JERUSALEM, March 10 (JTA) — One of Israel’s largest developers has caused a stir in the business community with its decision to close a new mall on the Sabbath. The developer, Africa-Israel, is building a new shopping and entertainment center in Ramat Aviv, north of Tel Aviv. Observers have linked the decision to the recent purchase of Africa-Israel by business leader Lev Levayev, an observant Jew. The decision does not apply to other malls in which Africa-Israel has invested. However, the decision took a number of businesses planning to take part in the new mall by surprise. Israel Theaters, which plans to operate a movie theater in the Ramat Aviv mall, demanded that it be compensated by the developer for the projected lost weekend incomes. Africa-Israel said in a statement this week that there was no contract with the theater operator about opening on the Sabbath. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported Monday that Africa-Israel had signed a contract with the McDonald’s restaurant chain and had been paid in advance for three months rent. A six-page addendum, attached to the standard contract, included a clause giving the landlord authority to determine business hours on Jewish holidays and the Sabbath. The contract did not specify whether McDonald’s, which has both kosher and non-kosher restaurants in Israel, would be required to sell kosher products in its branch in the new mall. The dispute comes against the backdrop of stepped-up efforts by the Social Affairs and Labor Ministry, now under the control of the fervently Orthodox Shas, to enforce legislation prohibiting Jewish businesses from operating on the Sabbath.
Israeli developer to close shopping mall on Sabbath