the last three interior ministers – Gideon Sa’ar, Silvan Shalom, and current Minister Aryeh Deri – all dodged the issue because of its strong religious and political implications. In February, the Tel Aviv municipality petitioned the court to force Deri to rule on the matter.
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