Tel Aviv’s city council has approved an amendment that would allow a limited number of grocery and convenience stores to remain open on Shabbat and holidays.
The amendment was approved by the municipality on Monday. It still must be approved by the country’s Interior Ministry.
It is illegal in Israel to open retail businesses on the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends after sunset on Saturday.
“We mustn’t turn this issue into a religious war,” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said during council debate on the issue, according to reports. “We are all Jews, and Judaism has many faces. I am a proud Jew who spends his Shabbat differently than other Jews. Our job is to allow everyone to live with respect and love. The principle that led to this bill is keeping the Tel Aviv spirit, one that cares for the Shabbat as the day of rest, as a social value in the Jewish State, and also allows for the provision of services and the freedom for everyone to use this day of rest as they wish.”
Haredi Orthodox Councilman Rabbi Naftali Lubert said the vote was “a black day,” Ynet reported, and called those that voted for the amendment “traitors.”
In June 2013, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality to enforce a by-law that bans its businesses from opening on Saturday.
The high court justices ruled in June that the municipality and two large supermarket chains violated the municipal bylaw against opening on the Jewish Sabbath. The court suggested the city could change the by-law to allow businesses to remain open on Saturday.
The owners of the small shops claimed they were losing customers to the chains that could afford to remain open on Saturday and absorb the modest fines levied for their transgression.