Secular Israel scored a point in the ongoing battle over religion in the public sphere on Wednesday when the Israeli High Court ruled that Tel Aviv mini markets could stay open on the Jewish Sabbath.
Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai hailed the ruling in the Israeli press, saying the city “was free and will remain free,” according to the Times of Israel.
But religious politicians vowed to fight against open businesses on the Sabbath. Yaakov Litzman, Health Minister with the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, called the ruling “the continuation of vulgar legal meddling with the values of religion and religious law.”
In Israel, most commerce and all public transportation grinds to a halt on the Sabbath, per state law. The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, a secular stronghold in Israel, sought to pass local laws to make it easier for businesses to stay open on the Jewish day of rest. Orthodox leaders protested, but the Israeli government refused to address the matter, leaving the High Court to rule on the issue.
Zehava Galon of the leftwing Meretz Party said that the High Court ruling was a positive step for Tel Avivians to shape their own city.
It was an “important ratification of the authority of Tel Aviv’s residents to decide by themselves in a democratic way and of the authority of the municipality to pass bylaws in response,” she said.