Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar I 5768 - February 28, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Walls of Shabbos Almost Completely Breached at All Large Shopping Malls

By Eliezer Rauchberger

The Knesset State Control Committee asked State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on Tuesday to conduct an inquiry and to issue an opinion regarding the lack of enforcement of labor laws and business licensing laws by Israeli authorities, which has allowed businesses to open on Shabbos in blatant violation of the law.

The committee meeting was convened following requests by the Forum of Grocery Store Owners in Tel Aviv and a request by Ramat Gan Deputy Mayor Yossi Ehrenberg regarding the Ayalon Shopping Mall. During the committee meeting, it was acknowledged that the State of Israel legislates laws to ensure Shabbos observance but that the law is openly violated and authorities make almost no effort to halt it.

Ehrenberg said the Ayalon Shopping Mall compels shop owners to open on Shabbos, threatening them with fines if they fail to abide by the scheduled hours, which include Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 1:00 am.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said Israeli business moguls disregard the law and the fines do not deter them. "I'm asking the Deputy Prime Minister [Haim Ramon] and the Trade and Industry Minister [Eli Yishai] to present an account of the dismal situation to the government. There must be a government policy regarding business moguls," he said, calling on all citizens to patronize grocery stores that obey the law and to boycott the large chains.

MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said he would have expected the government and the authorities to regard Shabbos with at least the same gravity with which they regard Independence Day since both of them are explicitly mentioned in the Work and Rest Hours Law, which was passed by the same Knesset.

MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) said, "The right to rest on Shabbat is a right bestowed [on every citizen]. It is the greatest gift Judaism gave to the world, and today this right is being denied to workers at the major chains. Had this happened abroad we would have denounced it as antisemitism. The Work and Rest Hours Law must be enforced based on social welfare considerations."

Yair Korach, chairman of the Merchants' Association, said businesses opening on Shabbos is a problem across the country, not just in Tel Aviv.

During the meeting, claims were lodged that the local authorities deliberately overlook violations of the law because it's convenient for them and serves a particular segment of the population. It was also brought to light that the fine for violations is only NIS 660 ($180) and businesses that roll in enormous sums incur no real damage from this amount.

Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said retail chains totally disregard the Work and Rest Hours Law along with other labor laws. He said his ministry pays visits to all of the chains that disregard the law, including the Ayalon Shopping Mall, Tiv Taam, AMPM, etc. "I won't go ahead with business as usual when the workers are exploited and forced to work on Shabbat," said Yishai.

He called on business owners to contact his ministry wherever a breach related to the Work and Rest Hours Law takes place, saying that during the past two years NIS 20 million ($5.5 million) and 40 inspectors have been added to boost enforcement of the Work and Rest Hours Law.

Committee Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev (HaIchud HaLeumi-NRP) summed up the meeting by saying that opening business on Shabbos illegally has taken on epidemic proportions and he voiced skepticism that the existing legal means are capable of halting the spread of the plague, which has gone out of control "like a cancer."


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