Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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21 Adar I 5765 - March 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Director of Ministry of Trade Warns about Business on Shabbos

By Eliezer Rauchberger

"The issue of preventing the opening of businesses on Shabbos has not received a serious legislative solution," warned Raanan Dinur, director-general of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. "There will be an outbreak to the point where it will be impossible to halt the opening of businesses on Shabbos. And this is because of the power of these bodies, the owners of big businesses." Dinur, let it be stressed, was speaking from a social and political perspective and not a religious one.

At a meeting of the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee on the issue of opening businesses on Shabbos, Dinur said the existing prohibition does not provide the tools needed to counter the increasing trend. He objected to the Finance Ministry policy of setting the number of enforcement officers according to the amount of income they bring into the national coffers through fines. "This is undesirable and infeasible," he said.

Dinur said his ministry is trying to maneuver until the matter is addressed through legislation. He says that opening businesses on Shabbos is primarily a blow to workers, calling it a social issue more than a religious issue. Yet, so far the Finance Ministry has been unwilling to listen to requests to fund increased manpower to enforce the Work and Rest Hours Law.

According to a report, the Trade and Commerce Ministry has four inspectors, each working three-fourths of fulltime. In 2004 they visited 834 businesses open on Shabbos, compared to 580 in 2003. In 2004, 237 fines totaling NIS 1,780,000 were issued. Another 200 cases from 2004 are currently being handled.

The committee also heard figures pointing to an alarming increase in chilul Shabbos in Israel. The number of businesses opening on Shabbos grows from one week to the next. Mr. Avraham Birnbaum, chairman of the Merchants' Organization of Israel, said that since Sharon took office the number of businesses that employ Jews on Shabbos has increased by 12 percent. The most prominent of these businesses are at the Grand Canyon in Haifa, the Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv and the Big Mall in Be'er Sheva.

The Ministry also reported that 12 percent of all employees— 230,000 workers—occasionally come in to work on Shabbos. A proportionately high percentage of these workers are new immigrants and young, unmarried workers without higher education. The majority of businesses open on Shabbos are located at shopping centers outside of municipal bounds.

Yehuda Cohen, chairman of the Merchants' Organization of Petach Tikva, said that because of illegal operations on Shabbos the turnover among merchants who remain closed on Shabbos has decreased by 60 percent even though their prices are lower.

Menachem Salomon, chairman of the Merchants' Organization of Rechovot, proposed pairing a policeman with every inspector, saying his organization would be prepared to help pay the added cost. Salomon notes that the number of inspectors has remained the same for the past 14 years while the amount of commercial space in Israel has increased by millions of square meters.


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