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Israel Passes Law To Close Supermarkets And Businesses On Shabbos

The Shabbos/Makolet Bill was finally brought for its final votes in Knesset early Tuesday morning, 22 Teves. The bill scraped by in a 58 to 57 vote.

This means, the Minister of the Interior now has the authority to override municipalities that amended local bylaws to permit stores to operate on Shabbos, and shut them. The bill is not retroactive, so it does not impact Tel Aviv, but nevertheless, it represents a major victory for the Chareidi parties in Knesset.

Shas MK Aryeh Deri announced the victory, explaining it was a great deal of work towards maintaining the Jewish character of the country.

The chareidim agreed to a compromise, that the law will not apply to gas station convenience stores for as long as they are part of the gas station and not a separate store in a larger complex, and for as long as the store is owned by the gas station, not a third party. In this case, the stores may operate on Shabbos.

The chareidim did not give in on Eilat however, and despite a request from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to exclude Eilat, it is included in the bill.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party voted against the bill as they said they would. MKs Moti Yogev of Bayit Yehudi and Yossi Yonah of Machane Tzioni are both sitting shiva and were absent. MK Sharen Haskel of Likud absented herself from the vote after announcing she would not support it despite instructions to do so by party leaders.

Likud MK Yehuda Glick finally agreed to support the bill in exchange for an agreement to promote a bill banning the publication of cigarettes and tobacco products, except in the printed press.

The Arab parties that it would vote against the law, over Charedi support for the Muezzin Law, which would lower the volume permitted for loudspeakers used to call Muslims to prayer.

Not wasting time, Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-On filed the first petition challenging the law with the High Court of Justice, calling on the court to declare the law unconstitutional because it violates the basic rights of citizens.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

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