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Shabbos at All Costs

Binyamin Rose and Rachel Ginsberg

Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau has been battling to reshape the character of the the city he has called home for the past 56 years. But what will Shabbos in Tel Aviv of the future look like, as city officials turn a blind eye to the public desecration of the holy day? Will businesses be forced to compete on Shabbos too — or else suffer the dire financial consequences?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

WhenOferLiperman, franchise holder ofHenri’s Café and Creperie, opened his mail one day last summer, he couldn’t believe he was staring at a 3,500 shekel fine. His crime: refusing to open his shop on Shabbos. This past July, owners of the upscale Tel Aviv Sarona Market mall levied fines on two kosher-certified food businesses — Henri’s and Bagels — for “not complying with opening hours” (although the mall being open 24/7 is in direct contravention of the Tel Aviv bylaws). Gindi Holdings deducted the sum from the stores’ direct debit rental payments, as theTelAviv religious council spent weeks fighting the charge. Once the story went viral in social media, however, and die-hard secularists too were outraged that a Jew could be forced to work on Shabbos against his conscience, Gindi backed down and decided to cancel the fines. EvenTelAviv mayorRonHuldai, elected years ago on a free-Shabbos platform, was horrified by how far Shabbos commerce has gone under his leadership. “We can’t force people to work on Shabbos,” he said in the Knesset following the Sarona Market scandal. “I don’t mind people buying some groceries but believe me, I’ve always been against commerce on Shabbos.” He may be against commerce, but his municipality has been turning a blind eye to illegal Shabbos openings for years.TelAviv today, like many commercial centers all over the country, no longer even maintains the pretense of Shabbos observance. For those who dismiss as a lot of doomsday hype the projection that within a few years retailers in cities like Tel Aviv will be faced with a huge challenge to keep Shabbos, the forecast has already come true — and even sooner than anyone predicted.

 

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