The Jerusalem mayor’s office has decided to start issuing fines to convenience stores open on weekends, causing controversy; some suspect the decision is meant to placate the haredi public, following last weekend’s protests at the opening of the new Yes Planet multiplex.

The fights over Shabbat in Jerusalem are spilling over to local convenience stores: Following the Supreme Court decision regarding the matter and the Tel Aviv municipality’s decision to create a new policy regarding the opening of convenience stores during Shabbat, the Jerusalem municipality will begin handing out fines to store owners whose businesses have stayed open on weekends for decades.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that enforcement of municipal regulations regarding the opening of businesses during Shabbat is discriminatory to smaller store owners, who cannot afford the fines given by the city.

This decision led to the cultivation of a new enforcement policy in Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem municipality’s legal advisor recently recommended that certain parts of the city be designated for reduced enforcement. The current policy is expected to cause eight convenience stores that used to be open on weekends to close during Shabbat.

"If we're fined, we'll have to close" (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
“If we’re fined, we’ll have to close” (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


The Jerusalem mayor’s office emphasized that while local ordinances allow cultural and leisure business activity during weekends, they do not allow commerce.

Even so, the decision is causing controversy among secular and liberal activists in Jerusalem, who claim the decision is a surrender to pressure by haredi leaders, following the protests by members of the haredi public to the opening of the new Jerusalem Yes Planet multiplex on Shabbat.

Those opposed to the mayor’s office’s new policy say that the affected stores are a small number of businesses that have been open on weekends for decades without disturbing Shabbat’s status in the city, and that there’s no reason to change city policy regarding them now.

"We're not bothering ayone by being open" (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
“We’re not bothering ayone by being open” (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


The Jerusalem Mayor's office: Supreme Court forced us to enforce ordinances. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The Jerusalem Mayor’s office: Supreme Court forced us to enforce ordinances. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


Owners of convenience stores in Jerusalem’s city center have voiced outrage. “We don’t bother anyone by being open, we just help those who need us – people who need goods for Shabbat and those on a night out,” said one store owner, “If I start being fined, I’ll have to close. If they try to close us down, we’ll fight.”

The haredi protest against the opening of the Yes Planet multiplex on Shabat. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The haredi protest against the opening of the Yes Planet multiplex on Shabat. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


Jerusalem City Council member and head of business development Einav Bar of the pluralistic Wake Up Jerusalem faction expressed her opposition to the mayor’s office’s decision, saying “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.”

Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitch, of the haredi United Torah Judaism faction, expressed his support for the decision, saying “These stores operate in violation of the law that bans commerce on Shabbat, and it’s time we start enforcing that law.”

The mayor’s office released a statement, saying: “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.”

As reported by Ynetnews