The High Court of Justice on Wednesday agreed to hold a fresh hearing on its decision to allow convenience stores in Tel Aviv to remain open on the Jewish day of rest, following a petition from Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to revisit the ruling.
Deri praised the court following the decision, saying that he hoped to use the hearing to convince the High Court to reverse its earlier ruling.
“I hope to convince the judges that the right thing to do is to leave the status quo in place and not to harm the holiness of Shabbat and Hours of Work and Rest Law,” the Walla news site quoted him as saying.
“A decision on a such a critical manner from a Jewish and social perspective, that has widespread influence on thousands of Israelis on the day of rest, needs to be considered by an expanded panel, that hears all the sides,” he added.
United Torah Judaism Moshe Gafni also praised the court’s decision, echoing Deri’s hope that the judges would reverse their earlier ruling and “preserve the status quo.”
In April, the High Court upheld a 2014 Tel Aviv City Council ordinance allowing the stores to remain open on Shabbat, a move hailed as protecting the cosmopolitan character of the mostly secular city. However, it drew scathing criticism from religious groups, who said it threatened the Jewish character of the state.
Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, strongly criticized the court’s decision at the time and said it would change the religious status quo in Israel and constitute “a serious blow to the holy Shabbat and the character of the Jewish people.”
In addition to Shas and UTJ, members of the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party also condemned the court’s ruling.
Following the April ruling, ultra-Orthodox politicians were said to be considering a number of other ways to fight the court decision.
One of the measures reportedly being weighed would be to pass legislation increasing the Interior Ministry’s authority in approving municipal bylaws, which could enable Deri to prevent municipalities from passing legislation allowing for businesses to operate on Shabbat, such as the 2014 Tel Aviv ordinance.
Another measure would involve increasing 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.
Tel Aviv, home to a mostly secular population, has sought in recent years to widen the scope of businesses allowed to be open on Shabbat, while ultra-Orthodox political factions have sought to add restrictions and improve enforcement of Sabbath laws.
In March 2014, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality drafted a new bylaw after the High Court ordered it to either replace or enforce existing regulations against Saturday commerce. The municipality suggested allowing 164 grocery stores and kiosks measuring 500 square meters in size or less to open on Saturday.
In April, three High Court justices threw out a government request for an extension of time and ruled that the Tel Aviv-Jaffa bylaw on the issue was proportional.
Under Israeli law, businesses are forbidden from operating during the Jewish day of rest, with exceptions including places of entertainment, restaurants and basic services such as pharmacies.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.