The City of Jerusalem ordered the owners of five small grocery and 24-hour convenience stores located in the City Center neighborhood to close their businesses on Shabbat – even though the neighborhood has no Orthodox or haredi community.
Jerusalem Orders 5 Convenience Stores To Close On Shabbat, Despite Being Located In Secular Neighborhood Frequented By Tourists
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The administration of the City of Jerusalem ordered the owners of five small grocery and 24-hour convenience stores located in the City Center neighborhood to close their businesses on Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath which runs from just before sundown on Friday night through about 40 minutes after sundown Saturday evening). The closure order will be enforced by the city beginning on February 2, Ha’aretz reported.
The Times of Israel puts the number of impacted stores at seven.
The decision to force the small stores to close was made despite the fact that the City Center neighborhood does not have an Orthodox Jewish community, that almost no formal synagogues are located there, and that the neighborhood is heavily frequented by tourists. But in a legal opinion attached to the closure order and sent to the storeowners today, the city rejected that as a reason to allow the stores to remain open.
“We reject the claim that this is an area that does not include a large religious population, because the area where the grocery store is located is a passageway between Zionist Orthodox and haredi neighborhoods to houses of prayer [synagogues] and the Western Wall,” the city’s legal notice reportedly reads in translation.
Using that loose standard, almost all of Jerusalem could be similarly classified.
“The Jerusalem municipality continues in its thuggish behavior, and hands out closure orders to grocery store owners. [Mayor Nir] Barkat once again has given in to political considerations at the expense of Jerusalem residents who elected him.…We will continue to fight for the existence of pluralism in Jerusalem for the benefit of all its residents, and I think the grocery stores will remain open,” Yossi Havilio, the municipality’s former legal adviser, said. Havilio is now the head of the Tzahor nonprofit which helps businesses – including these five small convenience stores – fight city hall.
The city administration and its right-wing secular mayor claim they were not pressured into forcing the store to close, but haredi politicians in the city's coalition government have made the goal of strict enforcement of Shabbat blue laws a priority for the city to reach, and haredim have occasionally demonstrated outside some of these downtown convenience stores to protest their failure to close on Shabbat.
Haredi leaders are also rumored to view part of the City Center neighborhood as potential housing for the rapidly growing haredi communities located in neighborhoods adjacent to it.