The change in Shabbat blue law enforcement will mean that eight mini-markets located in the center city area will almost certainly be forced to close – even though some of them have been open on Shabbat for decades.
Above: Haredim throw stones at police in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem in July 2011
Did Jerusalem’s Secular Mayor Agree To Close 8 Mini-Markets On Shabbat To Appease Haredim?
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
It is, critics say, capitulation to violent haredi extortion.
Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled two years ago that enforcing local municipal regulations in Tel Aviv banning certain businesses from remaining open on Shabbat is discriminatory to smaller store owners who can’t afford to pay what for them are large fines for violating the Shabbat regulations. Those same fines are negligible for larger businesses, which can – and often will – pay them and remain open. This decision caused Tel Aviv to rewrite its enforcement policy so it would comply with the court’s ruling.
Now, two years after that High Court ruling, the secular mayor of Jerusalem has suddenly decided to alter how the city enforces Shabbat blue laws. But the mayor's choices appear to violate that High Court ruling while overly favoring haredim.
Following a recommendation from Jerusalem’s city attorney, certain heavily secular parts of the city will be designated for reduced Shabbat blue law enforcement while other parts of the city – especially the downtown center city area that borders on several large haredi neighborhoods – will reportedly see heightened enforcement. While at first blush this might appear to be equitable, critics argue it is anything but.
According to a report in Ynet, the change in Shabbat blue law enforcement will mean that eight mini-markets located in the center city area will almost certainly be forced to close – even though some of them have been open on Shabbat for decades.
Mayor Nir Barkat’s office, which is behind the change in enforcement, insists there is no change in the overall religious/secular status quo of the city despite the planned changes.
"There's been no change in the laws or in the status quo that has existed in Jerusalem for years, according to which opening movie theaters, leisure businesses, and restaurants is permitted, and opening conducting commerce and operating public transportation is prohibited,” the mayor’s office reportedly said in statement.
Many secular and liberal activists in the city reportedly insist Barkat surrendered to haredi leaders after haredim mounted several large violent protests against a new theater complex that remains open on Shabbat. The complex is located in a secular Jerusalem neighborhood far away from any significant haredi enclaves.
Those haredi anti-theater protests took place near the center city – not in the secular neighborhood where the theater complex is located. When the haredi protests morphed into violent riots, hundreds of haredim tried to break into and ransack an Israel Broadcasting Authority office while others hurled stones and other objects at police and set fire to garbage dumpsters.
Secular and liberal activists charge Mayor Barkat traded closure of the eight mini-markets for an end to haredi anti-theater riots.
The mini-market’s owners are enraged, whatever the reason for Barkat’s decision.
“We don't bother anyone by being open,” one mini-market’s owner told Ynet. “We just help those who need us – people who need goods for Shabbat and those on a night out. If I start being fined, I'll have to close. If they try to close us down, we'll fight."
Einav Bar, a city council member from the pluralistic Wake Up Jerusalem Party, lashed out at the mayor’s decision, which she called “miserable.”
“These stores service a large number of tourists, non-religious Jews, and a large number of non-Jews, all of whom will be harmed by this miserable decision,” Bar said.