Ultra-Orthodox MKs seek to bypass Shabbat ruling

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers are reportedly working to advance legislation that would bypass a High Court of Justice ruling allowing convenience stores in Tel Aviv to remain open on the Jewish day of rest.

Ultra-Orthodox politicians are considering a number of ways to fight Wednesday’s decision, which upheld a 2014 Tel Aviv City Council ordinance allowing the stores to remain open, with the court saying it would protect the cosmopolitan character of the coastal and mostly secular city.

One of the measures reportedly being weighed by the lawmakers would be to pass legislation increasing the Interior Ministry’s authority in approving municipal bylaws, which would authorize ultra-Orthodox Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) to prevent municipalities from passing legislation allowing for businesses to operate on Shabbat, such as the 2014 ordinance by the Tel Aviv City Council.

Although the Interior Ministry currently already possesses the authority over matters pertaining to Shabbat in municipalities, ultra-Orthodox politicians fear that the recent court ruling will create a precedent allowing local governments to make decisions concerning the operation of businesses on Shabbat independent of the Interior Ministry, according to Channel 2.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (R) speaks with United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni at the Knesset on November 7, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An unnamed Interior Ministry official told the Haaretz daily that the purpose of such legislation was not to bypass the court ruling but to give the interior minister authority over local ordinances with “national implications.”

“The purpose of [proposed legislation] is not to create a law that bypasses the High Court of Justice, but rather to take the points the High Court highlighted in order to preserve the status quo,” he was quoted as saying. “The bill will work to create a balance between the local authorities that enact bylaws and the municipality ordinances that authorize the interior minister to approve municipal bylaws and determine the validity of the decision.”

He also said that although municipal bylaws “are meant to enable the daily routine” of local residents “when it comes to national issues with nationwide implications, the authority of the interior minister will be preserved in order to block bylaws” under the proposed legislation.

Another measure reportedly being weighed by ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to fight the ruling is to increase oversight and enforcement of the Hours of Work and Rest Law, which would allow for punitive measures to be taken against businesses which are found to have violated the law by employing workers during their day of rest.

In addition, lawmakers from both the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, as well as the national religious Jewish Home party, are considering requesting an additional hearing from the High Court, Channel 2 reported.

Although much of the…

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