The Akko Municipality has cancelled regulations that prohibit Arab-owned businesses from opening on the Jewish Sabbath. The new regulations follow a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court by veteran NIF grantee Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.
In 2002, the Akko Municipality issued regulations prohibiting Arab-owned businesses from opening on the Jewish Sabbath in neighborhoods with a Jewish majority. Even after the new regulations were issued, the status-quo remained and Arab storekeepers, restaurant owners and others carried on with business as usual. However, in January 2007, the Akko Municipality began filing indictments against Arab businesses in Akko that opened on Saturdays.
In May 2007 Adalah petitioned the Supreme Court arguing that the municipal regulations contravene the Knesset laws governing weekly days of rest and closure of businesses for religious minorities. The Adalah petition said: “The primary legislator (the Knesset) has enacted laws to govern the weekly days of rest and closures of businesses on Saturdays. Israeli law stipulates an obligation that the days of rest for each religious group should be determined separately.”
The need to settle this issue amicably became all the more urgent after the riots in Akko last October, which shattered the city’s social harmony. Located north of Haifa, Akko has 45,000 residents of whom 27 percent are Arabs. Akko is included in NIF/ SHATIL’s Mixed Cities Project, which promotes joint living and the rights of the 90,000 Arab Israeli residents in Israel’s five mixed Arab-Jewish cities – Akko, Haifa, Jaffa, Lod and Ramle.
On February 22 the Supreme Court confirmed that the Akko Municipality and Adalah had reached an agreement whereby Arab businesses will be allowed to open on Shabbat.