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Israeli mayors rail against law limiting commerce on Shabbat

Dozens of mayors across Israel vowed on Tuesday to fight the country’s new law limiting commerce on Shabbat, saying they will not enforce it.

A bridge in the central Israeli city of Givatayim, whose mayor, Ran Kunik, has vowed not to enforce a new Israeli law that limits commerce on Shabbat. Credit: PikiWiki Israel.
A bridge in the central Israeli city of Givatayim, whose mayor, Ran Kunik, has vowed not to enforce a new Israeli law that limits commerce on Shabbat. Credit: PikiWiki Israel.

Dozens of mayors across Israel vowed on Tuesday to fight the country’s new law limiting commerce on Shabbat, saying they will not enforce it.

The controversial “supermarkets bill” passed in the Knesset with a razor-thin majority of 58-57 on Tuesday morning. The law, an amendment to the Local Authorities Law’s provisions on the operation of local businesses on days of rest, gives the interior minister the power to shutter businesses that choose to remain open on Shabbat.

The legislation, which mainly targets convenience stores, has been lambasted as a change to the religious-secular status quo and as coercion by haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, which threatened to exit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition if the law was not enacted. On Monday, Netanyahu warned members of his coalition that “voting against the supermarkets bill is like voting to bring down the government.”

During the past few weeks, Israeli municipalities have raced to bypass the looming supermarkets law, passing and bolstering bylaws allowing businesses to remain open on Shabbat.

“The supermarkets bill is meaningless. It is up to the mayors to enforce it and I say in no uncertain terms that I have no intention of sending inspectors to enforce it,” Ramat Gan Mayor Yisrael Zinger said Tuesday.

“We are a liberal city, and we believe in allowing people to live their lives according to their own beliefs. This is what creates the fabric of life in the city,” he said.

Prior to the vote on the bill, Holon Mayor Moti Sasson pledged “to do everything within my power to preserve the status quo in the city, as part of which some businesses will be open on Shabbat for the benefit of the residents.”

Givatayim Mayor Ran Kunik also announced he would not enforce the new law, telling reporters he is determined to preserve the status quo in his city.

“Givatayim knows what’s best for its residents better than any minister,” he said.

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