Religion Magazine

Breaking of the Law in Tel Aviv is Not So Bad Unlike in Beitar Or Amona

By Gldmeier @gldmeier

The big news of the day is the success of the lawsuit of small market owners in Tel Aviv against the city demanding enforcement of the Shabbos laws.
The city ignores the laws requiring businesses to be closed on Shabbos. The small market owners are at a disadvantage, as they close on Shabbos, and they want to continue closing on Shabbos, while the big chains stay open and the city basically ignores it while simply collecting the fine which is too measly for the chain stores to be concerned about anyway. Even small stores that want to stay open on Shabbos cannot, as the fines against them are too significant to bear. The city sees it as a way of promoting their liberal policy and making some money in the process (in both fines and tax collection), while at least superficially being able to point to the fine and saying we are following the law.
Surprise, surprise, but the courts actually upheld the law.
The Supreme Court decided that using the fines as the only method of enforcing the law is not achieving the goal - the goal being the businesses remaining closed on Shabbos - and it is upon the City of Tel Aviv to find alternate methods of enforcement to ensure the businesses remain closed. The current method of enforcement, the court said, is basically enabling the continued breaking of the law, with the rule of law being harmed in the process.
The Supreme Court also said that the City of Tel Aviv is not above the law, and if they do not like the law they are able to work to change the law, but in the meantime they must fulfill their obligations in enforcing it. The purpose of enforcing the law is not for religious or secular reasons, but because the law must be enforced. The law of Shabbos has both social and religious value, and the law requires the stores to be closed on Shabbos and not allowing them to be open as long as they are willing to pay the necessary fine (i.e. imposing the fine is meant to be a deterrent so stores will close - payment of the fine is not an allowance for them to then remain open).
Breaking of the law in Tel Aviv is not so bad unlike in Beitar or Amona
The biggest losers of this decision, after the City of Tel Aviv, will be the chains of AM:PM and Tiv Taam. The biggest winners, after the small market owners, will be Shefa Shuk (or Zol b'Shefa as they are called now). Shefa Shuk has suffered from an unofficial haredi ban due to being owned by the same owners of AM:PM - with AM:PM blatantly flaunting their chilul shabbos, the haredi community has held an unofficial ban on Shefa Shuk in an attempt to pressure the owner to close AM:PM on Shabbos (as well as simply being upset about the chilul shabbos). While the ban has only been unofficial and I have not even heard anything about it in the past couple of years, I still have not seen the local Zol bShefa to be anywhere near busy, even at peak times, unlike the other local supermarkets. Forcing AM:PM to close on Shabbos might help Shefa.
The other point is that nobody, outside the Supreme Court, seems overly upset or shocked at the City of Tel Aviv's flaunting of the law. Many people have been quoted in the news as saying things about demanding the opening of these and more businesses, keeping Tel Aviv pluralistic and open, etc.
When religious folk say things not in line with the law but in support of their religious beliefs, when settlers talk about promotion of the furthering of their beliefs and lifestyles, when haredim talk about their lifestyles and beliefs, everyone goes up in arms about the rule of law, supporting the courts, etc. Just look at Justice Minister Tzippi Livni and her crusade against discrimination against women in the haredi public (not unjustified) - I have not heard her talking about the rule of law in Tel Aviv and setting up a task force and hotline to deal with the breaking of the Day of Rest law. Suddenly the greatest ideal in society has nothing to do with the straight following of the law.

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