Jerusalem Storeowners Fight Forced Shabbat Closures

TEL AVIV – The owners of minimarkets in Jerusalem are fighting a municipal order to close on Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath, amid fears that the forced closures will mean facing bankruptcy, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Three of the 24/7 minimarkets said on Sunday that they were fined close to NIS 500 for remaining open this past weekend. They added that half of their total income comes from Shabbat sales.

The mandate was announced by the municipality last August with opponents accusing Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat of capitulating to the capital’s ultra-Orthodox community.

“After giving warnings every week since April 1, they came in last week and just gave us an NIS 475 fine,” said Ariel Bayder, a cashier at one of the eight targeted minimarkets told the Jerusalem Post.

“The owner said he is working with a lawyer and is going to continue taking the fines until after it goes to trial,” he said.

Minimarket owner David Cohen, 32, said he also got fined NIS 475 but refuses to close his doors on Shabbat.

“If I close on Shabbat, I can’t keep the store open,” he said. “We have a lawyer and we’re going to keep fighting this.”

Seven of the owners are represented by two attorneys.

“We are Jewish, but not religious, so we have a right to stay open during Shabbat,” another storeowner, Amir Iluz, said. “If we close on Friday night and Saturday the business goes down. Mayor Barkat is just doing this for the haredim [ultra-Orthodox]. He is sacrificing us for them.”

One lawyer for the storeowners accused the municipality of “selective enforcement,” noting that minimarkets are allowed to remain open on Shabbat in neighborhoods where haredi protests are less likely to occur.

Last year, ultra-Orthodox protests tried unsuccessfully to stop the new Yes Planet cinema complex from opening on Shabbat. The minimarket mandate that came a few days later was seen by some as a quid pro quo.


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