The Knesset plenum discussed on Wednesday the decision by Internal Affairs Minister Gideon Sa`ar to strike down a Tel Aviv Municipality amendment to a municipal bylaw that would have allowed hundreds of neighborhood markets and kiosks to continue to operate on Shabbat without penalties. MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said ”public opinion” is against keeping convenience stores open on Shabbat, while MK Eliezer Stern (Hatenua) said ”I have no doubt that the discussion on the essence of Shabbat is related to social justice. Those who are interested in maintaining the character of Shabbat in a significant way are not necessarily people who wear kippahs and tzitzits.”

MK NItzan Horowitz of the Meretz party told the plenary session: ”Shabbat is not a sacred day for me, it is a free day. I do not force anyone into doing something that may go against his faith, and I am against being forced to do something which goes against my way of life. Life does not stop on the weekend. Keeping stores which sell food open is, in my eyes, a worthy balance. I am in favor of Shabbat as a day of rest, but there are things secular people do on Shabbat. There are also many people who prefer to take their day off on Tuesday, for instance, and work on Shabbat. It pays off for them. You think being secular is only about shopping and nonsense. Being free is a value.”

Minister Sa`ar said in response ”I think we are in agreement that on Shabbat the street cannot look as it does on a weekday. We may, in the name of freedom and tolerance, values which believe in, reach a slippery slope on the way to the destruction of the weekly day of rest. The day of rest is a concept that was introduced by the Jewish people to the entire world. Many countries insist (on a day of rest) for social reasons. Shabbat does not belong only to the haredim and the religious.”

”To capture more chunks of the market with another workday – this is the heritage of the Jewish nation? If what matters is the desire to make money and the consumer`s desire, which I can understand – then where will the line be drawn? It will not end with this issue,” the minister asserted. ”Those who speak seriously about the rule of law cannot ignore the fact that [keeping convenience stores open on Shabbat] is a violation of the law.”

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