The Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat has released an announcement in the ultra-Orthodox press stating that from now and until further notice, companies owned by businessman Dudi Weissman should not be traded with or shopped at, following his refusal to close the AM-PM chain on Saturdays.
The scope of the consumer ban is of an extremely large scale, which could harm the commercial activity of 35 AM-PM stores, 45 branches of the Shefa Shuk supermarket (some of which specifically target the haredi audience) and dozens more businesses under the brands of Blue Square, Mega, Mega Ba'ir and the petrol company Dor Alon.
Shefa Shuk store in heart of haredi community (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The announcement emphasizes that the Shabbat keeping community must avoid all contact with companies belonging to the group owned by Weissman, including shopping vouchers and contribution for the poor for Passover.
"Anyone who doesn't act according to the above, until these issues are settled, will be regarded as risking their money," the announcement said.
'Don't turn Shabbat into a regular weekday'Throughout the previous months, representatives of the rabbinical committee have been negotiating with Weissman's representatives, requesting that he stop the activity of the shops on Saturdays.
The committee's chairman, Yitzhak Goldknopf, told Ynet that "the rabbis cannot live with the fact that people will actually desecrate Shabbat, directly or indirectly". According to him, the main problem is that other shops, located near AM-PM stores end up opening their shops in order to keep up with the competition.
"It is unthinkable that in Israel people will turn the Shabbat into a regular weekday," stated Goldknopf, saying that the committee seeks to place its representatives at the large supermarkets of Shefa Shuk, which has six branches serving the ultra-Orthodox community. The representatives will explain to the audience that any purchase made at these shops allows the desecrating of Shabbat.
"The struggle will be difficult but we will fight those who stab us in the back. They want to ruin what is most sacred to us," said Goldknopf.
Rabbi Lau joins battleThe main reason for the haredim's anger focuses around the opening of one of AM-PM's branches on Saturday, which is located near several Tel Aviv seminaries.
A month ago, following complaints made by the ultra-Orthodox community living in the area, Tel Aviv's Chief Rabbi Meir Lau, invited Weissman to discuss the issue. Rabbi Lau asked to close the chain stores on Saturday, focusing on that particular shop.
"One open store can lead to an overflow of open shops on Saturdays in the entire area and the character of the Shabbat in Tel Aviv is becoming unclear," Rabbi Lau said following the conversation.
Weissman on his part told the rabbi that that particular shop was purchased from the McDonald's chain, which was also open on Saturdays and even sold non-kosher food.
He noted that one of his first steps as the owner of the company was to stop the sale of non-kosher meat and to stop all business with the Maadaney Mizra supplier, of which AM-PM was a large client.
Rabbi Lau explained to Weissman that there was a different law for restaurants and trade houses and that opening businesses on Saturday "may completely collapse the Shabbat stake in Tel Aviv".
Weissman said that he grew up in a non-religious home, but that his grandparents were religious people who lived in Tel Aviv at that very same location. Following the conversation, he told the rabbi that he will take steps to close the branch on Saturday.
"I regard this as a closure", he noted. Rabbi Lau thanked him for the gesture and added, "I hope this is the beginning of a new era".
The Blue Square and Shefa Shuk supermarket chains and Weissman's head office refused to respond to this article.