In her last ruling as Supreme Court Chief Justice Thursday, Miriam Naor rejected the appeal for a further hearing on a petition seeking closure of Tel Aviv's supermarkets on Shabbat. This effectively ratified a previous verdict issued on the matter, allowing supermarkets to remain open on the Jewish day of rest.
"My decision does not entail a value judgment and does not seek to reflect a secular or religious viewpoint. The verdict, in my opinion, reflects the appropriate interpretation of the law," Naor said.
Issuing the aforementioned decree bookended Naor's career on the bench, after almost 38 years as a justice, 17 of which were served in the Supreme Court. Traditionally, on their last day justices choose to read a verdict issued on a significant appeal that reflects their judicial worldview.
Chief Justice Naor read a verdict pertaining to supermarkets and leisure centers seeking to remain open on Shabbat. Back in April 2017, the High Court approved a Tel Aviv bylaw allowing 164 businesses to operate on Shabbat, after successive interior ministers vacillated on making a decision on the topic.
Other business owners appealed the bylaw, alleging it hurt their hours of work and rest and brought about unfair competition.
"Each individual should be allowed to mold their own Shabbat according to their personal beliefs. Living together is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Tolerance to other opinions and mutual respect, live and let live is the desired philosophy," Naor said.
According to the ruling, the authority to make value judgments on these issues will be reserved for the municipality—working through bylaws—rather than the minister of the interior. The latter's decision is meant to oversee the legality of the municipality's decision rather than replace its judgment.
In a dissenting opinion, the panel's sole religious justices, Hendel and Sohlberg, said Shabbat carries tremendous weight in Jewish tradition and that the judgment afford to municipal authorities in such cases is therefore circumspect. In addition, they claimed the minister of the interior has the authority to strike down legislation allowing commercial activities on Shabbat if he was of the opinion they might lead to a "de-facto change in the national arrangement set down by the legislator."
In pronouncing her majority opinion, it was Naor's opinion an all-encompassing stance not taking into account a balance reflecting a city's particular character and uniqueness was unreasonable.
"In this sad moment I can do nothing but quote a loftier office, that of President Reuven Rivlin, who said this week the court orchestrated 'not a revolution but a coup' and this is what this is: a coup," said Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri, who submitted the original request for a further appeal following the first verdict.
Deri's request was accepted by Naor's Deputy Chief Justice Elyakim Rubinstein—who has since retired himself—who said, "The Shabbat is worthy of further debate with all positions presented before the court, especially in light of (the decision's) far-reaching implications."
Therefore, an expanded panel of High Court justices handled the review, with justices Naor, Esther Hayut and Daphne Barak-Erez—who presided over the previous petition—being joined by justices Neal Hendel, Yoram Danziger, Yitzchak Amit and Noam Sohlberg.