United Torah Jewry representatives, together with
representatives from other religious parties, met for an
emergency meeting with Mayor Yona Yahav after the Grand
Kanyon shopping center announced it would open its doors on
Shabbos. Yahav took a firm stance against the idea, noting
the mall's proximity to the city's chareidi neighborhoods.
The various representatives intend to meet with the mall's
owners to inform them of the gravity of their intentions.
UTJ city council representative Rabbi Aryeh Blitentahl sent
an alarmed letter to Grand Kanyon Managing Director Yisrael
Sevion, calling on him to reverse his plans since the
majority of business owners at the mall object to opening the
stores on Shabbos but are compelled by increasing
competition. He also noted the mall's proximity to chareidi
neighborhoods, which represents a serious violation of the
city's status quo and of the municipal ordinance forbidding
commercial activity on Shabbos.
At the emergency meeting held early this week Mayor Yahav
said the only measure he could take to prevent the stores
from opening on Shabbos is to dispatch inspectors to issue
fines and warned that some stores would not be dissuaded by
the fines since their regular turnover is higher than the
amount of the fines.
Therefore Yahav proposed sending a delegation of religious
and chareidi figures from Haifa to speak with mall managers
and state their objections saying he, too, would contact them
personally to point out the mall's proximity to chareidi
Situated between the chareidi neighborhoods of Hadar Hacarmel
and Neve Shaanan, the Grand Kanyon draws many religious
shoppers. Sevion, a prominent Labor Party figure in Haifa,
often declared he would honor the status quo by refraining to
open for business on Shabbos. But according to recent
announcements this policy is liable to change in the near
future. Opening stores on Shabbos could lead to a sweeping
directive by Haifa rabbonim not to patronize the mall.
Since its inauguration five years ago the Grand Kanyon
suffered heavy losses until posting overall positive earnings
last year. Before opening for business religious city council
members refused to support approving the mall until an
explicit pledge was made not to operate on Shabbos. "We're
hoping the mall managers will recognize their mistake and
reverse their decision," said Rabbi Blitentahl.