TEL AVIV – A bill closing all stores on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, has been approved by the Israeli government, the Haaretz newspaper reported.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday approved Likud Knesset Member Miki Zohar’s bill preventing grocery stores and other businesses from operating from Friday sundown to Saturday after sundown.
The coalition parties agreed that following a preliminary reading in the Knesset, the legislative process will include a discussion to gradually introduce Sunday as an additional day off.
The bill proposes substantial increases in fines for violators and stipulates that only the economy minister will have the authority to issue exemptions to the prohibition. The legislation will apply to grocery stores, malls, and other businesses, but will not extend to restaurants, gas stations, and hotels.
A special committee, comprising the directors general of the Justice, Finance, and Religious Affairs Ministries was appointed after the High Court of Justice found that the municipality of Tel Aviv was not enforcing the law banning businesses from operating on Shabbat.
Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who was charged with enforcing the law, failed to do so due to a conflict of interest and resigned yesterday following allegations of sexual harassment.
The proposal to add Sunday as an additional day of rest serves to counterbalance the prohibition on opening businesses on the Sabbath.