Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

1 Kislev 5760 - November 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shabbos Status Quo Threatened in Haifa Mall

by Aryeh Zisman

The religious front in the City Council of Haifa is planning to ask the city's chief rabbis as well as all Haifa rabbis to enjoin area religious and traditional residents to boycott the Grand Kanyon (Mall) if it continues operating on Shabbos. Mayor of Haifa Amram Mitzna commiserated with the feelings of the religious front, and has directed municipal inspectors to issue fines to stores operating on Shabbos in violation of the status quo and the auxiliary municipal law. Mitzna, who was verbally attacked last Sunday (Cheshvan 28) by various Leftists, among them Yehudit Naot of Shinui, said that he doesn't intend to let Shinui to introduce a mean spirit into Haifa.

The relatively new Grand Kanyon, the largest commercial center in the region, is located beside the Neve Shaanan and Hadar Carmel areas, home to many chareidi and religious people. When the mall was getting its planning approvals, its promoter, Gad Zeevi and general director, Yisrael Savyon, declared that it would operate in accordance with the status quo, and that the stores would be closed on Shabbos.

However, on Shabbos, 27 Cheshvan, the two broke their promise, when four stores opened on Shabbos: the ToysRUs toy shop, the Atid Mechashvim computer shop, Office Depot and Tower Records.

UTJ's representative to the city council Rabbi Chaim Williger said that he was surprised by the opening of the stores on Shabbos, especially since the religious members of the council supported the building of the mall in its current location after it was firmly promised that stores in the mall would be closed on Shabbos. "In my opinion, the promoter, Gad Zeevi and the general director of the mall, Yisrael Savyon who is currently abroad, were not parties to the opening of the stores on Shabbos," he said.

The deputy mayor of the municipality, Moshe Stetman said that he believes that the directors of Grand Kanyon tired to test the reactions of the religious sector. "I hope that after having seen the reaction, they won't repeat their behavior."

On the preceding Friday, representatives of the religious bloc learned of the plans to open the mall on Shabbos. UTJ's representative in the municipality R' Chaim Williger and deputy mayor Rabbi Moshe Stetman, rushed to Mayor Amram Mitzna, and asked him to issue an order to close the mall on Shabbos. Mitzna was sympathetic to their request and said that such an act indeed violates the status quo. He addressed the directors of the malls, warning them not to violate the municipal auxiliary law, but to no avail.

The religious front, in conjunction with Haifa's Religious Council, sought to issue a Restraining order preventing the Shabbos opening of the stores. However because it was so close to Shabbos, it was impossible to issue the order. Rabbi Williger personally appealed to the store owners not to open their stores on Shabbos. Both he and the city's deputy mayor, Moshe Stetman, told ToysRUs and the other stores concerned that they were acting in violation of the law.

Except for the four mentioned above, most of the proprietors complied with the request and did not open on Shabbos. Mitzna fulfilled his promise and sent municipal inspectors to the mall, where they issued fines of NIS 360 per store. The spokesman of the Grand Kanyon said that the stores had opened on a one-time basis because of the beginning of the new semester in the universities.

Rabbi Williger, in turn, said that he could not understand the connection between the new semester, which began three weeks ago, and the opening of stores on Shabbos. He also said that he failed to see any connection between the universities' new semester and a giant toy store.

The religious front intends to ask city rabbonim and Chief Rabbis to enjoin the public to boycott the mall if it continues to operate on Shabbos.

Mitzna said that he thinks that Grand Kanyon was just trying to some make headlines, even though its directors know that the law forbids opening business areas on Shabbos. "The municipal inspectors will continue to do their utmost to prevent the opening of businesses on Shabbos, as was the case until now," Mitzna said.

The mayor of Haifa added that despite the "red" image of Haifa, it still has a municipal auxiliary law which forbids opening businesses on Shabbos. "In Haifa, we are proud of the mutual respect between Arabs and Jews, and between the religious and the secular, and the law is known to the owners of Grand Kanyon," he said.

UTJ MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman visited Haifa and met with Mayor Mitzna. The two discussed the preservation of the municipal status quo with respect to Shabbos, and Rabbi Litzman cited other mayors who fought against Shabbos and no longer occupy influential positions, nor hold the reigns of power.

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