Three Israeli shopping centers reopened on Thursday, defying COVID-19 restrictions, in protest over prolonged closure of the trade sector, prompting police to arrive at the scene and fine the management.
The Israel Commerce Forum said earlier this week they will begin reopening trade in the country, with dozens of retail chains saying Wednesday they will reopen their stores at three shopping centers: Bat Yam Mall, the Grand Mall in Petah Tikva and BIG Carmiel.
Arguments broke out between management representatives and police officers and inspectors who arrived at the shopping center in Karmiel prior to the opening of the stores.
Police warned merchants and handed fines, including to people who did not wear a face mask. They warned one of the store employees not to open the business in violation of the law.
"People just want to make a living here and bring food home," said BIG Karmiel management in a statement. "Go enforce this law in Bnei Brak and not here. Is there a different law for Bnei Brak?"
Karmiel Mayor Moshe Koninsky encouraged the reopening, emphasizing that entry must be permitted only to vaccinated people. Police said the decision is not within the authority of the mayor and is against the law.
Bat Yam Mall issued a statement, declaring itself "free from coronavirus" and all employees have been vaccinated and are working according to health guidelines, including social distancing and face masks. Bat Yam Municipality, however, did not support the decision.
The Israel Commerce Forum said they decided to reopen only three malls at this stage in order to make the reopening, which remains illegal, as safely as possible. "If the reopening is disrupted by the Israel Police, we'll immediately submit a petition to the High Court of Justice over selective discrimination," said the forum in a statement.