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Art gallery in northern Israel chided for opening on Sabbath

JERUSALEM, March 9 (JTA) — The tug-of-war between secular and religious Israelis continued this week at an art gallery in northern Israel. The gallery’s owners, Amos and Alice Meroz, open their shop for business on the Sabbath — provoking the anger of a fervently Orthodox official in Zichron Ya’acov, located between Netanya and Haifa. The official responded to what he views as a desecration of the Sabbath by parking a hearse in front of the gallery. The gallery owners said this failed to dissuade shoppers, who inched past it. The incident has underscored the ongoing battle between secular and religious Israelis. “I should be free to decide what I want to do on this day,” Alice Meroz told Israel Radio. In recent years, a growing number of Israeli stores began opening for business on Saturday. The fervently Orthodox Sephardi Shas Party, which controls the Social Welfare and Labor Ministry, has countered by stepping up the enforcement of laws against Jewish shops operating on the Sabbath. The ministry regularly dispatches non-Jewish inspectors to slap fines on shopowners who violate the law. The couple had bypassed the labor law by selling their gallery to a Muslim friend every Friday for about $3 and buying it back Saturday night. Amos Meroz said he got the idea from the religious custom of selling all leavened products to non-Jews in the days before Passover, when Jews are forbidden to eat or own anything that contains leavening.