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To Shop or Not to Shop on Shabbat in Israel

June 12, 2012

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 The growing secular-religious debate in Israeli society about whether stores should be open on Saturday, Israel's Sabbath, was recently covered in the Los Angeles Times.

Hoping to cash in on Israelis' growing affluence and enthusiasm for shopping, secular retailers are throwing open their doors on Saturdays. But the trend butts up against longtime government restrictions and infuriates religious groups that want the day preserved as one of rest.

Though national law prohibits employing Jews on Saturday, enforcement has been sporadic, usually depending on the religious conviction of the sitting labor minister, according to public policy expert Dr. Guy Ben-Porat.

Dr. Ben-Porat, a researcher in BGU's Department of Public Policy and Administration at the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management, has studied the intersection of religion and business for years.

Religious activists have succeeded in keeping most malls in city centers and near residential neighborhoods closed. Nearly all the shopping centers currently open on Saturday are in industrial zones or along the outskirts of cities.

But experts predict that more shops will open on Saturdays as competition intensifies.

"If you look at the trends, secularization is winning big time in this case," says Dr. Ben-Porat. "Just 20 years ago you could hardly find anything open in the country on Saturday."

Read more on The Los Angeles Times Web site >>