The city of Givatayim on Sunday approved a municipal bylaw authorizing the opening of minimarkets on the Sabbath, in a bid to preempt a government bill to prevent the practice.
The Tel Aviv suburb thus joined the city of Rishon Lezion, which last week approved similar legislation, and the city of Tel Aviv, which has had such a bylaw in place since 2014.
The Knesset bill is scheduled for its final votes on Monday evening, though the coalition is reportedly struggling to assemble a majority to pass it.
The bill would grant the Interior Ministry the power to oversee and reject local ordinances relating to whether businesses may remain open on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest that runs from Friday evening through until Saturday night.
However, it would not affect existing bylaws, and thus any local legislation approved before its passage is likely safe.
“Religious coercion only drives people away from faith,” Givatayim Mayor Ran Konik said at the municipal meeting. “Bringing people closer to religion should be done pleasantly.”
He criticized Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas), the main proponent of the legislation, saying, “If he does not halt the bill immediately, he will only cause more minimarkets to open on Shabbat.”
According to Israel Radio Coalition chairman David Amsalem was encountering difficulties on Sunday in mustering a majority for the bill.
Amid growing opposition to the proposed legislation, Amsalem attempted to convince ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to exclude some kiosks from the proposal and allow them to remain open on the Jewish holy day.
Amsalem said he could guarantee a majority if the ultra-Orthodox parties agreed to exempt kiosks from the legislation. The lawmakers reportedly refused, saying that they would take the matter to their rabbis to make the final decision.
In an interview with Channel 10 news, opposition whip Yoel Hasson said that, in addition to opposition from the coalition Yisrael Beytenu party, he was in contact with other coalition members who were going to abstain from approving the legislation or vote against it.
The bill passed its first reading earlier this month, despite opposition from Yisrael Beytenu — as well as Likud MKs Yehudah Glick and Sharren Haskel, and Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria.
The bill came on the heels of a crisis between the government and its ultra-Orthodox coalition partners that saw UTJ’s Yaakov Litzman resign as health minister last month over train maintenance conducted on Shabbat.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly reached a deal with the ultra-Orthodox parties under which the government would propose laws maintaining the status quo with regard to Shabbat observance in Israel.
Israeli law forbids businesses from operating during the Jewish day of rest, with exceptions including places of entertainment, restaurants, and basic services, such as pharmacies, as well as work that cannot be performed at other times.