More than a thousand Ashdod residents carrying signs "against religious coercion" protested Saturday evening in front of the local municipality against the city's increasingly stringent policy of enforcement towards businesses operating on Shabbat.
Earlier, dozens protested at the "Big Fashion" shopping center where city inspectors issued citations to open businesses.
Over the last few weeks, ahead of the Knesset approval of the supermarkets Bill, the Ashdod municipality, pressured by ultra-orthodox elements, decided to increase the enforcement against businesses operating on Shabbat.
Every week, on orders from the mayor Yechiel Lasry, city inspectors distribute citations to open businesses at local shopping centers.
In past years, enforcement was sporadic and unorganized. However, the city's policy changed recently and it is believed that it is a result of pressure by ultra-orthodox residents who make up a quarter of the city's population.
The national dialogue surrounding the Supermarkets Law was also a factor and local rabbis turned to the mayor asking him to enforce the (current) law against businesses operating on Shabbat. Local residents allege that Haredim have threatened the mayor that they will not support him in the next elections if he does not oblige.
Protesters are demanding that the mayor cease the enforcement as has been the case until recently.