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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tel Aviv municipality to change bylaw so businesses can open on the Sabbath

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality announced on Tuesday evening that it plans to change a bylaw in order to enable some businesses to open on the Sabbath.

Until the bylaw is changed, the municipality will not impose fines on businesses that have opened up until now on Saturdays and which will continue to operate on the Sabbath. However, it will tack fines on new businesses that open the doors on the Sabbath in violation of the existing bylaw.

In a statement submitted in accordance with guidelines issued by the Supreme Court, the Tel Aviv Municipality notes that the present bylaw will be enforced against businesses whose operations on Saturdays constitute a public nuisance or disrupt public order.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai, has instructed city attorney Uzi Salman to draft a proposal for an amendment to the existing bylaw that would take into account the reality in Tel Aviv today: “Tel Aviv-Jaffa will remain a free and open city that is ‘resident-friendly.’ We intend to find the correct legal way of defining Tel Aviv’s present balanced reality, which most of the city’s residents feel comfortable with. This is a reality that enables the existence of a day of rest alongside each resident’s freedom to enjoy it as he or she sees fit.”

In response, attorneys David Shub and Ivri Feingold, representing local grocery owners before the Supreme Court, have stated, “The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality’s new position is totally incongruent with the Supreme Court’s ruling and runs contrary to both the ruling’s spirit and its specific instructions. This is not a policy of bylaw enforcement but rather the conversion of criminal behavior to a norm. What the Supreme Court has termed ‘a big bluff’ will now be called ‘official policy.’”

The two lawyers added that the “municipality’s new position, as it has been presented, is illegal and flagrantly unethical and is totally unacceptable by any legal measuring rod.”

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who is running for mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, has expressed criticism of Huldai’s decision to amend the bylaw after the municipal elections. “Because of his trepidations regarding the outcome of the mayoral race,” said Horowitz, “Huldai is placing Tel Aviv’s recreational culture in jeopardy. The city’s residents must be told the truth beforehand – that is the essence of democracy.

If Huldai does not tell them the truth before the elections, I will amend the bylaw after I am elected mayor so that kiosks and grocery stores will legally be able to open on the weekend without facing the threat of fines imposed by city inspectors, as is the situation at present.”

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