Friday, June 28, 2013

A Victory for the Sabbath in Tel Aviv?

I have to admit that the site of supermarkets in Tel Aviv that are open 7 days a week used to break my heart. We have merited to live in the era where the Nation of Israel is returning to the land of Israel. The land is giving its fruit, the army is victorious, and Hebrew, as a spoken language has been revived. Torah is being widely learned, perhaps on an unprecedented scale. In the midst of all this, to see stores that proudly proclaim that they desecrate the Sabbath is like hearing somebody singing off-key in the middle of our song of redemption.

In the light of all this you can imagine what I thought when I read the following:

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality must enforce municipal bylaws which prohibit the operation of businesses on the Jewish Sabbath (Friday sunset through Saturday sunset), the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. The court ruled in favor of an appeal filed by food retailers in the city against a decision by Tel Aviv Administrative Court Judge Esther Covo from February 2012, who refused to order the closing of businesses on the Jewish Sabbath.

Supreme Court Judge Miriam Naor, Elyakim Rubinstein, and President Asher Grunis ruled that the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality must enforce municipal bylaws in order to uphold the law. "With its present conduct, the municipality in practice allows the ongoing violation of this law. There is also concern that it is convenient for the municipality not to uphold the law in view of its profits from the levying of fines."

Judge Rubinstein said that he hoped that "an enforcement solution would be found to uphold the law, honor the Sabbath, and the residents of Tel Aviv."

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality said in response, "Tel Aviv-Jaffa will continue to be a free city. We will study the ruling and find a solution to balance the Sabbath day of rest and the freedom that the city allows, as it has done until now."

Dr. Aviad Hacohen offers some interesting analysis of the case:
One shouldn't assume that Tuesday's Supreme Court verdict will totally halt Sabbath commercial activity in the "city that never rests." But if enforced properly, using every tool in the city's arsenal, it could reduce the extent of commerce on Shabbat, thereby leveling the playing field between retail chain tycoons and the owners of mom-and-pop stores who can't or don't want to stay open 24/7.

As the Supreme Court's Deputy President Justice Miriam Naor said, this is not an attempt to coerce religion. Rather, there is an existing by-law that is not being properly or meaningfully enforced, thereby defeating its purpose. Those who travel the world know that larger metropolises than Tel Aviv preserve the character of their weekly day of rest. It affords city residents a respite from the noise and bustle of daily life.

The verdict brings justice to the appellants and their friends, small grocery owners, who wish to rest a bit from the Six days of Creation. For the sake of profits, large retail chains, with their vast money and resources, employ workers on the Sabbath. These workers are usually from the lower socioeconomic strata and toil for poverty wages. This phenomenon has been spreading throughout the first Hebrew city and gives small shop owners almost no chance of surviving. Not to mention their desire to spend a little time with their families and not be slaves to their work.

As Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said, the ludicrous fine imposed today on store owners who open on Shabbat makes a mockery of the law, turning it into an officially sanctioned lie. It deters no one and therefore foils the law's intent.

Some people are very upset about this ruling. After all, it interferes with their freedom. What will they do if all of a sudden they discover on the Sabbath that there is no milk in the refrigerator?

The solution is of course to do what the Jewish People have done for centuries: prepare for the Sabbath! Check your refrigerator on Friday morning and see what is missing. Make a list of what to buy and then head off to your local grocery store/supermarket. It's really simple: even secular leftists are capable of doing this!

I know, mistakes are made. Sometimes we just don't notice on Friday morning that milk is missing. In that case, knock on your neighbor's door, inquire about his health and the health of his parents and/or children, and then politely ask him to borrow some milk. You do not need a doctorate in international relations in order to do this!

While we are on the subject, check this out. It is an interview with the grocery store owner who initiated the court case against the Tel Aviv Municipality. He claims that the Hareidi and religious parties did not help them in their struggle. He also has some other very interesting claims (the interview is in Hebrew).

Here's an appropriate pic from the archives:

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