Knesset passes law shuttering mini-markets on Shabbat

The government weathered a crisis and passed a law that forces the closure of convenience stores on the Sabbath.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

The Knesset gave its final approval on Tuesday morning to a bill which requires any municipality that wants to pass a new local law to open stores on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, to receive the Interior Minister’s approval.

After a night-long debate, it was approved in its second and third readings with a slim majority of 58 in favor and 57 opposed.

The bill, dubbed the “mini-markets law,” was proposed by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s Shas party.

MKs Sofa Landver of Yisrael Beitenu, MK Sharren Haskel of the Likud party, Tali Ploskov of Kulanu, Mordechai Yogev of Habayit Hayehudi and Yossi Yonah of the Zionist Camp did not take part in the vote, which came after a 15-hour filibuster by the opposition.

Some businesses are exempt from the new regulation, including gas stations and attached convenience stores, as well as entertainment businesses such as restaurants, bars, coffee shops, theaters, movie theaters, and concert halls.

Internal Affairs Committee Chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud), who also serves as chairman of the coalition, presented the bill to the plenum and said the legislation was necessary in light of the ”significance and importance of the days of rest.”

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Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party opposed the bill, calling it “religious coercion” and a violation of the current status quo on matters of religion and state.

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) assailed the bill, asking, ”How did we reach a point where our Shabbat, our wonderful Shabbat, which is observed by each person as he or she sees fit, has become a bone of contention here in this Knesset? Over what? A law that is devoid of content, but which causes severe harm and has bad intentions. Only because someone is trying to save his political career, he is adding strife and disagreement.”

Shas has slipped badly in recent polls, indicating that it may not pass the minimum threshold in the next Knesset elections. “Deri is convinced that closing businesses on Shabbat is the issue that will make Shas relevant once again,” political pundit Mitchell Barak told WIN last month.

MK Yaakov Perry argued that the law was divisive and is ”tearing the nation apart.”